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North House Timber Framing Workshop: Day Seven

by Tyler

It's a typical morning at the Folk School. About an hour before class is slated to begin, we leave camp and head for the wood shop, idly chatting about the work we're planning to complete when we get there. As usual, we're the first to arrive. Opening the big doors of "Red" (what the North House employees call the building), we take a minute to gaze at the view of Lake Superior, a sea of inviting blue.

As a cool breeze filters in from the water, we work together in relative silence. I square up a few mortises, sliding my razor sharp chisel into their recesses, thin wisps of white pine curling away from the blade. Next to me, Tara drags a pencil across the timbers of our home, lead bouncing over the rough-cut saw marks in the wood, fresh from the lumber mill up the road.

Timber Framing Workbench

When Peter and everyone else trickle in, we greet one another with cheerful good-mornings. At the station next to us, there's Rick, smiling with playful glint of boyish happiness in his eyes. Newly retired from the world of finance, he is pursuing his childhood love of woodworking at long last.


Across from us, there's Rob, creator of the Minnesota Master Naturalist program, and his knowledgeable and goofy contractor friend Dave. They're both working on Rob's little guest cabin. They're the ones that generously helped with Tara's kayak surprise, and they're also the ones who brought us The World's Best Doughnuts two mornings ago.

Dave and Rob Working on Primary Posts Rob Laying Out a Primary Post Dave Dave

Meanwhile, Peter makes the rounds, confidently answering every question we throw at him, always comforting us with a relaxed "that's no big deal" when we make a mistake. He's been teaching these classes for over a decade—by rough estimate, there must be hundreds of his little cabins scattered about the country.

Timber Framers Guild

We proceed this way, everyone working on their timbers, until it's time for lunch. Then, we disperse, covered in sawdust, onto the main street of Grand Marais in search of food. While we're out, we take a cue from Dave and Rob, and decide to spread the baked goods love, too. Before heading back to class, we pick up a Dutch Apple pie—something to help us all through inevitable 3PM weariness, 'til quitting time at 5.

Pie at the Shop

Outside the North House workshop there is a growing stack of timbers, each with it's own carefully cut mortises and tenons, all waiting to be assembled, ready to frame the shelter that Tara and I will someday call home. Each completed piece carries with it a growing sense of relief. We've been back for over a year now, but we don't yet have a place to call our own.

I am exhausted after a hard day of work, but it's a good kind of tired, one that makes me feel capable and strong. Instead of sitting behind a computer for the majority of the day, I'm producing something real with my hands, something that will contribute directly to my survival, and I'm sharing the experience with my partner. As the years fly by, this is becoming more and more important to me.

Chisel Cut

The sun is setting now, and we're relaxing together by the shore, where the water and heavens bleed seamlessly into one another. There is the blues music filtering in from the tavern across the road, mingled with the screeches of seagulls and the lapping of tiny waves. It's been a good and productive day. Now, there's nothing to do but stack rocks, skip stones, talk, relax, and feel utterly at peace with the world.

Lake Superior and the Heavens as One Lake Superior Tyler Skipping Stones in Lake Superior Tyler Stacking Stones