Rafters, Red Pine, & Stock Selection

This week in the Daily Dispatch, we did a tremendous amount of head scratching; an old roof system was raised (and lowered); and new joints were cut in old timbers.

First off, Joshua filmed me, his son Eden, and our friend Nevan joggling and hewing a red pine in the woods behind the shop – the same woods where a team of (mostly) French carpenters hewed the timbers for our smithy back in 2019. It was great to hear the sound of axes echoing through the trees once again.

He also shared a bunch of photos of cutting new joinery in timber frame members for the house’s addition – big massive dovetails on tie beams, with enough play in the joint to “drive it together with your hat.” Nice, easy tolerances.

Then we decided to do a preliminary raising of the addition’s roof system – a major rafter, minor purlin setup. We’d moved some components around and wanted to make sure everything is happy where it will end up, and the process was a success (if physically exhausting). Several rafters showed dramatic twist along their lengths, leading us to swap out for a pair of straighter ones. Fortunately, we have that flexibility because the barn is being shortened from its original dimensions. At the end of the day, the roof came back down and was tucked safely away in the hoop house.

Mid-week, Joshua and I posted a video response to two “Ask M&T” questions regarding stock prep. How did period makers choose lumber? What should we look for when we pick out wood? How do you get the most out of a board? And how rough can those secondary woods be, really? (Did Shaker furniture sometimes have tree bark on the undersides? Why yes, yes it did.)

Thursday gave me a headache. This timber frame was originally scribe-ruled, meaning that components and joinery were scribed to fit in their particular places, rather than being cut and fit to measurement. Since we are moving components around to account for rot or damage, everything needs some fiddling. The first half of the day was spent basically standing around and poking at large pieces of wood, but the second half finally got productive. It’s always good to work through those mental hurdles.

The week ended with much of the rest of the frame’s joinery cut and test-fit. It’s great to see an old bent standing again, this time on new tenons in a new sill. Before you know it, this building will be raised for good on a granite-block foundation, ready for whatever the centuries have to throw at it.

Until next time, that was this week on the M&T Daily Dispatch.




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