Revolution, Ancient Timber Marks, & Axes

This week on the Daily Dispatch, Joshua celebrated Independence Day with a massive tug-o’-war, we sorted through piles of house timbers, and trees started coming down for building the floor framing.

On Monday, as we in the U.S. celebrated our nation’s 246th birthday, Joshua shared some highlights from the festivities in rural Blue Hill, Maine. It was a beautiful thing to see friends and neighbors gathering face to face to commemorate the day and to have fun. And to eat blueberry pie. Is there a more perfect summer day?

The sill timbers showed up bright and early the next day – some massive white pine 8"x8"s, some of them 36' long. Fortunately, the lumberyard sent a boom truck. After getting those safely settled in a staging area, our friend Nevan Carling (who will be working with us for a couple weeks) came to help assess the house and barn timbers we will be restoring. We have our work cut out for us – there are new tenons to cut, scarf joints to be made, and a few minor frame modifications to be worked out. The deerflies kept us swinging hats around through the afternoon.

We are always fascinated with scribe marks and layout lines in antique furniture, and timber frames contain a unique written language all their own. Roman numerals with flags, 2' marks with half-circles, tally marks, and other mysterious runes revealed themselves to us as we pored over the pieces of these two (soon to be one) structures. Deciphering these marks offers a palpable connection to the craftsmen who built these buildings, opening their thought process to us. It’s awesome stuff.

Nevan has dual (Britain/U.S.) citizenship, so it was likely with some internal conflict that he chopped the “King’s Arrow” into several pines to mark them as frame stock for the house project. Here in Maine, that symbol became the rallying cry of revolution those centuries ago, when King George’s navy claimed all the prime pines from local inhabitants, branding them with the axe-chopped arrow. But in this case, oppressive monarchs have nothing to do with it – we just needed some 20' pine logs. Which have to be felled with axes. 

The week ended with cutting joinery. Both of the frames we are restoring need new sills, as the old ones were too far gone to reuse. So we're chopping mortises, tenons, and joist pockets. It's great to hear the woods echoing with the sounds of axes and chisels again.

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

 – Mike


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