Friday, December 12, 2008

Finishing touch

The lake house in Ellington CT was the first chance I was able to see the methods for using SIPS (Structural insulated panels) as an enclosure system for a timber frame. A crew came in from Panel Pro in New Hampshire and hung most of the panels, which were pre-cut at their shop, with a lull and four guys. Before they did a wall section, we hung the drywall on the outside of the frame. This was amazingly fast; afterwards we could go back from the inside and screw it off easily and cut out the openings.

Here is a cross section on a corner post- the wall panels are 4" OSB and expanded polystyrene foam- you can see the 1/2' drywall between them. You here a lot of debate about the 'green' quality of this method in the industry- though it is pretty much the standard for most home enclosures. The advantages are the super insulative qaulities- much better R-value with thinner walls than studs and batt insulation as well as the fact that all the processing is done in a shop where you can control waste much more efficiently than trying to build on-site. 
The cons- its still petroleum based insulation sandwiched between two barfboard panels. It's recyclable to a degree but it is certainly not a closed-loop solution like hay bales. 

Before we cut out the openings-

Interior post panels and drywall-

Detail on the overhang that will cover a conventional balcony off the MBedroom-

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Cold Lake frame

This past weekend we put up the frame we have been cutting for the last couple of weeks; a small 2 bedroom house on Crystal Lake- or as Bobby likes to call it 'Ice Station Zero'. The wind off the lake made the site prep week a little chilly but it is a really nice spot- we even saw a bald eagle pair (adult and juvenile) fishing in the lake one day. The raising went really well despite the low temps and there was a great crowd of about 50 that had the whole structure up in about 6 hours!

Here is the site the week before raising with 3 bents assembled and waiting.

The coolest feature of the house for me was the timber framed dormer (designed and executed by Brendan) that involved a bunch of compound angles even thought the roof was a 12/12 pitch. 
Here is the top of the bent 2 post that will catch a connecting girt, a valley beam, a common rafter, and the dormer gable rafters. 

I didn't get any shots the day of the raising because it was so cold and we were so busy but here is the raised frame- 

Second story with arched braces between queen posts that carry the purlin plates...

Valley beams seated- 

What the post looks like after all the connections are made-

View across the lake-

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Ivy League Frame

After the horse barn raising, we began cutting an outdoor pavilion for Yale University in New Haven. Different than Brendan's usual clients, there was certainly more bureacracy and politics involved in the process of making all the design decisions and planning. The ultimate design was a really interesting frame to cut though. Six big white oak posts hold up two bents (38' long and 20' apart) that hold three massive trusses that support the broadly overhanging (30'x39') flat roof. The whole project was in cooperation with the Yale Sustainible Food Project which is an interesting effort at supplying some of the food on campus themselves and educating folks about sustainable farming. There is an article here that describes the raising day from the students' perspective, though it fails to mention all the actual hours the 4 guys who actually cut the frame in 3 weeks put in. Oh, well. The guys in yellow shirts and one bearded guy in green next to them in the last picture on that page did all the work, trust me. Everyone is always amazed that a building goes up in 'gasp' one day! Its sort of seems that way, and its fun, but the truth is a couple people have handled every one of those timbers a million times, moving them around, flipping them endlessly on bunks, laying it all out, cutting every joint and then stacking them back up to be delivered to the site. Not to mention the one guy (Brendan) that planned the whole thing and dealt with Yale administrators for 2 years and redesigned the drawings they sent and figured out how to make it all work and chewed at all that timber until it fit absolutely perfectly together. An enlightening experience working with a big institutional client compared to a homeowner. 

The site had a brick pizza oven that ended up under the pavilion.                    

Bringing the heavy-ass (some were ~650 lbs. each) top and bottom chords to the site:

Prep work that set up the raising two days before; prefitting all the posts, cutting them and drilling the bolt holes where they attached to the foundation metal brackets-

Looking from the site down into the gardens; there were a couple sorts of hot pepper plants that we had a great time experimenting with-

The finished frame-

High angle (housed) struts that run from the post to the upper chord of the truss:

The pavilion looking up from the gardens-

Cedar trellis joined to rafter pairs and splined into upper chords: 

Looking out from under the central truss:

A very cool juncture in my opinion, the center of the structure where the summer beams meet the middle truss: 

Another highlight I thought, was the group of angles meeting at each post, the steep angles of the truss bracing and the outer struts next to the normal braces running to the plate: 

Monday, August 11, 2008


Its been forever since I updated this particular blog- but now that we have moved someplace we will stay for a while, I will try to be a little better at keeping things current, though I'm not sure if I will ever find the time to go back and post about everything that happened last summer while I was at Heartwood. On to the present!

I've been working with a small company called the Barnraisers over the last few weeks. I joined them a little more than halfway through cutting the joints for a four stall, 28'x36' horse barn in East Haddam. Yesterday was raising day and there were probably a good fifty or sixty folks that showed up to help, including the four apprentices from this year's Heartwood class.
The video above shows the last of the four bents being raised into place. Its amazing how easily even a small group of people can lift such a massive (in this case, we calculated each bent to be about a ton) amount of weight when the load is distributed.

The other amazing thing about this group is how flawlessly the joinery goes together on raising day. Brendan (the foreman and owner of the company) is the most precise, yet easy-going guy I have ever met. We take great care while all the material is on the ground in the yard- to layout perfectly, triple check everything and then get super fussy about the exactitude of actually cutting the joints. With the exception of circular saws for some rough cuts, everything is cut by hand with chisel and mallet, hand cranked boring machine, or an adze. I have learned a ton in the last three weeks, mostly thanks to Brendan, Bobby, and Splint's generosity in sharing what they know about every aspect of timberframing. It all comes together on raising day; the crowd was amazed that this whole complicated structure went up and even had a roof on in about 9 hours.

This is Brendan's 'shop', its the cleared space in his yard where there will eventually be a big barn and workshop; for now its a flat space to lay out timbers.

A pile of braces with a boring machine on top; this is what we drill out mortises with, its amazingly fast and effective- and very quiet with no sawdust!

The first bent put together and laid out on the ground beforehand- every piece of the barn was organized and laid out around the site in the exact order and orientation in which it would end up in the building.

The second bent raised and connected on the sides by girts and in the middle with dovetailed joists.

Scarf joint in the plate, the longest stick in the barn.

Dovetailed joist ends.

Brendan and Splint installing the hay hook-