We made another trip to Williamsburg today, tracing the semifinal step in the journey from the woods to the construction of our new farmstand building.  Dan Pedersen has been working away for the past two months at shaping the timbers into Lok-n-log pieces so that  will come together into the form of a barn structure in just a few days once they arrive at the farm. While we were there, we got the special treat of seeing our former apprentice, Sam Deboskey, who is working on the project too.  Sam has decided he wants to be a carpenter, and so he was thrilled at the prospect of learning the task of timber-framing while also contributing to this new development at the place where he learned about farming 2 years ago.  

Sam is at ease in his new profession
Dan wields “the persuader” used to get stubborn joints to fit together

Dan’s shop is a greenhouse that he built by his house after seeing a greenhouse go up at our farm.  While our greenhouses are full of vegetables, his was full of the timbers that we had followed from the woodlot to this location.  Dan takes a careful plan, and cuts notches and holes in the timbers so that they will fit together nicely.  The timbers are always worked while they are green, since they are most perfectly straight and square before they start to dry.  Pine and hemlock are relatively stable, but the cuts and notches are all made in such a way as to allow for some expansion and contraction as the wood dries.  Many of the cuts are made with a saw, but then chisels are used for the finer shaping.

This cool chainsaw device is used to make plunge cuts like the one to the right
The details of this cut were finished by hand with a chisel

As Dan talked about the timber framing industry, I was struck by the parallels with the organic farming movement.  Timber framing as a craft was largely abandoned and forgotten starting at the turn of the 20th century as builders switched to 2X4s and nails.  Interest in timber-framing was revived during the back-to the-land movement in the 1970s, and people re-learned the skills and techniques by moving old barns, taking them apart and then rebuilding them in a different location.  Today, timber-framing is a small part of the overall building trade, but demand for those skills is strong and growing.  Dan credits an organization called the Timber Framer’s Guild with keeping the knowledge alive. Dan has many connections with the local food movement, since a large part of his business is repairing and renovating the barns at local farms. We’re glad to be able to support this local craftsman. If you’re interested, you can find out more at timberpointbuilding.com.

“How do you move the timbers into the shop, anyway?” “With this dolly!” “Really?”

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