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Material Handling and Workspace Design – Timber Frame DIY

Timber Frame Shop DIYThe term material handling is used for the process of moving timbers in and out of the shop and around the yard.  A lot of time and muscle can be spent on material handling.  A timber framer can never just touch a piece of wood once and consider it done until raising.  Timbers will have to be moved around and it is important to organize a plan so as to reduce the amount of material handling to a minimum.  There are several devices which will greatly assist you (and your muscles will thank you for them too.)


If you plan on cutting the frame yourself, I would strongly suggest investing in a new or used machine with hydraulics to save your back and muscles.  We were able to find a used backhoe which helped significantly in the clearing and foundation stages, and also moving timbers around too (though it was a bit cumbersome due to size).  If you do not need anything for clearing, then a skid steer with forklifts may be more useful (and a little easier to maneuver).

For moving wood small distances, a timber cart is well worth the investment.  It is a 2 wheeled cart with a rest for the timber in the middle that is very nimble and easy to use.  I would also suggest making multiple sets of saw horses.  These will give you ample working space and make it easier to move timbers around, especially if you are working on several at a time.


Assuming you don’t have a workshop, tents work well for the actual cutting of the frame.  We invested in (2) 10’x20’ and one 12’x36’ tents to cut the frame. The first 2 were purchased from Sams Club and the larger one was a handmade A frame with a large tarp as the roof.  All were inexpensive, fast, and dry working spaces.  If you have access to some old wood, making an inexpensive platform floor makes it even easier to move around. Otherwise, I would suggest putting down mulch to lessen the mud impact from heavy rains.

As far as inside the workspace, I would strongly suggest a bit of organization and good tools. We made piece drawings for every single timber so that the measurements were checked ahead of time and only needed to be cut once.  We also allotted a bit of time each afternoon to cleaning up the workspace and readying it for the next day.  Last, we bought good quality chisels and kept them sharp.  Being able to start each new day with good drawings, a clean workspace, and sharp tools made our time cutting the frame that much more productive.

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