Timber Frame Buildings
Here at our Hewnwood workshop we have a small team of experienced and dedicated carpenters skilled in the traditional art of timber framing, working with large section timbers to create fully jointed frames full of character and exceptional beauty. The team is led by Alan Ritchie a craftsman with over 25years experience in timber frame building and construction joinery. He and his team will be happy to work with you to create a timber framed building unique to you that has been hand crafted using time honoured and proven techniques. As you can see from our portfolio we create all kinds of buildings in traditional and modern styles from full house frames to barns and garages and various garden buildings. Conservatories and porches as well as restoration work where required.
An Ancient Craft in a Modern World
While your frame design can obviously take on an endless variety of appearances from country cottage to contemporary innovation, the framing methods used are the same based on techniques that have been used for hundreds of years. The most advanced timber framers were the early British craftsmen whose awe inspiring halls and cathedrals are so rich in detail. It is inspiring to know that some of their buildings have lasted for eight centuries and more, giving a feeling of enormous strength and steadfastness. Superb joinery is at the heart of their craft. Wood tightly fitted into wood – held together with a simple wooden pin. A simple formula that has stood the test of time.
Raised cruck frame
Today there are various approaches to frame construction. We choose to create our frames by hand using traditional British methods which typically makes use of the natural curves found in some timbers, although not necessarily so if you prefer the straighter lines of the American ‘post and beam’ styling. There are also companies who use a large amount of automation in the form of CNC machines to cut their frames. However these machines are only able to take straight and square timbers, and have a tendency to cut inaccurate joints as no machine can allow for the idiosyncrasies of a natural material such as wood. We believe that the best frame comes from working with nature to fully utilise the inherent strength and beauty of the wood within the frame.
For the most part green timber is used for its workability and cost although some parts of a frame may be cut from air dried timber for added stability. As every piece of timber will have a certain amount of acceptable bow and twist in it, it is the skill of the framer to be able to ‘read’ each piece of wood and orientate it to it’s best advantage within the frame making use of it’s natural strengths. Each element of the frame is then hand scribed to create the best possible fit for every joint. All our braces and curves are cut from naturally curved timbers to utilise the strength of the wood which would be significantly weakened if it was cut it across the grain.
Another small but extremely important part of your frame is the type of pegs used in the joints. All our pegs are individually hand made in order to work with the grain of the wood. Again this is to make use of the natural strength of the wood as a machine made dowel would be likely to snap or require hidden steel support. The holes in the tenon and mortice are then offset so that when the peg is driven home the peg acts as a wedge drawing the joint tightly together. This means the pegs must also be tapered and allows the peg to be driven in further when necessary due to the natural amount of shrinkage that occurs in the timbers over time, maintaining a snugly fitting joint.
The Timber for the Frame:
The vast majority of our frames are built in either Oak or Douglas Fir or a combination of the two.
Oak (Quercus robur) is a native hardwood which if kept dry can last indefinitely as many surviving medieval structures will testify to. When freshly cut it has a golden yellow colour. Kept indoors it softens and pales, but when used outdoors and exposed to the elements it will turn silver grey.
Douglas Fir is a structural softwood and will therefore not last as long as Oak but will certainly survive your lifetime and that of your children and possibly longer if taken care of and kept dry. It is widely available and relatively cheap. When freshly cut it has a pinkish appearance which fades to a much lighter reddish colour over time. Like Oak when exposed it takes on a silvery grey appearance.
All our timber is sourced from local saw millers who only deal in Welsh/English timber that comes from sustainable well managed sources.