Another Gunstock Timber Frame Treasure

 (or “Restoring This Frame Is Just Too Much Fun for a Timber Framer”)

I feel like a young fella who has discovered a buried treasure! After so many years of working with timber frames and old barns, the magic of each newly discovered frame never dies!

This past week, I got to work on an old Gunstock Timber Frame whose labeling system goes back to the 1500s and earlier. Now if we were in England, this might not be such a big deal. But we’re talking about a labeling technique that was brought across the Atlantic to rural Vermont – and this timber frame is a real, rare find in our community!

Here are a few photos that show the details of the beauty – the handicraft of an expert timber framer who lived in New England centuries ago.

Gunstock Timber Frame from 1500s

Gunstock Timber Frame from 1500s

In the photo above, we can see the labeling technique of the old world joinery, brought to New England where it was used until the mid 1800s.

Below is an excerpt from  Richard Harris’s book, “Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings.” which explains the old world joinery and labeling system. The first picture below shows the traditional lettering system used to label timber frames. The second picture shows a detail of the joinery that this original timber framer used.

Joinery  Labeling System Timber Frame

Joinery Labeling System Timber Frame

Timber Frame Joinery Labeling System from 1500s

And below we see the frame I worked on this past week – an up close photograph of the joinery on this beauty of a frame! This frame is classified as a Gunstock frame because the posts that hold it up are tapered from bottom to top in order to allow two timbers to join and overlap at the top of the post. The top plate timber – or rafter plate – will fill the gap on the right side on raising day.

Timber Frame Joinery

Below is a picture showing the principal rafters of the frame.

Principal Rafters from Historic Timber Frame

Principal Rafters from Gunstock Frame

The girts – or  long timbers – on this frame are made from Elm and Chestnut. The midbay timbers were originally 30 feet wide, but restoration allowed 25 feet. It was hard to tell what wood it was until the cutting, but the familiar pungent smell helped me recognize the Elm.

Timber Frame Barn Restoration

The Elm and Chestnut Girts span 25 feet

The picture below shows the gable (or end wall) section of the frame. Some new timbers have been added, and will age nicely over the next 200 years.

Gable of the Gunstock Timber Frame

Gable of the Gunstock Timber Frame

This final picture shows the frame’s roof structure. We are assembling the original half of the roof frame before adjusting it to new dimensions.

Timber Frame Roof Structure

Timber Frame Roof Structure

And here we have it – another piece of history uncovered.  A fine example of “post medieval construction”,  when buildings where built to last for centuries.

I have several restored old barn frames in stock and erected at my shop. You are invited to plan a visit to walk through them and get a feel for what they could become. See them online first:!available-frames/cqps

9 thoughts on “Another Gunstock Timber Frame Treasure

  1. Pingback: The Gunstock Timber Frame Lives Again | Green Mountain Timber Frames Middletown Springs,Vermont

  2. Pingback: Gambrel House – Revisited | Green Mountain Timber Frames Middletown Springs,Vermont

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  4. An interesting discussion is definitely worth comment. I believe that you ought to write more on this subject,
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    • Bridgett, thanks for commenting. We are fortunate in New England to have such early examples of “Post Medieval Construction”. Like the Redwoods, most are lost to ignorance or chainsaws and bulldozers but we save what we can in our area communities. We are currently restoring a 1775 frame from Ira Vermont. 15 years newer than the one you commented on. It’s the first frame where I discovered the diagonal braces are hewn rather than sawn. They only wanted to pay the saw mill for the wide roof and siding boards. Hew everything else on the farm……………..How hard they worked to create their buildings. All we do is spruce them up and they are good for another 250 years!

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