Course Review: Entry into the Craft of Timber Framing

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I took my first timber framing class, Entry Into the Art of Timber Framing, at Duluth Folk School in June of 2018 . Gerry David of GFD Woodworking taught it and he’s not only a knowledgeable timber framer, but also a good teacher. I learned a lot and am glad I took the class. I have been able to apply what I learned on one project already and hope to continue to use and sharpen my timber framing skills more in the future. I’m telling you about it to help you decide if you want to take this, or a similar course.

timber framing class
photo courtesy of Duluth Folk School

Learning about techniques:

timber frame chalk board

In the course I learned about the different timber framing layout rules and what their advantages and disadvantages are (for the class we used the mapping method). We discussed the various joints used in timber framing and which ones we would use in the class project. After a basic overview of our project and how we would complete it we got started with the project and Gerry taught us each step in detail immediately before we had a chance to attempt it ourselves.

Practicing the techniques:

Mark timber framing
photo courtesy of Duluth Folk School

We got to practice what we were learning as we were learning it. This was really great and I recommend it for anyone, but especially for people who learn best by doing. Timber framing skills we practiced in the class were measuring, layout, cutting, drilling, and assembly. The teacher would stop the class and gather us to hear an explanation and see an example then send us back to our own timbers to try it ourselves. He also observed what we were doing and helped us whenever we had trouble with something. I found it a great way to learn.

Trying out the tools:

Gerry mortising
photo courtesy of Duluth Folk School

We were asked to bring a few tools such as a square, tape measure and pencil and encouraged to bring saws, chisels and mallets if we had them, but there were also some available for us to use. I didn’t have any made for timber framing so I was glad they were provided. We also got to try a really large circular saw made for cutting large timbers and a chain mortiser (these are quite expensive so not something you would buy unless you were planning to do a lot of timber framing). It was great to try timber framing tools and get recommendations from a professional before spending the money to buy them. I have since bought a couple of chisels, plan to make a mallet for myself and someday hope to own a chain mortiser, but I won’t buy that until I have a large project planned or find a great deal on one.

Bringing home the project:

Another perk to this class is that we got to build and bring home our first timber frame project, an arch/arbor. I haven’t found a good home for mine yet so it is disassembled in the rafters of my woodshed. I still had a bit to finish on the project when I brought it home since there wasn’t enough time to finish it in class (Duluth Folk School has since changed the length of this course from two days to three days which should be plenty of time to finish it). My kitchen floor became my shop to finish it using skills I learned in class.

timber arch
photo courtesy of Duluth Folk School

Overall impression of the class:

Mark chiseling

I think this was a great class. I learned what I had hoped to about timber framing and it helped confirm my desire to build my own home with a timber framed structure. Getting to try out the tools of the trade was probably the best part, it’s certainly something I couldn’t have gotten from a book. I also got to meet some great people in the instructor and classmates. I definitely recommend this class, or one like it, to someone who wants to get started in timber framing.

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