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!
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!
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!
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.
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 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…
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!
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!