Guide to building a timber frame home

Copyright 2008 by Kevin Shea, Tracie Shea, Morris Rosenthal

Building a Timber Frame

Copyright 2008 by Morris Rosenthal

All Rights Reserved

Roughing out a Post

The four principal White Oak posts of our timber frame were purchased from the sawmill as 12"x18" by 10 ft timbers, weighing approximately 1100 pounds each. We dragged them home (two trips) in a rented U-Haul trailer, and got them off by chaining them to a hitch in the driveway, then slowly driving away. Since the finished posts will jowled, 12"x12" at the base and flaring out to 12"x18" from midway up the post to the top, the first step was to remove 6" of wood from the bottom half of the post with our chain saw mill. The next step is to snap lines for the jowl, and cut them in with a skill saw.
Next the wood to be removed is kerfed down to skill saw cuts on both sides with a climbing saw. Kev says "Only cut the line you can see." With the proper ramp rig, we may have been able to cut the waste out in one shot with our chainsaw mill, but it would have been risky. Large timbers are often cut out of trees that barely contain the necessary dimensions, and a couple of our post have some sap wood on the edges, not so good with White Oak. The 8" jowl on our smaller posts, cut from 8"x16" timbers, left some heart wood showing in the 8"x8" lower half.
The lion's share of the waste material is then broken out with an axe. Our stop action photography catches a couple chunks of wood in the air. Some timber framers use axes for just about everything, unless a chain saw is a huge time saver. An experienced axe wielder can shape and dimension timbers to a remarkable degree. In our case, the important thing is to avoid over-cutting with the axe and damaging what will eventually be the exposed surface of the jowl. Despite all the steps involved, roughing out the four posts only took two of us an afternoon (one man-day).
The last step, before planing, is chipping away all the excess wood left over from the kerf and axe approach. Chiseling downhill helps prevent the chisel from diving and scarring the jowl surface. When working directly from kerf to kerf, holding the chisel with the beveled edge down prevents it from digging in. Once the bulk of the excess is removed, a couple minutes with a Makita power planer finishes it off. Since a quarter of the original timber is gone before we moved the post into the shop for finishing, the weight will have dropped to a mere 800 or so pounds. Our basic procedure is to lift one end of the post with the engine hoist, then slip a floor jack underneath for wheeling it.

Foner Books Home | Building a Timber Frame | Contact