Timber Framing Workshops for Everyone
The significance of timber framed structures throughout Europe and the USA cannot be denied when it comes to man’s quest for surviving seasons of harshness with store-housing crops and overwintering livestock and much more. Throughout the USA, hundreds of thousands of these structures survive as examples of workmanship and a way of life we may never see at such significant levels again, yet here at the Maplewood Center for Common Craft the traditions of timber framing continues. As old structures deteriorate, are dismantled for tax reduction and so on, workshops at a New York venue counter cultural shifts in a strategy that ensures the skills it took to build them don’t die out.
This week the Maplewood Center held a three-day timber framing course I felt privileged to watch and photograph and I could sense first hand the preservation and conservation of what I can only describe as the art and craft of timber framing. The students develop traditional patterns of timber framing as they watched professional timber framer Nick Richards take them step by step to build a working timber framed trestle from 6×6 framing timbers. The joints are of course draw-bore mortise and tenon joints full width and 2” thick. Using the same traditional tools and methods goes beyond just making good joints. Nick explains the reasoning behind the joints, recalls their historical value to worklife of past eras, the importance of using well-defined methods of construction, their relationship to full-sized buildings and how these students can indeed take the skills and apply them to their future work in structures they build.
Seeing the camaraderie is important to me. Woodworking on this scale is somewhat different to my own sphere of furniture making yet many principles and skills are readily transferable and certainly cross from one sphere of working wood to another. Drawer bore methods, layout procedures, and joint making procedures are but methods for making. Beyond that we have chisel and saw sharpening, patterns of workmanship, tool techniques and much more. Nick discusses sourcing woods and which woods work best for framing structures. The Q & A time is of course incredibly valuable for equipping students with the right knowledge and information when they return to their home region. The interaction between students and teachers develops a dynamic of its own as they progress to new levels of confidence using hands-on methods and tools some may never have used before. I felt visceral levels excitement that sparked new levels enthusiasm throughout the timber-framed workshop we were receiving instruction in too. Nick was the framer who built the timber framed buildings used as workshops here at the Maplewood Center and this includes the massive woodworking workshop that hosts the New Legacy School of Woodworking next door.
All in all there is a lot going on at the Maplewood Center. Nick will be holding another three-day Introduction to Timber Framing September 20-22, 2013. I suggest that you sign up early as class size is generally limited to six students per workshop.
Watch out for an upcoming blog about the Maplewood Center. They have other courses scheduled to help you be creative in traditional crafts.