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

Making Pegs

Timber frame construction isn't exactly held together by pegs, but they do play a big part during the raising process. Every tenon and mortise is drilled through and pegged, which helps keep the frame from falling apart as you're trying to erect it. Pegs also help prevent twisting and slippage as the wood dries stabilizes. Since timber frame construction utilizes primarily green lumber, there will always be some shrinkage and checking as the timbers dry. The pegs are split out of White Oak stock, along the direction of the grain for strength. The art of whittling the resulting stick down into a tapered peg is known as shaving.
The shaving bench reproduced here is modeled on one found in the Hadley Farm Museum (Rte #9 in Hadley, Massachusetts). The operator pushes down the pedal with one foot, bringing the block on the pivot arm down onto the peg. The peg can then be shaved on that side with a draw knife. Releasing a little pressure with the foot allows the peg to be rotated to a new position, where it is pinned and shaved again. According to something Kevin read (a better attribution than many modern historians would make!), the expression "little shaver" comes from the fact that peg making was a job given to children during the long New England winters in earlier centuries. Maybe not children this small (that looks sharp - somebody call DSS).
The frame we're currently cutting will require somewhere north of 450 pegs for assembly. The pegs are sorted by length and diameter, since the dimensions of the timbers vary all over the place. The pegs are not intended to be perfectly round

The holes that are drilled into the mortise of the host beam are intentionally slightly offset from the hole through the tenon, so the peg exerts an active (spring force) rather than a passive restraint as the timbers dry.

Foner Books Home | Building a Timber Frame | Contact