The Timber Frame

The support structure of the house is a traditional wood jointed timber frame.  This post and beam style of framing easily suits the in-fill strawbale walls and lends it’s simplistic beauty to the interior of the house.  Colin worked with Garrett McLeod, a Pender woodworker and friend to design the structure of the frame to fit the shape of the house that Colin designed.  Instead of the traditional barn shape with a peaked roof that appears in most timber frame designs, we wanted a single level design with more of a japanese tori style configuration, allowing for the gentle curve of the living roof in the front and the shed style roof of the back half.

The Douglas Fir beams for the frame came from Gary Bruce, a wood timber salvager from Vancouver Island.  He delivered our order on his flat bed truck right into the temporary tent of the work zone.  We used 6×6 posts and 6×8 beams, with the main center beam being a beefy 8×8.  The engineer we called on to approve the structure determined that we wouldn’t need to use any knee braces with these sizes, but we threw in a few corner ones anyways.

Garrett and Colin worked on shaping the joints from the end of August, 2008, until they began putting up the first posts in the beginning of October.  The skill and efficiency that Garrett brought to our project was highly admirable and appreciated.  He had just finished a timber frame course at The Island School of Building Arts, on Gabriola Island,  Colin used his own skills from the  joinery that he uses in his woodworking business as much as possible, although the mortise and tenon cuts were of a much larger scale!  The whole frame went up in 6 weeks, using only a hand-crank frame that Garrett built to hoist the horizontal beams into place and so keeping with a completely engine-free process.  We did use Colin’s pick-up trunk attached to a block and tackle to lift the north wall bent all in one go with a few helpful neighbors, just like an old fashioned barn raising.  We love the beauty and strength that the timber frame has given to our house.  With the bales wrapped completely on the outside, the timbers are completely revealed against the walls on the inside of the house.  The beautiful honey colours of the fir were enhanced and sealed with a natural wood finish called Land Ark, which contains beeswax, tong oil, linseed oil, citrus extract, and pine rosin.  Land Ark is made with only natural, non-altered ingredients from sustainable resources, without chemical processing, bleaching, or harmful additives.  We have also used it on the door and window trims, the baseboards, and the ceiling boards.  It actually feels great to get on my skin, and I love the smell of it as I have done much of the staining.

The art of timber framing has a long and wide spread history of building, and we are very proud to have been able to utilize such a naturally complete system of support using the simplicity of the integrity of the wood itself in the fantastic configurations of joinery.  Timber framing is another way of demonstrating that beauty and art can be a deeply integrated way of construction.  To honour  the trees’ offering to provide their wood for our shelter (even though it was reused), we gave our gratitude in a traditional ritual of nailing a young sapling to the finished frame.

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