This May 2012, craftsmen from across the United States and Canada will descend on Port Townsend, Washington to discuss a building tradition developed in the 12th century, timber frame construction. The first question the uninitiated may ask is, “What is timber framing?” This construction method uses heavy wood joined together in intricate joints to create structures. Basic timber framing principles have been present since the neolithic age and have existed across many cultures. North American timber framing traditions date back to the middle ages in Northern Europe.
Timber framers construct architecture that is distinctly different from normal 2x4 construction. Timber framing uses heavy wood members spaced farther apart. The wooden members themselves can be fashioned from heavy trees using the simplest of tools, although today precision power tools and industrial machines often speed up the project pace. Wood is linked together with complex joints and wood pegs creating an entire house design without a single nail or screw.
The Timber Framers Guild is a not-for-profit organization that educates, connects, and advances the art and engineering of timber frame construction. Like other trades, the Guild sponsors apprenticeship programs and educational courses. Unlike other trades, timber framing isn't something that can be learned anywhere. This rare skill set serves a niche market and the T.F.G serves to connect people across North America.
I was familiarized with The Timber Framer's Guild through David Yasenchack, a timber frame designer with an impressive catalog of contemporary timber framed structures. The conference covers an amazing array of speakers and workshops with topics ranging from traditional Japanese timber framing to modern backyard tree house construction. Conventional urban planners and architects will be familiar with some of the topics like the workshop on design programs, while other classes like the maintenance of traditional hand tools may seem a bit out of date. Arguably, the most interesting aspect of the conference is the ongoing discussion of how this ostensibly antiquated building method remains relevant in its modern interpretation.
The 2012 TFG Western Conference will cover too many subjects to touch on in one article. With enthusiastic practitioners meeting to discuss this craft, any Global Site Plans readers interested in getting a crash course in traditional building might consider this or a future workshop sponsored by the Timber Framers Guild.
How does timber framing fit into the continuum of modern construction methods?
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