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Timber Framing for the Rest of Us

Timber Framing for the Rest of Us
A Guide to Contemporary Post and Beam Construction 
by Rob Roy

New Society Publishers, 2004.

This book describes and explains the basic principles of framing a structure with heavy timbers using "non-traditional" methods such as metal fasteners like truss plates, screws, bolts and pole barn nails -- about which little has been previously published.
Timber Framing for the Rest of Us

"Traditional" timber framers employed wood-on-wood joinery using mortise-and-tenon, scarf and rabbet joints to create wonderfully strong and aesthetically pleasing buildings.

As this guide points out, the use of metal fasteners can make timber framing more accessible to farmers and owner-builders without sacrificing strength or beauty.

Rob Roy, the author, has been exploring alternative construction methods through his EarthWood Building School in West Chazy, New York, since 1981. He and his wife, Jaki, are best known for their cordwood masonry skills. A sunroom addition to their EarthWood house, constructed in 2002, was built as a case study to demonstrate and document the joinery principles outlined in this book.

In addition to the case study, Roy's book provides a basic background on timber framing, some advice on procuring timbers, and specific instructions and alternatives for foundations, post height, fastening and trusses. Detailed plans are not provided and more experienced builders will have to look elsewhere for answers to advanced construction problems.

For those with the time, experience and money to afford it, a traditional timber frame may still be preferable. But "for the rest of us," this book offers a good introduction to the alternatives and a foundation for do-it-yourself construction.

Ultimate Guide to House Framing
Ultimate Guide to House Framing
Timber Frame Construction
Timber Frame Construction
Basic Lumber Engineering for Builders
Basic Lumber Engineering for Builders

Timber Framing versus Standard Stud Construction
Most residential framing in North America today is done with stud construction -- a light "stick frame" -- often referred to as a platform frame, conventional frame or western frame. A "balloon frame" popular about 100 years ago, is a special type in which the vertical members, now known as studs, were quite long, spanning from first story right through the second story. This is uncommon now, with most stories built independently using the ubiquitous eight-foot stud.

Conventional stick-frame construction is typically fabricated with framing lumber having a thickness of just 1 1/2 inches (3.8 centimeters). Vertical support studs are placed around the perimeter wither 16 or 24 inches (40 or 61 centimeters) from the center of one stud to the center of the next one. Prior to 1924, frames were constructed with full "two-by" material. A two-by-four actually measured two inches by four inches. Much of this material came from small local sawmills, and, in truth, the dimensions of a two-by could vary up to a quarter inch. The local sawmills I work with today are almost always within an eighth of an inch of the true dimension, and, very often, they are spot on.

A nominal "two-by-four" today is actually 1 1/2 inches by 3 1/2 inches. All two-bys bought at large lumber suppliers such as Lowe's and Home Depot are 1 1/2 inches thick. The actual depth of a two-by-four is 3 1/2 inches (8.9 centimeters), and the depth of a two-by-six is 5 1/2 inches (14.0 centimeters) After that, the true depth is three-quarters inch (2 centimeters) less than the nominal dimension, so that a two-by-eight is 7 1/4 inches (18.4 centimeters) deep ad a two-by-ten is 9 1/4 inches (23.5 centimeters) deep. Sometimes, you can buy "heavy timbers" at large building suppliers, such as six-by-sixes, but these, too, lose one-half inch in the planer and have a true dimension of 5 1/2 inches square. It is important to know the difference between "rough-cut" (full dimensional) timber and "finished" lumber, more commonly available.

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