Seth Kelley is co-founder of Knobb Hill Joinery along with Michael Cuba. At Knobb Hill, Seth specializes in preserving and restoring the steeples, barns and covered bridges of New England. As Seth describes Knobb Hill, we are “hard working, not afraid to get dirty and we love working on old barns.” He also applies historic craftsmanship techniques to the creation of new structures, and is involved in teaching the craft of timber framing in several venues, including Yestermorrow School. We asked Seth to contrast restoring timber frames and old structures, to teaching students how to design and construct a contemporary timber frame . He describes the differences between the hats he wears this way: "They really are two different trades. I like teaching because I can influence history and traditional techniques early on. New frames are so much easier. Working on old building is a different mindset. I’d say restorationists are a rare breed.”
We asked Seth how he became involved in timber framing, and he told us “Actually I wanted to be a mason when I got out of high school. I did that for a while then I was invited to a barn raising and that’s all it took. I was bitten by the timber frame bug!” We asked Seth how he became interested specifically in historic timber frame structures. He replied,” I was working in a production shop and the timbers came to us perfect. Surface plane 4 side. No one in the shop new what to do if a beam was out of square. The shop I was working in originally was an old church and the roof framing was exposed. All those hewn beams. I wanted to know how to do that. So I started knocking on people’s doors to see if I could photograph their barns. Most people love talking about their barns.”
Seth says he learned the traditional timber framing techniques by “Going to TTRAG events. Reading and study. Talking to other framers. Going to guild events. I was fortunate to work with some of the best barn restorationists when I was young. They were and still are a huge influence in my life.” (TTRAG is the traditional Timber Frame Research Advisory Group, a special-interest group within the Timber Framers Guild).
When we asked Seth what he gets the most satisfaction from in his business, he replied: “Jacking a barn back to level is pretty satisfying. Every time I pound a peg through a draw bored joint and watch it close. ”
Seth talks about some of the difficulties in restoring timber frames: “I wouldn’t call them pain points but you need to level or plumb the barn to get your repairs in. Especially if your scarfing into a plate timber. Well shoveling is never really that fun I guess I’d call that a pain.” Seth describes his biggest challenge today: “Really for me it's having the energy in the evening to do all the paperwork. At this point in time I'm a one person show. I do it all. After working all day I go home and do the estimating and phone calls. But I have to do this so I can keep swinging my mallet and chiseling. ”
If you want to find out more about Seth Kelley and Knobb Hill Joinery, check here:
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