Tuesday 23 October 2012

Cruck barn in crenver grove

 Raised and raftered

 At long last I am finally getting round to putting up some stuff about the timber framing project I've been running in my local woodland this summer/autumn.
Over two weeks, 12 people joined me in Crenver grove, to saw, slice, chisel and bore through a pile of lovely, fresh Sweet Chestnut timbers we had felled and milled earlier in the year. These kinds of projects dont really come round very often, and the opportunity to build a traditional cruck frame on site, in a beautiful woodland, with a great bunch of folk was most enjoyable

Pat cutting a housing 

There is something intrinsically satisfying about creating a building from the very trees that surround you,  a building capable of lasting hundreds of years, made from materials that quietly grow and will continue to grow. There is very little in terms of external input, really just the mobile sawmill and some tractor time shifting the trees, so it is an incredibly low impact building. Other than the odd judicious bit of chainsawing, the work was really about a few boxes and bags of good quality hand tools, and the desire and enthusiasm of the people involved.

Oooh lovely tools

 We were really lucky to have some great weather for both courses, so much of the time we were working with sunshine and bird song. I dont want to get too romantic about this but with the mix of weather, lovely people, woodsmoke, plenty of tea, wonderful materials and the sounds of hand tools being worked on green wood, the whole thing really did feel pretty special.

Plenty of tea

Most of the work we did would have been very familiar to a carpenter of medieval times, with the use of plumb bob scribing being used throughout. This allows for very accurate jointing of timbers, despite the wood being rough sawn and out of square.


We also used the adze alot to clean up the inside radius on the crucks and wind braces, which seemed pretty popular. It is suprising how quickly you can get good at this. One of my favorite tools.

Adam the adze

Ollie in action

All the jointing is done by carefully laying out the timbers flat and uncut, one atop the other in their relevant positions, then scribing, cutting and assembling, all in two dimensions.

Scribed and ready to cut

Crosscutting a shoulder

Assembled frame

 Timbers are marked using a tool called a timber scribe. Pretty important when you might have hundreds of unique elements in one building...
Most of the jointing is done with large mortice and tenons, with a wooden pin or peg holding it tightly together.

Carpenters marks with timber scribe and temporary steel pin

Once all the referencing is done on that particular layup, it can be dismantled and the timbers stacked away. Nothing is erected in three dimensions until raising day.

Heavy mortice chisel and a well cut tenon

I think much of the appeal of these green wood crafts lies not only in the aesthetic beauty of the objects being made (and the tools used), but also in a kind of honesty in the process. Its physical and no thrills kind of process, but the combination of care, skill and knowledge of material, and tradition passed down the centuries, results in something maybe difficult to define, but is immediately appealing to many people.

Cleaning out a mortice

 I felt by the end of each five day course we had managed to get to a pretty good level of understanding the fundamentals of trad timber framing. Actually these courses are always a bit of an experiment, because a balance must be struck between learning and simply getting stuff done, so I was really pleased that we managed so much. This has loads to do with the enthusiasm and drive of the participants and I was really fortunate in that respect. A big thankyou to all who sawed and chiselled and adzed..

Dylan chopping out and Jess on the boring machine

All the pictures on this post were taken by Rach weaver one of our course goers, so a massive thankyou to her for letting me use her brilliant images.

Tea break
Next up I will post some images and thoughts on the raising and raftering plus starting the shingle making...

Trusty shave horse for peg and shingle making

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