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How to Get Started with Timber Framing

wooden boatbuilding to timber framer-2Last week I was contacted by two individuals who were interested in getting into the world of timber framing.  This is a popular question, so I thought I would dedicate a little time to it here and share my story.  While my passion for the craft developed into a profession, the same steps apply for the do it yourselfer. Here is how to get started with timber framing.

I first found out about timber framing while taking a wooden boat building class in Maine.  I met a person who had taken an apprenticeship class at Goshen Timber Frames and immediately borrowed a book he had to read up on it.  The book was Ted Benson’s The Timber Frame House. It had great images, joinery details, history, and of course, the story of his progression. After reading that book, I got my hands on every book I could about the craft.  Below is just a short list of my recommended reading and where you can buy them.

Book List

  • Timber Frame Construction: All About Post-and-Beam Building – Buy on Amazon
  • Building the Timber Frame House: The Revival of a Forgotten Art by Ted Benson – Buy on Amazon
  • A Timber Framer’s Workshop: Joinery, Design & Construction of Traditional Timber Frames, Steve Chappell – Buy on Amazon
  • Advanced Timber Framing: Joinery, Design & Construction of Timber Frame Roof Systems, Steve Chappell – Buy on Amazon
  • The Timber-Frame Home: Design, Construction, Finishing by Ted Benson – Buy on Amazon
16x24 Timber Frame
My first solo frame a 16×24 timber frame.

After coming back home to South Carolina, I discovered Stephen Morrison with Moresun Woodworking. He is now a good friend of mine. He had built his house and then went to work.  He gave me a job in the shop after first completing two full sets of sawhorses from layout to pegging them together.  This project was completed after just a short class about layout, how to use a chain mortise, and making a mortise with a drill bit and chisel. It is why I give away a set of timber frame sawhorses on the site because I feel it is a great introduction to the craft and should be one of your first projects.

These are the tools that I bought/had for the sawhorse project and ones you will need for a bigger project.


These are the tools that I bought/had for the sawhorse project and ones you will need for a bigger project.  Is is just a basic list, but for an in-depth look at the hand tools, you will need head here.

Remember, you don’t have to go out and buy the most expensive tools or even new tools but make sure you buy good quality ones. They will just make the experience more enjoyable.

TF Guild

putting on the tongue and goove ceiling-3Soon after starting and exploring timber framing, I was introduced to the Timber Framers Guild and went to my first event.  We were cutting a small bus station pavilion in Charleston, SC.  We went from raw timbers to a completed and raised pavilion in a couple of days.  This was just a simple project, but it showed me the entire process.  I would highly recommend to anyone to attend one of these projects if you can.  There are timber framers of all experience levels for you to learn from.  If you cannot attend an event it is certainly worth signing up for membership.


Soon after discovering timber framing, I went online and started searching, reading and looking at all the photos I could.  There are a couple of sites that I recommend along with some forums.  The Internet does not do a frame justice; you have to get in them.  Start poking around…they are everywhere.

My Timber Frame
My timber frame lit up by a bonfire after raising day.

After completing a few projects with Stephen in the shop, I took a break and cut my first solo frame that my wife and I lived in, and soon after that with our new son and daughter.  We lived there while I worked on our house. I am still amazed every morning waking up and staring at a timber frame that I cut.

If you have gotten this far in the article, you are already truly committed to learning the craft…so get going and cut a joint today.

Please note:

Timber Frame HQ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn advertising fees by advertising and to link to amazon.com.  When you purchase something within 24 hours from Amazon a small percentage of the sale goes to support the efforts of TFHQ.

6 thoughts on “How to Get Started with Timber Framing”

  1. I am considering building 4 cottages in the timber frame style. I have average stick framing skills but not sure if I can tackle timber framing. Would you recommend a specific plan for a 18X24 cottage ?

    1. Our 18×24 plans would make a great plan for a cottage. With sometime and head-scratching you can build a timber frame, especially if you have some previous experience which it sounds like you do.

  2. Thank you so
    Much for this website.You have saved my project.many years of planning . I now have the answers and inspiration.Can you tell me your experience working with timbers that are not graded.everyone sells ungraded timber and I don’t know if that will be a problem on rafters and floor joist..will be buying from
    You for future projects….. many thanks

    1. Matthew Stevens

      Grading helps qualify the quality and strength of the wood. Most timber is not graded unless it is specified by an engineer or is required by your local code office. Which is the case in my county? We have to have all timbers in the frame graded. This can be done on-site or at the mill. There are private graders out there that will come to your site if needed.

  3. Hey Brice. I’ve been kicking around here and the Forestry Forum and in Chappell’s books for a good while. I’ve started on a hand-hewn oak tractor barn because I enjoy challenging myself. I’ve been relying on a center line layout method because of the inexact dimensional nature of my hewn components. However I’ve recently encountered a new issue – crown in a rafter plate. I’m not exactly sure how to account for this using center line. Can you recommend a resource? I’ve actually scrapped the timbers mentioned (they deviated 1.5″ at the center of 13′) and selected another pair of pieces but for the future…
    Thanks for all.

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