A New Home for Mortise & Tenon Magazine

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Today’s guest post comes from Joshua A Klein, a talented furniture conservator/maker from the Maine coast and the brainchild behind Mortise & Tenon Magazine

We have enjoyed working with Joshua over the past year and are delighted and grateful to have him write (and photograph!) for the Green Mountain Timber Frames blog. Our whole team has poured over his publications and we can not recommend his work strongly enough to our fellow woodworkers and kindred spirits in appreciation of yesteryear’s craftsman. It has been a true honor to collaborate with Joshua, his family, and his team. 

Mortise and Tenon Timber Frame Shop Rafters Ridge Pole-14

The GMTF team along with the crew from Mortise & Tenon, in front of the future Mortise & Tenon headquarters

It’s long been a dream of mine to have an antique timber frame workshop to build furniture in. Sure, I could have built a brand-new stick-frame shop and hid the frame underneath boards but as a period furniture maker and conservator, I revere historic craftsmanship. I find it inspiring to work at my craft while surrounded by tool marks left behind by artisans 200 years ago. The awe-inspiring craftsmanship of our ancestors was something I wanted to connect to in the deepest way. I wanted to be immersed in it.

When it came time to put up a new workshop/headquarters for my publication, Mortise & Tenon Magazine, I sought out a hand-hewn frame from Green Mountain Timber Frames. The 24’ x 26’ beech and chestnut frame was built in Pawlet, Vermont around the year 1800.

About a year ago, Luke purchased the neglected house and he and his crew carefully disassembled it for restoration. The frame was in great shape with the exception of the rafters and ridge beam, which suffered fire and leak damage. I went down to see the frame in person this July and became even more excited about it. This frame is absolutely gorgeous. 

Luke and I discussed how to rebuild the damaged rafter system. I told him I wanted old material, as close to the original roof system as possible. He did some digging and came up with a five-sided pine ridge beam as well as round cedar rafters from a barn in Addison, Vermont, virtually identical to the original.

He and his crew replicated the original roof system using these reclaimed materials. They took great care to leave the original surfaces unmarred. They also de-nailed and washed all the 1-1/4”-thick sheathing. As Luke put it, “There is nothing like the patina of old boards.” I totally agree.

Mortise and Tenon Timber Frame Shop Sheathing-9

The five-sided ridge beam and rafters are wonderfully matched to the style and size of the original.

Raising the Frame

This September, Luke and his crew brought the restored frame up to my place in MidCoast Maine. Matt lifted the assembled bents with the telehandler as Luke directed it into the mortises. It was incredible to watch these two work together. Their subtle but effective communication showed that they’ve been doing this a long time. As each tenon slipped seamlessly into its mortise, I couldn’t help but think about how well the resurrection of this frame honored the original makers.

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The final gable bent is set into place

Mortise and Tenon Shop Building Timber Frame Raising Day Three-13

John trims the excess length off the oak pegs

The whole team got involved with the methodical placement of the rafters. Luke said the first pair of rafters is the hardest, especially when they have diagonal braces and a collar tie to be installed along with them. After the first gable end was secured, the rest dropped into place without issue. As they worked through down the ridge, the manual lift helped stabilize it and hold it at the optimum height (decreasing as they went along). The whole process took several hours of careful adjustments and minor paring of the tails that were a hair too wide for their pockets.

Mortise and Tenon Timber Frame Shop Rafters Ridge Pole-6

The first pair of rafters being set, and pegs driven into the rafter braces

By midafternoon that day, the last gable was installed. We drove the final pegs into the joinery and the crew made tiny adjustments before the ceremonial tacking of the evergreen bough onto the ridge.

Mortise_and_Tenon_Timber_Frame_Shop_Rafters_Ridge_Pole-16

Placing an evergreen bough on a newly raised timber frame is an ancient tradition, meant to respect the trees from which the frame was built.

The next day, we nailed gorgeous 200-year-old hemlock roof sheathing in place. Because the crew had already cut, fit, and labeled the boards before bringing them up, the installation process went quickly. The patina in these boards is sacred to this crew. Because they work so hard to de-nail, power wash, repair, and straighten edges, they are very careful not to scratch the beautiful interior show surfaces.

Finishing the Shop

I have to pinch myself standing inside this frame. It far exceeds anything I ever imagined and I consider myself blessed to be the next caretaker for this historic structure. I am leaving the interior unfinished with rough sawn old sheathing boards and the frame completely exposed. All the insulation will be installed in a 2×4 wall built outside of the frame and then exterior sheathing attached to that. I’ve also purchased a pile of antique window sashes (with wavy glass) that I am beginning to restore for the shop. From the inside, it will look like an 18th-century cabinetmaker’s workshop in all its rough-hewn glory.

Mortise and Tenon Timber Frame sheathing-10

The vintage sheathing boards are thick hemlock, and the patina is something that only time can create through the play of air and light.

I am so grateful for this crew and the frame that they’ve restored for us. Luke, Matt, Isaac, and John are not only exceptional craftsmen, but they are incredible people to spend time with. I left the experience inspired.

This building is the new home of Mortise & Tenon Magazine. All our articles will be written and edited here, our instructional videos will be filmed here, and in this place woodworking classes will happen. We will make many memories within these walls.

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Thank you, Luke and crew, for the care you’ve taken with this restoration. Your conscientious workmanship honors the craftsmen who built it over 200 years ago. I hope M&T’s use of it will continue to honor the work of their and your hands.

You can read more about the history of this timber frame in our blog from back in 2016 about the Dutch Cape House from 1800.


Interested in owning your own historic post and beam frame?
Drop us a line.

 

 

 

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GMTF Takes Timber Framing to the Water: The Boat House Project

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In our latest timber frame project, Green Mountain Timber Frames took to the water! We put in no less than 1000 hours of work to build this gem of a boat house:Timber Frame Custom Boat House Green Mountain Timber Frames

We built the new timber frame structure on beautiful Lake Bomoseen – literally on and over the lake. 

Lake Bomoseen_Green Mountain Timber Frames

Lake Bomoseen

The goal was to build a post and beam structure over a boat mooring, allowing a boat to come inside, be lifted out of the water and stored for the winter. 

Inside the Boat House_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

The view from inside the Boat House

Hemlock and Oak Wood, from the Property

One particularly exciting aspect of this project is that the hemlock and oak were cut from the property using a portable saw mill. Only on a few rare occasions has Green Mountain Timber Frames been able to cut a new timber frame using materials from the land where the structure will be built­. Luckily for us, this was one of them!

Designed in Collaboration with the Owners

When it came to designing the boat house frame, our very own Luke Larson worked closely with the property owners. It was a great pleasure to work together to create a design that fit the goals and desires of the owners and also worked structurally.

One of those goals was to have an attractive shed roof across the gables. We decided to accomplish this with a secondary top plate, which we started calling an “outrigger,” that turns the corner and wraps across the gable ends.

Outrigger detail of boat house_luke larson_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont

aerial view of timber frame boat house_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

View of “outriggers” from afar

The various dimensions of this frame were each built on saw horses in our yard, so that we could check all the math, angles and joinery as we went.

aerial view of timber frame boat house_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

Using saw horses to work on wall of the Boat House

We used king post trusses to frame the bents and curved oak braces throughout the frame.

Timber frames_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke LarsonMost of the purlins in the frame were hemlock from the property, but we needed two pick points in the ceiling that would be strong enough to lift a 4,000 pound boat. Heavy oak purlins were installed at two places which are rated for well over 2,000 pound point loads each.

Purlins in custom boat house timber frames of custom boat house_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

The location of the timber frame presented challenges in getting it erected. Since the lay of the land was such that a crane or lull was not feasible, we put it up the old fashioned way – by hand.

Dan went out in his kayak to take this picture of the flag being raised. 

Flag Raising on boat house_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

Here is a what the rafter trusses look like with the roof boards and wall sheathing applied. These were also harvested on the property. Soon there will be a walkway around the inside edges of the boathouse.

Interior view of custom boat house_Boat house completed with siding_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson


Corner details of boat house completed with siding_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

We were especially happy with how the hip corners and eve purlins turned out visually.

Custom Boat House_Boat house completed with siding_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke Larson

Next, the structure will receive beautiful salvaged windows, carefully restored, and a layer of cedar shingles on the walls. There will also be triangular windows in the peak. Take a look!

Boat house completed with siding_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Luke LarsonInterested in your very own timber frame boat house? Have another timber frame project in mind? Green Mountain Timber Frames specializes in historic timber frames and restoration projects, but we also erect new timber frames.

Contact us with any questions! Email Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com or call 802.774.8972.

Buried Treasure! Antique Loom Found in 1780s Timber Frame

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This week’s guest blog comes to us from our fellow builder and timber framer, Glenn Tarbell, who is currently restoring a 1780s timber frame from Tinmouth, VT. 

We found this loom in a 1780s homestead in Tinmouth, Vermont. It was in the attic of a timber frame house I was taking down to restore for future construction.
 18th Century Loom_Green Mountain Timber Frames_Vermont
This particular timber frame has a fascinating rafter system. When I first assessed the frame, I went upstairs to take a look at the construction of the rafter system in this house.
Rafter System Historic Loom_Green Mountain Timber Frames

Inside the attic of the frame

Rafter System Historic Loom_Green Mountain Timber Frames

Rafter system

The rafter system was really strong with horizontal ties and bracing, not what you would find in many houses that early. It must have been built with an eye to the future – when roofs were made of slate – even though the frame was likely cedar-shingled the day it was built. The house also stood on a hill which has strong winds. The strong bracing and ties may have been added to ensure that the house would be able to withstand the unforgiving winds of a Vermont winter on a barren hilltop.
Rafter System Historic Loom_Strong horizontal ties and bracing

Strong horizontal ties and bracing

It was during my trip upstairs that I first caught a glimpse of the loom. Immediately, I thought it was an interesting and exciting discovery.

Discovering the Loom

The loom was scattered about the attic amid old magazines, glass jars, Model-T car pistons, feather or thresh bed mattresses and other old things that get stashed in an attic over 200 years.
magazine and other discoveries in an old timber frame barn_Green Mountain Timber Frames

Magazines and other discoveries in the old timber frame

I gathered the pieces of the loom from all corners of the attic. The big massive log where the fabric ends up was tossed in one corner, while another piece was on the far eve side of the house. The frame of the loom was still together, standing right next to the chimney. What is most beautiful about the loom is the craftsmanship. It’s built like a proper timber frame, as if it were a piece of furniture, or part of the house itself.

Restoring the Loom

When restoring any timber frame, the first task is to remove all the contents from the house and then begin to dismantle the frame. Because the work of historic timber frames is so much about preserving history, we save what we think is valuable or interesting for the new owner of the restored timber frame house.
18th Century Loom_Green Mountain Timber Frames

Restored loom

In this case, the loom was put aside, washed, and stored in Vermont. It will be shipped and delivered to the new owner together with the restored frame next spring.
The loom cleaned up nicely! I know there must be more to the loom then what I found, and I would love to see the loom in working condition with fabric once more being woven.

Know anything about historic looms or colonial weaving? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment below or contact Luke or Glenn:
Luke Larson
Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com
Tel: 802.774.8972

Glenn Tarbell

Winter Construction: Tales of a “Seasoned” Vermont Timber Framer

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This winter has not been an easy one here in New England, even for those of us who have lived in the cold north for many decades. It seems like each weekend has brought us a new snow storm, and Monday I woke up to this:

Thermometer on February 2015 Vermont Morning

Monday’s temp – Yes that middle reading is minus 25

Nonetheless, there are historic timber frames like this one in need of saving and the work continues, despite the bitter cold. This week, we are busy dismantling the Tinmouth timber frame. (That’s right – thanks to the help of my dedicated blog-fans, we were able to find a new owner and save the old barn home from demolition!) Historic Barn Home in Vermont winter While I’m not one to complain, the truth is that everything about winter work is either hard or less hard, never easy. But you can’t let ole man winter beat you down, so you beat your own body up and keep the project moving. Luckily – I’ve got a dedicated, hard working team on board to help with the work! timber framing team in vermont winter                                  A hearty crew, look very happy, huh! There’s no doubt about it – working as a group of hearty souls allows you to get through the day, even if we do dream of St. John V.I. this coming April and conjure up images of the beach as we toil! Timber Frame expert Dan Mckeen in St John Often 2 hours a day are spent removing snow to get at what you are working. Here we are clearing the roof on a Manchester, VT barn home.

removing snow from vermont timber frame home

The Snow Shovel Dance!

And this is a picture from a few years back, when we set a cupola in the midst of a snow squall… setting a cupola on a barn frame in winter Assembling wall sections in the snow is always an extra challenge. Timber frame restoration in Vermont winter This past week, when temperatures were stuck around the zero line (and below), my son in law and I stayed warm in my “toasty” 40 degree shop. (Yes, that’s Fahrenheit.) It’s simply too cold to be outside, so we carry each of the timbers inside to restore a wall section, one bent at a time.

Interior of Green Mountain Timber Frames Restored Frame

Restoring timbers in the shop

My workshop itself is a 1806 Baptist church that was turned into a potato storage barn in 1954. It’s very well insulated, for which I am grateful, so we are able to keep the barn restoration project moving forward.

Winter Timber Framing – The Bottom Line

Your toes freeze, your fingers hurt, you wonder why you chose Vermont of all places to settle…Because -25 is no joke and there is not much happy about these blood-freezing temps unless you are an ice fisherman. Those guys like to drive their trucks out to their ice shanties and huddle around a mini heater with plenty of ales for what ales ya.

Ice Shanty in Cold Vermont Winter

But there is an upside! While I work, a collection of tiny icicles form on my mustache, so I always have plenty of water to drink during the day! (Just have to chew it a bit…) Dan McKeen owner Green Mountain Timber Frames