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Spotlight: Brad Morse and Uncarved Block

Timber Frame Artist Studio
Art studio, designed by Uncarved Block

Uncarved Block in Becket, Massachusetts, is owned by Brad Morse. Their projects are primarily in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts, but they have also ventured into Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, and Maine. The company’s approach is to build the whole timber frame project, from start to finish.  They feel that this allows them to ensure that the vision of the architect and of the clients is seen in the finished project.  They have a micro-local approach to building—almost always converting trees from the client’s land right back into their home.  That might include timbers, but also flooring, custom cabinetry, or trim. They also specialize in high performance building, which brings the latest in building science (like zero net energy homes, or the Passive House standard) together with very traditional timber frame structures.

brad morse and uncarved block4
Brad Morse

What separates their company from other timber framers is that they build turn-key structures, with very little of their time spent timber framing in the shop. They don’t just sell timber frame packages, as many TF companies do.  Brad believes that there are a lot of ways to build very nice structures, and a full timber frame/SIP package is quite often not the most appropriate type of building for a client.  He offers custom design, or collaboration with a client’s design professional to help determine what works best in each particular situation.  That may include different styles of timber frames (New England, Japanese, UK, French, organic) or enclosures (full SIP, SIP on roof only, infill framing, hybrids, wrap and strap). Uncarved Block, Inc. truly specializes in using wood right off of the client’s property.

dutch mortise and tenon uncarved block
Wedged through Tenon

Brad really enjoys every project that Uncarved Block builds and they really try to pick projects that challenge them in numerous ways—with new materials, new techniques (which in timber framing may mean really old techniques), and new standards. Brad also enjoys teaching, and mainly does that at the Heartwood School in Washington, MA.  He still remembers how fun it was to cut his first timber frame joints, and enjoys seeing that excitement every time he helps introduce a class of newcomers to the trade. Similarly, he appreciates the magic that happens at the many TFG (Timber Framers Guild) community projects, where people from all over the country (or world) meet up to work hard and play hard.

brad morse and uncarved block2One project that has stood out for Brad was building the Black Cherry Timber Frame Project.  He pulled ice-damaged trees right off of the property, and cut some amazing cherry timber trusses.  The side lumber from milling the timbers was all dried and molded, and turned into cabinets, flooring, and trim throughout the house.  The enclosure—a combination of a SIP roof and double stud walls—wraps the frame up for a cozy home.   The great clients let them play with some amazing material, and create a very unique and beautiful home for them.

Like many other creative businessmen, Brad found that learning how to run a business as capably as he can cut a stunning timber frame has been his biggest challenge.  However, he has enjoyed learning how to run the business end of Uncarved Block.

brad morse and uncarved block7He strongly believes that good design is often undervalued and is often just skipped in timber frames.  He believes that a timber frame building should have the architectural and structural design parallel and intertwined right from the beginning of the process.  The homeowner’s comfort and needs should be considered just as carefully as the tightness of the joints.  In addition, the mechanicals need to be carefully thought out in advance in a timber frame.  He doesn’t want to see the plumber drill a 3.5” hole through a beam because venting wasn’t considered, or see Wiremold running across a ceiling because lighting wasn’t preplanned. These are all design issues.  Uncarved Block, Inc. avoids these problems by putting the time into the design of the entire building.  They talk to specialty subcontractors to get their input, research parts that they’re unfamiliar with, and use their experience to make the process as efficient and successful as possible.

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Art studio with pickled pine paneling

Another key element to Brad’s success is the Timber Framers Guild Apprenticeship that he is a part of. He realizes the importance of having educated and excited employees and subcontractors.  Uncarved Block, Inc. contributes to continuing education, from trade shows to Heartwood classes.    His timber framing apprentices will be traveling to WA (Cascade Joinery) to learn all about raising timber frames from some of the best people in the industry.  Having employees in the Apprenticeship Training Program means that his framers are equipped with a very diverse and comprehensive set of skills.  From a client’s perspective, hiring Uncarved Block, Inc. means that they have timber framers that are safe, efficient, knowledgeable, and professional on their project.   That’s pretty invaluable.

If you would like more information about Uncarved Block, Inc., visit their website at www.uncarvedblockinc.com, call them at 413-464-2598 or email them at brad@uncarvedblockinc.com. You can also like them on Facebook www.facebook.com/UncarvedBlockInc/.

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