Timber Frame construction – we create unique, ecologically sound buildings that are both functional and beautiful
How we do it?
All our timber frames are scribed and hand cut in our workshop on the Blackdown Hills in East Devon. We use the ‘French scribe’ method which was common throughout Britain for hundreds of years, until it died out in the late 19th century with the rise of bolted trusses. It was however re-adopted by the early promoters of British timber framing in the 1980’s from the French Compagnion. This technique involves marking out the plans of a building on the workshop floor at a 1:1 scale using an ink or chalk line. The timbers are then laid out over the lines allowing joints to be marked at the intersections of the timbers. It is a simple and very effective way of marking large frames with surprising speed. It also allows for a tight joint to be cut on bowed or out of square timber. The use of such curved and irregular shaped timber allows our frames to stand out from a lot of the more mass produced oak frames, which are often cut by fully automated machines such as the Hundegger. The classic example of this is the use of curved braces and crucks which have become so recognisable in British timber frame carpentry.
Our frames are also marked out by our use of hand tools. The joints are cut with a mixture of hand and machine tools, whilst jowls are hewn and mouldings are planed on to beams. Then after assembly, each timber is marked by chisel with a roman numeral to give it a location and help with reassembly on-site.
We tailor the finish of a frame to the end use. For a barn we would leave a sawn finish, but for a house the timber can be machine or scrub planed. Often in a restoration project we will hand hew the required timber to match in with existing. Hewing is the traditional conversion of a log to a beam using an axe, something that adds real character to a building.
Our frames are all held together by Oak pegs which are split out of a log green, then paired down to the required size on a shave horse. They are then left to dry out before being used in a building.
We also stand out in our varied use of timber species to construct our frames.In the UK, Oak has always been the most popular timber in post and beam construction. Its strength, durability and the ease with which it can be sawn and split when green has kept it the top choice through the centuries. However, other timbers are available and there are many reasons to use them. Larch and Douglas fir are the two other most popular timbers, both being grown in large quantities in plantations throughout the Westcountry. They also benefit from being fairly stable once sawn, with minimal shrinkage. This makes them ideal candidates for use where shrinkage may be either unsightly or compromise the structure of the building, such as areas to be glazed. They are also half the price of Oak, lending themselves to anyone building on a budget or using a high volume of timber; in a barn for example. Sweet chestnut is another overlooked timber. Commonly used in France it is durable, cheap and very attractive. We generally try and tailor the timber to the task and to the budget.