Beginning of a Blacksmith Shop

We’ve been hot and heavy into timber framing since I’ve started this website and the YouTube channel but that is just one interest I have and I think now is a good time to share another interest: blacksmithing.

There are not many things I do just for the fun of doing it, this is no different.  I am at a point in the timber frame where I need a few different tools to work with to speed the job up.  The biggest one being a large draw knife to peel logs with.  I could buy one but they are not cheap but I am.

Looking around my property full of “yard art” I have everything I need to setup a simple blacksmithing shop for the purpose of tool making.  I also have an abundant amount of 1080 steel kicking around to work with.

With that said there is a new series on the channel documenting this process that I hope others will find useful.

Choosing a Species for Timber Framing

In the last article we covered the issue of rafter thrust and how to cope with it when designing you timber frame.  In this article we will be covering timber species well suited for timber framing.

When you are planning your frame and you are trying to figure out your loads you cannot properly figure out the loads without first knowing what species of wood you will be using for the frame.  This is important because part of load calculations will be based on material weight (dead load).  So let’s go through some of the pros and cons of certain species choices.

My personal favorite: eastern white pine.  We have two species of wood in North America that are very stable and very well suited to use for timber framing.  White pine happens to be the second most stable choice and if you live in the east it can easily be had.  White pine is fairly light when it is green compared to some choices (average 3 pounds per board foot).  This means that your dead loads will not be quite as heavy as many other species.  The other attractive feature of white pine is that it is very stable and does not have a large amount of shrinkage or twisting.  This can be a good thing if like me it takes you awhile to put your frame up.

The draw backs to white pine are few but really need to be considered.  White pine will rot much faster than say oak or hemlock if left exposed for too long.  The sapwood in white pine is also favored by insects, and bugs can wreak havoc if not dealt with quickly.

The next species on the list is Douglas Fir.  Doug fir is rated the most stable species of wood in North America by many and is probably one of the best choices out there for timber framing.  Doug Fir comes in at 3.2 pounds per board foot.  Doug fir is a very strong species, seems to do well with insects and is very easy to work with.  Most barns and frames out west were made of Douglas Fir and they have stood the test of time.  There is also a large market for repurposed Doug Fir out there.  If I had access to this species I would be using it instead of white pine for my frame.

White oak…what can we say about white oak?  White oak is a very widespread species of many variations throughout the world and there have probably been more frames cut out of white oak than any other in the western world (this is an educated guess).  White oak weighs in at 5.3 pounds per board foot and has a high moisture content.  This high moisture content lends to a lot of movement in the timbers as well as a large amount of shrinkage.  White oak also checks very deeply.  Even with those issues white oak is a very strong wood, it also fairs well in the rot and insect department.  The pros of using white oak is that your timbers do not have to be as large as say white pine to support the same loads.  It is a straight grained wood and is fairly decent to work when it is green, cut your joinery quickly though because when it dries out it is a real bear to tool.

Hemlock…I do not like hemlock for timber framing or much of anything for that matter.  That is just my opinion and it would not be fair of me to not write what it is good at.  Hemlock weighs in at 4.2 pounds per board foot and is a very strong species even though it is a softwood.  Hemlock does well with rot resistance but the carpenter ants love hemlock.  The thing that makes hemlock very undesirable for me is that it is a crap shoot to get quality timbers when you mill it up.  You could get excellent timbers out of one log and have nothing but problems with another log.  Hemlock has a tendency for grain shake which is a condition that occurs when the growth ring separates within the tree.  Hemlock is also subject to large amounts of movement which can be very frustrating if you go to put your frame together if the timbers have had time to dry out.  Hemlock also checks very deeply but that does not seem to affect its strength.

These are just a few species to choose from but I believe they are the most common that can be obtained fairly easily in many places.  Your timber selection will count quite a bit on what you have available to you in your area.  Each species has its merits and its downfalls.  It will be up to you to decide which is most suitable for you to use.

Jim, The Tradesman

Designing Your Own Timber Frame: The Effects of Rafter Thrust


I recently put up a video on designing your own timber frame and what you need to know before you begin.  This will be a multiple part article that I hope you will find useful in trying to design your own frame.  I would also like to add that this process requires a lot of planning as well as a lot of attention to detail, if you are not comfortable with this process you need to consult with a timber framing engineer. Continue reading “Designing Your Own Timber Frame: The Effects of Rafter Thrust”

Another Q and A

We have not done a Q and A in quite some time so if anybody has any questions they would like to see answered, throw them out there and and I’ll do my best to get you answers.

Captain Stupid Mistake

Another small mistake that led to hours of fixing it.  Showing the mistakes is part of the process, it would be easy to show just the good stuff but it wouldn’t bring an honest view of a project like this.

Draw Boring Top Plates

Last night I started cutting the rest of the joinery in the top plates.  Before the joinery could be cut I had to drill out the peg holes.  We did this with a draw bore and some of you have had questions on how this is done.

Harvesting Timbers

Spent a day in the woods with the boy dropping trees for our timber frame project.  It was a good day and a safe one too, can’t ask for more than that. 

There was only one snag and it was minor, the first tree out of the chute hung up but it was expected.  Enjoy the show.

A Work Day with a View

Sometimes when you live in an area that is known for its scenic splendor you tend to take it for granted, sometimes you get to a point you don’t even notice it.  That happens to me most days in the area I live in.

People flock here from all over the world to see these islands.  For us locals it makes for a long summer and we tend to wonder what the draw is.

Today as I’m covered head to toe in soot from an oil fired boiler I took a minute to step out and take a look at the river and the islands and just enjoy my surroundings for a moment.  

We often tend to bury ourselves in our task at hand and often forget to appreciate little things.  So from one tradesman to another, take a moment, look around, try to pick out a moment of peace and quiet for yourself and enjoy the day.

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