Timber Frame Houses
by Michael Morris and Dick Priozzolo
Anyone who steps inside a timber-frame, or post-and-beam, house for the first time invariably comes away impressed — even a bit awed — by what is encountered. The complete structural skeleton of the house is on view, but it's not just any structure: It is like entering a strange yet beautifully natural forest of sturdy wood trunks, graceful limbs, and branches that soar high overhead.
Put out your hand and you can feel the solidity of the posts, the rough organic surface of the wood, the harmony of the materials, the visible strength of the framework, and the skill evident in its assembly. Combined, these elements produce a dwelling as handsome as it is strong, as humble as it is proud.
There are timber-frame houses that are still crafted in the timeless way by woodworking traditionalists using hand tools and methods that have changed little over the centuries. Others come from modern production shops where computer-controlled saws and milling machines turn out the sturdy, treelike posts and beams.
Many "antique" timber houses are former barns or churches that have been painstakingly restored to new life by craftsmen dedicated to the art and science of preserving this unique architectural heritage.
Roots of the Craft
The roots of timber framing are ancient, in part because it is an essential, elemental way to build: the first person to set a post that supported a cross-member in a lean-to was building the timber-frame way, even if it was without heavy timbers.
This article is an excerpt from Timberframe Plan Book, excerpted with permission by Gibbs Smith, Publisher.
The Marling House in Madison, Wisconsin was designed by Richard Merlie and built by Hearthstone, Inc. using mortise-and-tenon joinery, secured with more than 1800 wood pegs and not a single metal fastener.
Photo: Don Kerkhof
Girts, the beams that link the bents or sections, are inserted into a housing on a vertical post in the Marling House. The girts rest on a shoulder on the post and are secured with a mortise-and-tenon joint.
Photo: Don Kerkhof
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