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Timber Frame Cottage Raising: The Dress Rehearsal

by Tara

It's a clammy, dark afternoon. I just picked up Tyler from the airport after his week in California, and we've been home for less than an hour. Already we're at the house site, going over final preparations for the frame raising of our little cottage. Tomorrow is the big day, and everything is looking good. There isn't much to do but wait… until a wry smile appears on Tyler's travel-weary face, and he asks:

Do you want to assemble a bent?

I peer overhead, nervous about exposing our well-wrapped timbers to a sudden downpour. The sky is pewter grey and ominous, but there's no rain yet. We should have at least a dry hour in which to work. I grin and acquiesce.

Sure, let's do it!

Tara Reading Cottage Timber Frame Plans

First, we consult the plans we received two years ago when we cut the beams for our house at a North House Folk School. As we haul over the posts marked 1A and 1B, along with tie beam 1, I am struck by how light they seem. They are feathers compared to the behemoth roundwood logs we wrestled with last summer while building our Norwegian-style grindbygg timber frame workshop. It took eight people alone to move one of those posts!

Grindbygg Log Lifting Grindbygg Bent Raising Us Hoisting Rafter

We pick a pair of knee braces, and I run my hand along their beautiful curves, feeling grateful that we took the time to cut them into an appealing shape (the plans called for leaving them totally straight). I smile, remembering how we drilled, sawed or chiseled every single piece of this frame ourselves. How I sanded it until it it was buttery smooth. How I stained everything a rich dark walnut color. How we hauled it with us when we moved. How we struggled to keep it dry. Our home tells a huge story and it isn't even built yet!

Tara Shaping a Knee Brace Tara Shaping a Knee Brace Tara Sanding Tara Applying Danish Oil to Tie Beam Tired Tyler Unloading Wet Timbers Hauling our Timber Frame Home Hauling our Timberframe to Vermont

Here we are, two years later, about to assemble these timbers. If all goes well, the disparate pieces of wood that have been a part of our lives for so long will somehow make a home! We lay out the pieces on 2x4s so they don't have to touch the damp concrete, arranging them for assembly.

Tyler Assembling First Bent for Cottage Timber Frame

Then, we slot the knee-braces into the posts and tie beams, the tenons and mortises coming together with ease. I am simultaneously elated and relieved, bewildered and almost... let down? I hesitate a moment, briefly worried about jinxing the scenario, then decide to say what we're both thinking, anyway.

You know, that was so easy, it was almost boring?

Tyler Assembling First Bent for Cottage Timber Frame

Tyler responds immediately:

I know exactly what you mean.

Then I hastily add…

But I'm okay what that! I'm okay with boring!

Then, we laugh conspiratorially, as if we're getting away with something. Surely this should be more difficult? Squaring the bent only takes a few minutes, and then it's on to drilling the peg holes…

Tyler Drilling Peg Hole in Cottage Timber Frame

That's easy too. As is driving home the pegs. I tap-tap-tap ever so gently with the enormous "persuader" that our timber framing friend and instructor Peter hewed, but I barely need it. The process seems downright dainty in comparison to peg-driving of the grindbygg!

Tara Driving Peg in Cottage Timber Frame Tyler Hammering Grindbygg Knee Brace Peg

When the bent is complete, we stand back to admire it, glowing at our handiwork. Then, we decide to see how heavy it is. Tyler and I scoop our fingers underneath the tie beam and 1, 2, 3 lift. To our surprise, we're able to hoist it up it easily. While I wouldn't want to raise this frame with just the two of us, it's nice to know we could if we absolutely had to.

With happy sighs, we cover our bent with a tarp and head back down to the camper. If tomorrow is anything like today's dress rehearsal, this frame raising will be a piece of cake!



Best of luck tomorrow guys!
Posted by Sim on April 30th, 2014 at 2:37 PM
so awesome guys, have been following the blog for almost 2yrs and really looking forward to the timber frame raising. i always check in on lunch break to see if there is a new post. pulling for ya' out here in seattle!
Posted by aaron on April 30th, 2014 at 3:21 PM
What's the deal with the 'mirrored' drill bit?
Posted by aart on May 1st, 2014 at 9:03 AM

It's a clever tool for drilling a straight hole. When you are perpendicular with the mirror, you can't see the bit, and you know your peg hole will go straight through the beam.
Posted by Tyler on May 1st, 2014 at 11:15 AM
Sim - Thank you!!

Aaron - Thanks so much, Aaron! I love knowing we have folks all over the place that we don't even know, rooting for us and our little house. :D
Posted by Tara on May 1st, 2014 at 11:25 AM