An old fashioned timber frame raising, similar to an Amish barn raising, is a tradition for the construction of timber frame homes. And raising a timber frame is a time for community celebration.
Timber frame homes are constructed almost like they were hundreds of years ago, except that today, heavy duty straps and a crane set the frames in place—instead of work horses!
Of course, most modern timber frames are created through the use of a state-of-the-art CNC (Computer Numeric Control) machine. Often a Hundegger, such a computerized machine, with a five axis saw, slot cutter, horizontal and vertical drill bits, and a universal mill, produces some of the finest joinery possible.
Once complete, the timbers for your timber frame home are trucked to the building site.
Every timber frame builder or company constructs their timber framed houses a little differently from the others, but the basic timber framing concepts always remain in place…
Amish Barn Raising and Timber Frame Raising
A timber frame raising, whether a barn, gazebo, or a new home, is always a cause for celebration. In fact, it has been a tradition to celebrate the raising of the timbers.
The best comparison that I can make is the Pennsylvania Amish barn raisings. In Pennsylvania, when a barn needs to be replaced, or an Amish couple begins a new life together as a young married farm couple, the whole community gets together to construct the barn. The barn, of course is a timber frame barn.
But, the Amish gathering is not just work. A barn raising is a time for celebration—and a community gathering. It is a time of sharing and socializing. And, while everyone is having fun—the barn is constructed—in no time flat, or so it seems.
Women bring food and goodies to the celebration, and the men all pitch in to get the work done, and the barn “raised”.
Very similar to Amish barn raising, is timber frame raising!
Raising a Timber Frame
Today’s timber frames are constructed in much the same way as timber frames of several hundred years ago. The frames, made of massive timbers or beams, are constructed while lying on the ground.
Joints and angles are cut before the frames are assembled, and many of the pegs are inserted while the frame is still on the ground. You’ll notice that timber framing tools are rather heavy duty. For example, a hammer might be a sledge hammer.
When the frames are all constructed, the sections are lifted into place, using sturdy straps and a crane. Crane operators need to be pretty skilled to help put up a timber framed house or building.
Timber frame builders then fasten the individual sections together. In a true timber frame construction, this is done, using wooden pegs—just like in peg barns and timber frame buildings years ago.
When you attend a timber frame raising, you will see the frame sections lifted into place and then fastened together.
And you’ll see the agile builders climbing high on the timbers to fasten the sections together. You’ll notice, especially if you have a fear of heights, that the workers are not strapped to the frame, and there is no safety net below.
Timber frame homes have a skeleton that stands alone when the sections are fastened together. And the sturdy frame that has been built, can stand up to almost any kind of weather.
Timber Frame Raising Tradition
In addition to the fun and socialization that you’ll experience at a timber home raising, you’ll also see a bit of tradition.
Remarkably, a timber frame is set into place in a day or two. That means that everyone who attends gets to see the framework of the new home, in place. And that, my friends is time for a celebration!
Surrounded by friends and family, the new home owners traditionally place a fir branch at the top of their new timber frame home skeleton. Of course, the workers, who are adept at climbing all over the frames, will help to make this a safe activity.
The tradition of the fir branch dates back hundreds of years, and it is said to bring good fortune to the new home owners.
If you have an opportunity to attend a timber frame raising, do take advantage. Raising a timber frame is one of those old world craftsmanship activities that are fast disappearing.
And when you go to a timber frame raising—you just can’t help but have fun!