Timber Frame Construction

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.

Which Timber?

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.

Why build with timber?

  • British timber – All our timber is grown and milled in the West Country. Where this is not possible it has Forest Stewardship Certification (FSC) ensuring that every piece of timber in the building has come from a sustainably managed source with minimal haulage.
  • Reduced Build time – Built in our work shop, a timber frame is brought to site as a finished product. The frame can then be put up and the site made dry in just a few days. This means less time on site, which means more efficiency, a greater cost saving and less disturbance to the client.
  • Environmentally Sound – Using timber from plantations locks up carbon and minimises cement use. This reduces the overall carbon footprint of a building. It also allows for a greater depth of insulation than a traditional masonry building, increasing energy efficiency and reducing on-going energy costs.
  • Aesthetics- It brings a bit of the beauty of the natural world into your home!


Each project is different and it is difficult to give an idea of cost without a specific design. Most of the price is in the labour of scribing and cutting a frame. The primary effect on cost therefore is the number of timbers in a frame and how they are joined together. A mortise and tenon joint is much more time consuming than a nailed connection.

Secondly, the size and weight of the timbers effects the handling time. Larger, heavier timbers are much more unwieldy than their smaller counterparts especially when dealing with Oak.

Thirdly, the price of Oak is roughly double the price of Douglas Fir or Larch. For a small extension they may be roughly comparable within the framework of the overall budget, but on a large house or barn the difference can be many thousands of pounds.

It is therefore possible to have a sliding scale in a frame design. At one end an “at cost” version with a basic jointed skeleton of posts, wall plates and braces. with nailed secondary timbers and bolted trusses made entirely of a durable softwood whilst at the other end a full timbered version with jointed trusses, studs and rafters all made of Oak. This allows us to tailor a frame design to a desired budget.


We can produce structural timber frame drawings from scratch or we are happy to work to existing drawings. Quite often a client will come to us with a set of drawings done to get planning permission but with no dimensions and no structural detailing for the timber frame. We then produce working drawings for the frame using CAD and get the structure approved by an engineer.

If we are required to take the project right from the initial design stage we can produce 3D rendered models of the proposed building. This can be incredibly useful to understand how a space will work and help to make sure people get the building they really want.

We are able to undertake any commission from barns to bridges, and can take any project from the design stage right through to completion.

  • Barns
  • Houses
  • Extensions
  • Conservatories
  • Garages
  • Cabins
  • Mobile Homes
  • Bridges

"Every morning I have a wonderful time of meditation and prayer in `your` garden room! It`s a joy to be part of the space and has a great natural feel to it. It is also excellently crafted and superbly warm. The room is filled with light, and it`s a special place to retreat to"

− Rev. David Ursell, Cheriton Bishop, Devon

"Tom and his team built us a stunning conservatory using oak from our own tree. It is beautiful and exactly what we wanted. Tom listened to our plans, and adapted our architect’s drawings to make them workable, and arrived with all the oak cut and ready to assemble on site.

If we ever build a house...it will be Tom we will call"

− Trish Padwicke, Briantspuddle, Dorset

"Tom MacCurrach’s design and build of our beautiful oak gazebo is now licensed for civil ceremonies and has already paid for itself in the first year. If you want a highly professional, personal service working with a craftsman, then look no further."

− Matt Rawlingson Plant, Longhouse Weddings, Bruton