Monday, February 18, 2008

The first beams

It's been a busy long weekend. After measuring several extra times, I made my first mortise ever.

This is the antique mortiser I am using. I got it off Ebay for not much, and it works pretty well. The first holes were off no more than 1/16" going through a ten inch beam. Not bad in my opinion. once all the holes were drilled out, I roughed out the mortise with a skilsaw, and chiseled out the rest. I was able to borrow a big corner chisel and a slick from my grandfather- thanks gramps! They work well but the mallet I had was too small.

So, I dug out a piece of firewood, and made this thing on a lathe (again, thanks gramps). We had a hell of a time getting the thing to spin on the lathe without jumping all around, but eventually we got it. It's quite a weapon- I haven't hit a finger yet, but give me time.

The rest of the weekend was spent on the first two posts. One is complete, and the other is almost there. My planing idea from a previous entry worked, and I think it looks pretty nice. I'm using danish oil for a finish, and I've found that the best way to apply it is with a spray bottle. I let it sit for a while, and come back a few hours later to wipe off the excess. One of the finished posts is shown below, pre-oil.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Planer Blades

Hand held planers for timber framing are very expensive. Rather than buy one, I am going to try and use a standard 3 1/4" planer, and just round the blades a little bit. This will keep the blade corners from digging into the beams, and will hopefully give kind of a hand-hewn look.

This is the jig I came up with to grind the planer blades. Just an old angle grinder, and some scrap wood. The darker piece of wood at the 45 degree angle will swing like a pendulum while holding the blade.

This is the first blade after being ground. They won't be perfect I'm sure, but we'll see how it works. The photo below shows the first ground blade against the unground one for comparison.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The First Beams

As I mentioned before, I am building one bent to "see how it goes". I've worked with a sawyer in town in the past, and he does a great job. He's a very careful guy, and his prices are reasonable. I placed the order a few weeks ago now, and just got the beams back to the shop.

The photo at left shows my logs before they were sawn. The logs are white pine, very common in VT, and easy to work with, except for the pitch that sticks to everything.

Since i don't have a pickup truck, and these beams are a little too heavy for the roof rack of a Corolla, i was lucky enough to enlist my uncle Alan in transporting the finished beams.

All the beams in this batch are 10"x10", and heavy as hell. Unfortunately, we had an ice storm just before we got to pick up the beams. They were all covered in ice, and slipping all over the place.

When we got the beams back to the shop, we put them on an old haywagon, and covered them with a tarp.

Since the beams are so big, they would be to tall to work on efficiently on a regular sawhorse. So I built these little ones that are about 24" off the ground.

they're made out of maple and seem pretty strong. With beams on top they're the perfect height to work at, so i don't have to stoop. Gotta go easy on the spine- It'll be plenty sore moving the beams around, haha.

Here's the finished product carrying the two beams I intend to be the posts of bent number one.

The shop isn't heated, but it's still a little above freezing in there. A few days and hopefully these first two beams will be dried out, and ready to work on.

Making a B.F.H.

Since I'm going to be making enormous timbers join together, I need a big hammer. What I came up with is made out of one piece of fire wood and a stick- but it works:

First thing was to make the chunk of firewood square-ish and drill out a hole for the handle. It took a while with a hole saw, but hey, thats what I had on hand.

The handle is just a long piece of firewood that was lying around that I made fit. I think it turned out pretty well. It is certainly heavy enough... I wouldn't want to drop it on my foot.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008


Here's the deal: I need a place to live. I've always liked timberframe houses, and have always liked building things. So... it seemed logical to try and build my own timberframe house.

Since I really have no idea what I'm doing, I've been reading books on the subject (Building the Timber Frame House by Ted Benson, and A Timber Framer's Workshop by Steve Chappell). Both excellent books by the way.

After reading both books several times, it was time to start designing. I found the very useful and free GOOGLE SKETCHUP online, and proceeded to design with the following basic guidelines:

1. Keep it simple- No super fancy frames, shapes, etc. After all this is my first attempt.
2. Keep the size small, and the costs low.
3. Make the place as nice as possible while meeting the first two objectives.

Using Sketchup- Here is what I came up with:
I'll admit to already having a few changes in mind... but that's OK. I will keep this blog updated as I change things and get them redesigned.

The frame will be 24'x32', and have a master bedroom on the second floor. Other than that, no floor plan is designed at this point.

Since I have no prior timberframing experience, I have ordered only timbers enough to build one bent- if all goes well I will continue. If all does not go well, I'm only out a few hundred dollars, and a lot of my free time. Stay tuned for more pictures and to see how the construction progresses.