OK. I’ve kept this a secret for four months, but now I’m finally spilling the beans…
During the last week of August, a French team of historic timber framers named Charpentiers Sans Frontières (CSF) “Carpenters Without Borders” will be flying out to our place in Maine to spend a week hewing, joining, and raising a 16’ x 26’ timber frame for us. This outbuilding adjacent to our woodshop will be part woodshed, part storage building, and part blacksmith shop. This team of incredible carpenters, led by François Calame (ethnologist in the Ministry of Culture in Normandy), was written about by Will Lisak in M&T Issue Four as a reflection on his experience with them at their project in Romania.
The entire frame is being logged with horses. My friend, John Ellsworth, who is a timber framer, horse-logger, and organic farmer, will be harvesting logs from his impeccably managed woodlot next to my old shop in Brooklin. I have fond memories of hearing John’s sturdy pair of Suffolk Punches trotting up the road for a day of logging in the woods. Having John horse-log this frame is especially meaningful to me. He’s already underway.
Once all the logs are harvested by the end of August, around 35 of the best historic timber framers around the world will convene at my property to hew them into timbers and cut joinery with hand tools. (No machines will be used in this build.) CSF does at least one of these events per year and we are so humbled to be chosen for their 2019 project. Usually they’re working on restoration of medieval masterpieces like the Château d'Harcour and Château de Gaillon or a gorgeous 1491 barn in Alcou. François and his crew are supportive of our efforts at M&T to promote human-powered, pre-industrial craftsmanship in the 21st century, and are enthusiastic to come out here to donate their expertise, sweat, and time to the cause. We cannot express how grateful we are for their generosity.
There are a lot of things to sort out and plan for. As you can imagine, this event will require tons of food. On Monday, I harvested the meat chickens I raised, and there is still a lot more to do. Mike, my wife Julia, and I will have our hands full making sure everyone is taken care of, but fortunately, Kinga, their traveling sourdough bread baker will be attending as well. We have already arranged for her use a local wood-fired bread oven for the week’s bread supply.
This building is going to open up many new possibilities for M&T. Besides the extra storage capacity and secure cover for our lumber collection, I’ve long wanted to have a space to explore traditional blacksmithing techniques that relate to furniture (fasteners, hinges, tool-making, etc). To facilitate this, we have decided that one half of the first floor will not have joists, but will instead have a dirt floor. (We might lay brick or field stone over this in the future.)
So as I am designing Issue Seven right now, Mike and I are keeping progress rolling on the extensive preparations for the CSF project, now only seven weeks away. Our entire year seems to have revolved around this event, and so as we get closer, our excitement is growing.
Stay tuned. If you’re interested in horse logging, hewing axes, hand-tool timber framing, and joyful manual craft, there’s a lot more to come…