The English Mediaeval House

The English Mediaeval House 

By: Margaret Wood – Preface by Sir Mortimer Wheeler

Bracken Books – 1965

In this book you will find an absorbing study of the evolution of the English house.  Filled with Margaret Wood and other workers’ meticulous research, the book covers the period of time from the Norman Conquest to 1540.  Sixty pages of beautiful and instructive photographs are included as well as 150 plans and drawings that can only enhance such a wonderful book. This is the first major book on medieval domestic architecture for over a hundred years and is definitely worthy of its great subject!


Manor Houses in Normandy

Manor Houses in Normandy

By: Yves Lexcroart
Photographs By: Regis Faucon

Konemann – 1995

Open this book and you will be blown away by beautiful photographs that have captured the undulating woodland and lush meadows of Normandy.  Pays d’Auge is a region of Normandy that is a treasure-house of architecture in which the amazing manor houses are among its best-kept secrets.  Some are surprisingly small and some very grand.  They are built of timber or brick and stone. Very few of the manor houses are open to the public so grab this unique opportunity and enjoy this breathtaking pocket of Normandy.

American Bungalow Style

American Bungalow Style

By: Robert Winter and Alexander Vertikoff

Simon & Schuster – 1996

If you’re looking for some great interior or exterior ideas for cozy nooks, fireplaces, porches, window nooks, etc., then this book can help.  Filled with over 300 color photographs of that charming Craftsman Style architecture, we are immediately drawn to its warmth and effortless design.  “The idea that simplicity and artistry could harmonize in one affordable house spurred the bungalow’s popularity – a rare movement in which good architecture was found outside the world of the wealthy.”  This remains true today – especially with a timber frame home.  Turning the pages of this beautiful book shows you how just a simple door can become a thing of beauty you could enjoy each and every day.

The Forgotten Crafts – A Practical Guide to Traditional Skills

The Forgotten CraftsA Practical Guide to Traditional Skills

By: John Seymour

Dorling Kindersley Ltd. – 1980

In this beautiful book John Seymour celebrates traditional crafts in the best possible way – by showing and describing in fascinating detail just how they were done, and by encouraging us to keep them alive.  Filled with old photographs and lovely drawings, this is a fun book to have on the shelf.  John Seymour lived on a farm and worked hard to recreate life as it was so his writings are based on his experiences.  The subjects covered range widely from woodland crafts to workshop crafts and household crafts.  Something for everyone!

Reading Tree Rings with Woody

Every single spring and summer, each tree grows another layer of wood that is added onto the trunk. In the spring the wood grows quickly and is a lighter color because it is made of large cells. During the summer the wood grows much slower, has smaller cells and is darker in color.

  • To tell the age of the treeCount the dark rings!
  • When a tree is getting plenty of sunshine and rain it will have rings that are broad and evenly spaced.
  • If a tree has went through a forest fire it may have some scarring on  the bark right along one of the rings but every year the tree will add more wood to cover the scar.
  • Very narrow rings that continue through several seasons can indicate a drought or maybe an insect infestation.
  • If a tree has rings that seem wider on one side than the other it may suggest that something pushed against the tree as it was growing.  The tree will build what is called “reaction wood” to prop up and support the side that is leaning.

How a Tenon is Fabricated


Submitted by: Erik Toplis, Timber Frame Designer

A tenon, as related to timber framing, is a projection on the end of a timber used for joining multiple members together.  Timber Frames receive a multitude of hand crafted tenons and each tenon is created with great care and will end up joined inside a mortise.  A tenon starts life as a set of lines on the side of a timber post, beam or knee brace.  Each line is drafted with using the timber frame shop documents as a guide for length, width and placement.  This is referred to as ‘laying out’.  Every member of a timber frame is laid out and checked before it is fabricated.  Once the tenon is laid out it is time to double check the work, grab a saw, and start cutting.  Our crew uses different sizes of circular saws to make the various cuts required in fabrication.  Once the saw is set to the correct depth the cutting can begin.  Depending on the tenon length this is usually a series of four cuts.  One cut on each side defining the position of the tenon and two additional cuts to remove the waste material.  At this point we have the basic shape of a tenon.


The tenon is then evaluated for consistency and accuracy.  Any imperfections are worked away with a chisel.  Using a mallet and chisel, the joiner takes care to skim off waste material and leave behind a work of art that is ultimately hidden within its respective mortise.  Although never seen again, accurate tenon fabrication is crucial for a tight fitting timber frame.  The more accurately the tenon is cut is directly related to how well the members of the frame fit together.  Too short and you end up with a sloppy joint, too long and the tenon sticks out of the mortise.  Our shop crew creates tenons so accurately that they receive a bevel at the end for easier fitment.  Once a series of mortises and tenons are cut, it is on to pre-fitting the frame in sections.  During the pre-fit of the timber frame, the peg holes are drilled through the assembled mortise and tenon joints so that once raised, this geometry translates to the assembled frame and is truly a hidden work of art.  The frame seemingly squeezes itself together along with the raising crew to perfect fitment but in reality it is the skill of the joiner that creates this illusion.

The Future of Timber Framing

Submitted by: Bruce Gardner, Co-Owner of Homestead Timber Frames

Timber Framing

The timber framing revival began in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s.  A few folks,
principally in New England, noticed that there were sound buildings in their communities that were nearing 4 centuries of age.  In comparing these timber frame buildings to modern construction they realized that the skill required in design and construction was greater, the timbers were larger, the buildings were stronger, and the architecture was

Modern timber framing has dramatically advanced in design and application.  Today’s timber frame may be a home, a portion of a home, a barn, a pavilion, a bridge, or simply decorative timber assemblies.  Timber framers have become adept at designing and cutting complex wooden joints, rigging and assembling complicated buildings, and in adapting timber frames to a variety of uses, styles, and budgets.more beautiful.  By the mid-80’s a few of these timber framing folks discovered each other and convened a small gathering of like minded craftspeople.  From this small beginning grew the Timber Framers Guild.  Timber framers have been teaching each other how to timber frame ever since.

Insulating wall and roof systems for timber frame structures have dramatically improved.  The timber frame structure can now be both beautiful and energy efficient.  Because timber components are accurately fabricated in a shop, construction time is reduced.  For example, a timber frame for a 2,500 square foot home can typically be assembled in a week.  Insulating wall and roof systems can be installed in one more week giving a weather tight shell in a total of two weeks.

timber framing

Architects, builders, lenders, and home owners have become ever more aware of the possibilities presented by timber frames.  Both projects and timber framing companies have become more numerous.  The result allows building owners to select a timber framing company close to their site and allows timber framing company craftsmen to spend their work days close to home even when assembling a timber frame.  While not yet commonplace, the continued growth in timber frame popularity insures an expanding use of this beautiful and durable building method, enhancing the quality of local architecture and the utility of the buildings so built


Boss Pins- What are they? How do they work?

Submitted by:  Erik Toplis, Timber Frame Designer

Boss pins are one of the most beautiful and elegant ways to join roof framing members at a central location.  Simply defined, the boss pin is the central vertical member that accepts various hip rafters.  Boss pins can be used in square or rectangular hip roofed structures and these structures can have varying roof pitches.  Designing, fabricating, and positioning a boss pin each hold their different challenges.  Designing a boss pin involves taking into consideration roof pitches, the various hip rafters and their sizes, and the desired final style of the timber frame.  This process can be a bit daunting but is totally worth the payoff.  The designer specifies the size of timber to be used and the various angle cuts as well as the housings and mortises for the hip rafters.  Once this is all translated to timber frame shop drawings it is off to the shop for layout and fabrication.

Laying out a boss pin requires the use of multiple drawings from different views to specify the different details and cuts.   Usually the layout process is done in a couple of steps.  First the joiner determines the overall length and height cuts as well as the housing and mortise cuts.  Following this are various cuts to give the boss pin its desired appearance.  Some boss pins have a great amount of intricate detail for a more elegant look while others are simple to look more functional.  The main focus is to get the angles right so that the frame joins together properly.

The installation of a boss pin is quite the event.  Boss pins are usually flown into place using a crane, with hip rafters and collar tie attached.  The collar tie joins the lower part of the boss pin to the rafters creating a strong triangle along each roof plane.  Once this assembly is in place the crane holds position until another hip rafter is placed into the opposing side of the boss pin.  At this point the assembly is self sufficient and the crane moves aside.  After a couple more hip rafters and collar ties you are left with a completed assembly that is strong, elegant and prepared to endure many decades of time.  The mystery of how the boss pin works is relatively simple.  Differing members are in tension or in compression which results in creating equilibrium and therefore a stable timber frame.

Creating a Homestead for Generations to Come

Submitted by: Cyndy Gardner

According to the Merriam Webster dictionary- Homestead- (noun)

Snow Scene

a: the home and adjoining land occupied by a family

b: an ancestral home

The first known use of the word HOMESTEAD was before the 12th century.

Home·stead·er noun

Homestead-transitive verb: to acquire or occupy as a homestead - intransitive verb: to acquire or settle on land under a homestead law

As you can see, the word homestead has been around several hundred years and means many things important to our culture.  Our country was formed by people living in and caring for their homesteads – inherited by some and started by others.  But the homestead was the center of their existence – the hub of daily life – the heart of the family.  Some of the inhabitants built their own furniture, wove their rugs and bedding, and made ‘pretties’ for the children to play with.  Others brought these household items with them from all over the world when they came to settle on the frontier.  But all of them put great value on their homestead.

Today there are among us those who still envision living on and working a true homestead.  The outbuildings surrounding the main house would serve their useful purposes to provide income for the family living on the land.  John Seymour in his book, The Forgotten Crafts does an excellent job of describing these practices.  Some of us just want the ‘look’ of the old homestead in order to create the image of a working small farm, but use the outbuildings in a different manner such as a woodworking shop or an artist studio.  We may have a few animals to care for, but we work outside the home for the bulk of our income.

Most of us can still create our own personal homestead just by owning a piece of land on which we build our ‘dream’ house where we find sustenance of a different kind.  Within this wonderful home, we can fill it with what we love; what we find interesting; what brings peace at the end of the day – a sanctuary where we bring our friends and family to celebrate joyous events or to discuss the issues of the day.  We naturally want it to be a beautiful dwelling with attention to detail.  Not such a big house, but large enough to hold us comfortably within.  This home should inspire you to grow – to plan adventures – to learn more about yourself and the world around you – but also a place that welcomes you home with the ‘warmth of the hearth’ just like our ancestors experienced in their quaint old ‘homesteads’.   Our solid oak timber frames can furnish you with this quiet strength in which to create your sanctuary.  Traditionally joined with wooden pegs and handcrafted by skilled joiners, we still value what makes a home handsome that will last several generations.