A clip by filmmaker Jesse Knight:

Work started today at the Festival Barn where 47 timber framers have begun turning more than 200 large pieces of white pine and oak timber into individually crafted frame members for the New Forge Building.

The participants are from all over, but each  share a common love for wood and timber framing. The leadership team assigned each person to a crew, and they began laying out and marking the timbers, some as large as 12 by 12 inches by 30 feet long  weighing more than 1,400 lbs! Each frame member has a drawing showing all four sides, and precise measurements to aid in laying out and scribing each joint for accurate cutting.

I learned by watching and listening, that each timber is inspected for flaws, and that these flaws are worked around by cutting them away as part of the waste from a joint or leaving them in an area that won’t affect the strength of the frame member. Knots are avoided in a joint as they are difficult to cut around and hard on sharp tools.

Speaking of tools, I have never seen so many woodworking tools in one place. Most of the guys and gals brought along everything they had including very large circular saws, some with blades as big as 16″ and Dennis, the tool salesman brought I think a 20″ saw for sale. I wanted to buy it just to have,  but I’ll save my money for blacksmithing tools.

All power tools had to pass the Timber Framers Guild’s safety inspection before it could be used in the work area. The guild is very safety concious, and has only had a couple of injuries in all the years that they have been doing events like this. After the tool is checked over, it is marked with a plastic zip tie so that it is easily identifiable as safe. This is a great thing, and it got me thinking about my own tools and giving them a good looking over.

The crowd was pensive and quiet all day, and I think that there was a certain level of stress about doing things right and there was a whole lot of head scratching going on as the instructors challenged the students with remembering their high school math and geometry to figure things out.  Lucky for these folks, we had timber that was surfaced on all four sides and square, making it much easier to get the layout right. Often, a framer is working with rough sawn beams that are not only not square, but change dimension along the lenth of the beam. This was typical of traditional timber framing where the timbers were hewn from logs by hand, and irregular.

After a supper of broiled chicken with rosemary, green beans, rice, and homemade bread, the framers got treated to a fascinating engineering lecture about design of both timber and concrete in construction. One would think such a lecture dry and sleepy, but no one could tear themselves away as the presentation was so good. We were fortunate to have such a wise and experienced fellow be a part of this project.

The night ended with a bonfire, music and singing just below Festival Barn at the old fire pit, and it was a great time. It was a good way to get to know one another and relax a bit after a very focused day.

Tomorrow, more layout, head scratching, and hopefully some sawdust.

Paul Garrett, Resident Blacksmith
About Paul Garrett, Resident Blacksmith