From Japan to Arizona and Back Home to Vermont…Grand Entrances Abound

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Gates, doors, and entryways play a large role in the way that humans organize meaning.  Consider that prayers, linguistic expressions, and literary expressions heavily lean on the symbolism of doorways.

The Power of Entrances (Architecture’s Way to Make a First Impression)

A beautiful entrance can literally frame the stance of a home, garden, or barn towards the outside world. I have been thinking a lot about doors lately and want to take this opportunity to share images of some of my favorite entrances…from the very large to the very small, from those above my doorstep to those much farther afoot.

timber frame porch on barn home green mountain timber frames

The Gateways of Japan

Last year, I had the incredible opportunity to travel around Japan, viewing some of the largest and the oldest timber frame structures in the world. The craftsmanship was astounding and inspiring!

In the next photos, you can see a couple of entrance gates and I will start this reflection with these large doorways. The first massive entrance is a Torii gate, which signifies that you are entering a sacred space. The second is the entrance to a temple. Leaving the profane behind, and entering the sacred, is a theme signified in many religions.

While in Japan, I also got to view many garden gates- and these really spoke to me! Japanese garden gate |  green mountain timber frames

That gateway represents a remarkable invitation to enter nature!

Green Mountain Gateways and Gazebos

Speaking of spaces for reflection, the next photo is of a timber frame gazebo that Green Mountain Timber Frames founder Dan McKeen built a few years ago.

Not unlike the garden pictured above, the goal for the pavilion was to create a space of invitation- invitation to reflect and take in the view of the Vermont Green Mountains. Careful thought went into the layout and proportions of the entrances to this space.timber frame Gazebo- green mountain timber frames

The significance of doorways is often noted when we take that first photo of our new home, or of our children standing in front of the doorway as they leave for a first day of school.

We also put prayer scrolls, flags, and wise sayings on or over our doorways. The significance of stepping over a threshold is noted in so many literary and experiential texts.

Home Sweet Home

The next photo shows my partner and I standing in front of an 1820s corn crib that we have dismantled and will be re-erecting as our own cabin retreat in the woods.Montpelier Corn Crib Entrance vintage corn crib cabin green mountain timber frames

A Timber Frame Porch for a Home in the Mountains

The Green Mountain Timber Frames crew recently built a timber frame porch as an addition to a barn home. The porch is 44-feet long, and I love the way the dormer frames the entrance to this lovely space. The steps leading through garden and grass to an off-center door present a beautiful entrance.

timber frame porch on barn home green mountain timber frames

Here are a couple more shots of the timber frame porch:

timber frame porch in Vermont Green Mountainsbarn home timber frame porch green mountain timber frames

We have come across beautiful barn doors as we do restoration work, and the granary that we are currently restoring at our shop is no exception. Note the beautiful hand forged hinges in the following photos.

We will be putting this building back up with a bell tower and have been carefully thinking about the best way to craft the new entrance, with the original hinges, into the space that will be a small chapel.

Here is our latest sketch of the entry and windows:drawing of rupert granary barn home green mountain timber frames

Here is a photo of a grist mill that I recently drove past. I love the doorway on this building!

I have had opportunities to construct a few doors that serve as the entrance to restored barn homes. I have always found it incredibly meaningful to handcraft the “gateway” into a home centered around a barn that we have restored. This next door was built out of maple, and a local artist crafted the bullseye glass.
bulls eye glass custom entrance door green mountain timber frames barn home

In this photo and the next, you can see “hidden” doors that lead to outdoor closets on the right-hand side of the doorway. custom divided lights entryway barn home green mountain timber frames

Materials Matter

Significance can also be found in the materials used for an entrance. When I built a timber frame sugar house on my family’s farm, we had to cut down a plum tree that had lived on the barn site. Out of respect for the tree, I used a branch of the plum to frame the top of the door opening. timber frame sugar house | Green mountain timber framesPlumb tree door header in timber frame sugar house green mountain timber frames

Last week, we delivered two doors that will be installed as the entrance to a large timber frame that we recently constructed. Each door is 48-inches wide, so when both swung open on their strap hinges, the opening will be 8 feet. Significantly, the cherry boards that create the interior panels of the two doors are from a tree that was removed from the spot where the barn now lives.

First, the barn: grape vineyard timber frame | green mountain timber frames

And here is one of the custom barn doors ready for delivery: custom barn door timber frame green mountain timber frames

Now, since who doesn’t like a little potty talk, I better throw in a photo of one my favorite outhouse doors!

outhouse in vermont | Green Mountain Timber Frames

Good Things Come in All Sizes

Here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we have also been fortunate to think about very small entrances. Some kinds of birds have long been considered healthy and happy to have around and in New England barns. For example, swallow doors were sometimes put in the peak of barns to encourage nesting inside. The benefit to the farmers and animals, aside from getting to watch the beautiful acrobats fly all about, was that the feathered friends helped to keep the population of flies in check.

Here is a photo of one of my favorite vintage barns.

Note the mini doors up in the siding: antique barn home swallow doors green mountain timber frames

We replicated this concept in a restored barn that we erected. Along with our client, we designed the opening and nesting box inside for a kestrel, which is a beautiful little raptor that has been struggling in Vermont. It took a few years, but a pair did eventually move in! You can read more about this restored barn.

Here is the barn: vintage barn restoration green mountain timber frames

And here is one of its residents!kestrel in vintage barn by Green mountain timber frames

We also just finished taking down a wonderful little 14 x 22 barn. This structure was first used as a corn crib and later converted to a trappers cabin. Up at the gable peak is a cute little bird door, complete with a landing pad! corn crib barn cabin | green mountain timber frames

Desert Doorways

To end this meandering blog on entrances, I want to show you two beautiful natural doorways that I just encountered while backpacking in the Superstition Mountains in Arizona.

Judging by the beauty of this woven grass, I think it is possible that animals also value the aesthetic of a gorgeous entrance. Here is a bird’s nest, well-protected in the branches of a Jumping Cholla cactus:Superstition Mountains in Arizona | GMTF

And for someone with a bit of arachnophobia, I had to do some steady breathing to really take in the beauty of this spider hole! From my reading since the trip, it seems that some spiders will weave grass around their entrance to channel rain away. But given the beauty of this construction, I am personally tempted to think that they may care about the aesthetic as well.

What do you think?Spider entrance in Superstition Mountains | GMTF

Do you love little barn doors, antiques and all things quaint?

Take a gander at our barns for sale!

Dismantling the Benson Timber Frame: Timelapse Videos & More

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The GMTF crew has been hard at work dismantling the Benson barn frame, a structure that we will restore into a beautiful Vermont barn home. Despite the cold and snow, we’ve made great progress on the project and put together some videos of our work.

(For more details about this barn, check out our last entry.)

After removing the roof boards and rafters by hand, we used a telehandler to lift down the rafter support queen system. Once we were down to the main cube of the structure, we had a crane come in for 6 hours to help out, although back when this historic barn was built in the 1870s or 1880s, they certainly didn’t have such a machine around to assist. The silo made it a real challenge to maneuver, but the local crane operator (and our team) were amazing and it went off without a hitch.

Timelapse Video of Barn Dismantling

This first video is a timelapse video, showing the process of removing first the 48-foot top plate timbers, and then the bents:

When removing the top plate timbers that form the eve of the historic barn, the crane delicately set them down in the tight quarters. We had attached a guide rope to one end, and we were able to spin and then hold steady as it was set down on the ground. In the next photo, you can see the second barn on the property. We are delighted that the owner is keeping this barn in place.

The crane helped us fly down this 48-foot top plate.
top plate of timber frame barn in vermont
The 48-foot timbers are remarkable, and are hewn of pine. Imagine the trees that they were used for these beams, and also imagine how they got them up there without the use of a crane! The whole community must have come together to hoist this frame into place.
Here’s Isaac, inspecting a 10×12 inch hand-hewn timber that’s 48-feet long!

48 foot vintage wood from 1880s barn

The “bents,” (wall sections) that were being swung around the silo are 34-feet wide, 16-feet tall and about 5,000 pounds each.
In this picture, you can see us flying the gable bent. This bent is a whopping 34-feet wide!

34 foot gable bent from vintage barn for sale

Lifting the Basement Wall of the Vermont Barn

In this second video, you can see us lifting the basement wall as a truss unit. The wall consists of two, 48-foot long timbers, connected with 6-foot oak posts and many braces.
The 6-foot posts are mini gunstocks, meaning that they are flared to be wider at the top than they are at the base. A couple of them measure 10×16 inches where they are mortised into the upper timber.
We added extra “strong back” planks to stiffen the truss, but it turned out not to be necessary as it did not bend at all as the crane lifted it. Really incredible!
Once we lifted up the beams and laid them flat, we popped all the pegs, disassembled the truss, and labeled everything.
We hope that the next owner of the Benson Barn Frame will want a walk-out basement underneath so that this wall truss can be put back right where it belongs.
Here’s a shot of some of the awesome GMTF team during our take-down of the barn. The team was just taking a breather on a 34-foot, hand-hewn barn timber from the 1880s. We are a lucky bunch to get to be involved in saving and restoring these historic barns!
Green Mountain Timber Frames crew

This Vermont Barn is for sale!

If you’re interested in learning more, please contact us at 802-774-8972 or Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com
Learn more about the Benson Barn Frame.

What Is One to Do with an Antique Slaughter Wheel?

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This antique slaughter wheel came out of an old Vermont barn for sale, built in the late 1700s. The barn has been taken down, and Green Mountain Timber Frames recently purchased the timber beams, as well as this beautiful antique.vintage slaughter wheel from Vermont barn home
The barn that housed this magnificent wheel was on the Henderson/Vail property in Bennington, Vermont. The family played a significant role in the Revolutionary War.
David Harmon, a key figure in the town’s history, built and operated Harmon’s Tavern around 1770, which was located about 1/4 of a mile from the Vail house. On August 14, 1777, General Stark had breakfast at Harmon’s Tavern on his way to the Battle of Bennington. He likely marched past this barn on his way to the significant battle.
The barn is just visible behind the trees and between the couple in the next photo, taken around 1900. (Read more about this timber frame barn.)
henderson historic barn home in vermont
The slaughter wheel we have just brought home and cleaned was mounted in the center bay of the barn. This was a common practice in the 18th century. In our work restoring old barns, we have come across many of these hoists, forgotten between the bents of ancient barns. Sitting 12-14 feet in the air and just inside a large barn door, the hoists often emerge from the darkness above our heads as our eyes adjust from the bright outdoors to the solemn twilight of an aging barn interior.
hoist of antique slaughter wheel green mountain timber frames
Remarkably, both ends of the log were still able to spin. The doweled ends sat in a cradle on top of the girts, which are the 30-foot timbers, spanning the width of the barn. A rope was wrapped around the large wheel and held in place by hand-forged metal brackets. A second rope passed through a hole in the middle of the round log.
The large size of the wheel in comparison to the diameter of the log gave tremendous leverage to an individual hauling something up into the air. It is an ingenious and simple method that functions much like a pulley system.
antique slaughter wheel green mountain timber frames
The wheel was used for cleaning slaughtered animals or for lifting the end of a wagon in need of repairs. This particular wheel is notable in that it is crafted out of a black walnut tree. The walnut boards that were needed to cut the four curved sections must have started at about 28-inches wide. It is 13 feet long, and about six feet around.
antique hoisting slaughter wheel green mountain timber frames

So what do we do with such a beautiful artifact of our Vermont farming heritage? A client of ours is considering using it as a giant chandelier in his 1780s timber frame barn home that we restored for him. I can just imagine the dinner party conversations that would ensue as guests look up at this slaughter wheel and discuss its past!

Or, this wheel hoist may just end up residing in the upper beams of our shop where we could use it to lift its contemporaries- beams from the same time period that we restore.

Have an idea of what we should do with the slaughter wheel? Or simply interested in learning about the barns we have for sale?

We would love to hear from you.

802.774.8972 or luke@greenmountaintimberframes.com

The 1840s Historic Home: Saving Precious Timbers

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We recently finished working on a small project dismantling part of an 1840s home. The residents were tearing down a section of their historic home to make room for a new addition.
historic home renovation_Green Mountain Timber Frames

The new addition honors the style of the original, and retains the stone foundation

Honoring the value of the vintage wood, they asked Green Mountain Timber Frames to help them salvage parts of the structure.
The answer? Of course!
While the frame itself was beyond repair, with careful disassembly of the timbers, we were able to save the vintage flooring, siding boards, and many of the hand hewn beams. The owners were very happy to know the materials are being recycled and some of the wood was even put to use in their new addition.
historic barn frame 1840 post and beam _Green mountain timber frames

The original wall sheathing is 1/2 inch boards

We look forward to working with these materials in future restoration projects. The beams, flooring, and siding will help us maintain the authentic, historic look and we are grateful to the owners for sharing them with us.
Post and beam addition_Green Mountain Timber Frames

The hand hewn beam shown at the top of the wall is 30 feet long

They even wrote us a lovely note and while we risk sounding immodest, it made us so happy that we wanted to post it here. We are so glad the owners share our love of history and facilitated our collaboration to recycle the beams!
Thank you so much for the caring removal of 1840s ell on our home. We are still so amazed that the work was done so quickly!  Thank you for sharing information on the way our post and beam addition had been constructed.  Our shadow box of various pieces of the ell will have a place of honor in the new addition, too.”
When springs finally comes to Vermont this year, we will be dismantling another historic building on their property to salvage the materials.

Do you have a historic property that you want to preserve? 

We would love to help.

802.774.8972

Restoring a 30 x 42 Barn Frame – Our Latest Endeavor

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Despite winter’s encroachment here in northern New England, we’ve been hard at work at Green Mountain Timber Frames.

For our most recent project, we have been restoring a beautiful 30×42 foot barn frame from New York state. Built in the 1790s, it is a fine example of a gunstock frame.

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Look at the handsome grain and joinery of this gunstock oak post

What is a gunstock timber frame?

This means that the upper timbers all come together at the same elevation. It is an incredibly strong method of construction.

img_4239 However, there is a drawback to gunstock frames: it can be challenging to install a second floor because the rafters start at the same elevation as the loft. It is not an issue for storing hay, but can be a challenge when designing a bedroom! The team, which includes a restoration architect, our client and ourselves, figured out a way to install a second floor in this particular barn. We used scarf joints to raise the height of each post, which allowed us to create a 20 foot loft area below the height of the upper horizontals.

Technical challenges of assembling this timber frame

It’s a good thing we love a challenge, because with this frame, (unlike most) we couldn’t make all the changes without assembling the frame. Why? Because of the angled “summer beams”-the large timbers that pick up the weight of the floor joists. (We will get to the reason for the splayed summer beams in a bit.) Doing compound joinery on a 220 year old structure is only possible if you erect that section allowing the joinery to be measured and fitted in place.

Creating the second floor

So how did we solve our little technical problem? We began by erecting half the barn frame behind our shop.

erecting-half-a-timber-frame

This timber frame is predominantly white oak, so we wanted to match the original species of wood. We purchased white oak timbers from Ohio since white oak is hard to find in our area these days. Given the long span of these beams, we had to use 10×12 inch timbers. For the new posts, we used 10×10 inch timbers.

white-oak-timbers-from-ohio

White oak timbers

In order to help the new timber blend in with the old, we used the old method to create an authentic texture: a broad axe and an adze.

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Here’s a shot of Luke, hewing the new oak beams

Next, we created crooked joinery, because the heavy carrying timbers are splayed, rather than the typical perpendicular or right angles to each other. The only way we could be certain the timbers would join together properly and securely was to fit the timbers in place.

crooked-joinery-on-white-oak-timbers

We chopped and chiseled…made templates…and set the 1000 pound timbers in place.

chopping-oak-timbers_green-mountain-timber-frames

Chopping

chiseling-oak-timbers_green-mountain-timber-frames

Chiseling

templates-for-timber-frame-restoration

Making templates

thousand-pound-timbers_green-mountain-timber-frames_barn-restoration

Setting thousand pound timbers

This now creates a second floor that did not exist originally!

But why did we have to angle the carrying timbers? 

To maintain the original ladder we tightened up the two posts carrying the heavy floor girts. The ladder rungs will be set in the close pair of 10×10′ white oak posts. We have not placed the rungs between the posts yet.  That was the least of our problems…………

The end wall will have a 12 foot bay window between those posts.  Along with the owner and architect, we wanted the heavy summer beams, combined with the posts, to frame the large bay window in a fascinating way!

So the owner gets his ladder and his bay window and a very unusual design that makes this particular frame restoration much more interesting.

In order to check new joinery on other sections of the frame, as well as to store it safely until spring, we put the whole barn up and applied a temporary roof.

 

historic-30-x-42-timber-frame_vermont-timber-frames

Here’s the 30×42′ frame tipped up with a temporary roof.

 

Next steps in the restoration process

Our next step is to set all the hand hewn floor joists into these heavy carrying timbers using traditional joist pockets. But, for the moment, we have moved on to another outside project. With this structure standing and roofed for the winter, we will have plenty of opportunities to return to this task when it is raining or snowing! In the spring, we will label everything, disassemble, and ship the frame to its final location. It will be ready to stand strong and true for another 220 years.

hand-hewn-joists-need-to-be-set

Note the incredibly wide original siding boards!

Stay tuned for a story on our next project: a timber-framed porch. We better get going on it, as we received our first heavy snowfall of the year this past week!

Have a blog idea for us?
A pressing question about historic timber framing? Let us know!

(802) 774.8972 or Luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com

Dutch Cape House from c. 1800

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One early morning, before dawn in November, two brothers were readying for an early morning deer hunt. Hunting culture in rural Vermont dates back to the original residents, and continues still. On this particular morning, breakfast was cooked, weapons readied, and excitement no doubt was rising!

I can imagine that the black of night began dissipating, and the hunters hurriedly finished their planning and headed out into the breaking daylight. A chair had been left too close the roaring wood stove and a couple hours later, a passerby saw smoke billowing from the house. Fortunately for those young men, for Green Mountain Timber Frames, and for the future owner of this beautiful timber frame, the fire was put out and the house survived!

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Since that early morning fire, this little house has served the farming community well. When the local grange had to move out of a nearby building, the family that owned this cape generously offered the space. After many community work days, the grange moved in for weekly meetings and community events. The National Grange of the Order of Patrons and Husbandry is a national organization that began shortly after the Civil War. The group works to promote community bonding and education around agriculture.

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This frame dates from around 1800, when Vermont was still a young state. It was placed in a little hollow between knolls with a stream nearby and land was cleared around it for farming. The house was built using oak, chestnut, and beach trees- no doubt the very trees that were cut down to begin opening up fields for livestock.

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This frame has four bents and stands true even after 200+ years and a close call with fire!

It is fascinating to get to study so many local timber frames and ultimately to get a sense of who built these structures many generations ago! This particular house is a Dutch style of timber framing. The bents are close together and the floor joists are built strong enough to span the whole 24 feet of width.

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A clear span of 24 feet makes this an open canvas for future room design.

This little building measures 24 feet by 26 feet. It is perfect for a small cabin or house, for an addition onto another building, or as a small storage or animal barn.

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The posts and top plate are 10 x 10 inches – a solid little house!

A Spacious Second Floor

One of the reasons we fell in love with this structure, and just had to save it, was the spacious second floor. The posts extend quite far above the second floor, creating a tall “knee wall.” There is plenty of head room upstairs.

The rafter system has a five sided ridge beam with braces to the rafters. Unfortunately, the rafters and ridge beam were damaged by the close call with fire and by subsequent roof leaks over the years. We will be replicating the original roof system however and it will once again be strong and beautiful.

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The posts extend up beyond the 2nd floor, creations a spacious second floor living area.

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Here you can see braces strengthening the structure.

The Ingenious Basement

The ingenuity and creativity of the builders of this home are demonstrated in the basement of the house. Underneath the floor system, we discovered a very rugged food storage room or “root cellar” built with rough hewn logs, stone, and brick.

I have no doubt that it was filled with ice from the nearby river before the spring thaw, and that it was filled with squash, potatoes and other vegetables in the fall! Surely, it also was an excellent place to make and keep that hard cider that Vermonters loved (and still do)! It also doubled as a very strong foundation for a wood stove on the second floor. Imagine the original residents filling this little room with the fruits of their labors, and then relishing the food during the bitter winters.

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Let’s keep those garden vegetables and root crops good all winter!

Once again, we consider it such a privilege to cross paths across the span of generations with the pioneers, carpenters, farmers, and families who have built and dwelt in this structure. We are also grateful to the family that saw the historical value of the house and allowed us to disassemble it once it could not be kept up in its original location. The restoration of this timber frame will take place over the future months and it will once again be ready to house future generations.

Interested in this timber frame or another historic property?

Contact Green Mountain Timber Frames at
luke@GreenMountainTimberFrames.com, or
802.774.8972

 

Post and Beam Sign Frame for the Vermont Farmers Food Center

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Most of the time here at Green Mountain Timber Frames, we restore 18th and 19th century barns and turn them into new timber frame homes, barns, great rooms and more.

But this summer, just for fun, a different project came into the mix when I was asked to put together a very “organic” sign frame for Rutland County’s Vermont Farmers Food Center.

Reclaimed Wood_Green Mountain Timber Frames_wooden sign for Rutland VT Farmers market

Here’s the frame. The sign itself will be attached soon.

Reclaimed Wood_reclaimed Timbers_wooden sign

You can still see the curve and shape of the tree in the two braces and heavy timbers.

How does one make a timbered sign frame out of half round locust trees?

To begin the process, I chose to use local locust wood.  I found the logs at Ken Gagnon’s saw mill in Pittsford, VT. Armed with these rugged timbers, I was ready to begin building.

Why locust trees?

I used locust because their wood is comparable to “pressure treated” wood. Locust naturally has many of the properties of pressure treated wood, without any chemicals needed to preserve the wood’s fiber. Remarkably, locust can easily withstand being exposed to the elements for 50+ years.

Building the sign frame

Ken Gagnon sawed flat sides on the front and back of the sign timbers, making it much easier for us to do the joinery. I carefully studied the surfaces to decide the placement of each timber.

Because locust wood is very hard, we used a chain mortiser to make the mortises (pockets). This time-saving piece of modern equipment is very exact, and reduces wear and tear on our arms. However, I still had to scribe and chisel the rounded sides of the four beams to make them fit together tightly when the joinery was completed.

Chiseling Timber Frames_ Green Mountain Timber Frames

Expert timber framer Luke Larson works on joinery.

Joinery in Timber Frame Sign_ Green Mountain Timber Frames

Tools used in making a joint.

We connected the beams using mortise and tenon joints. Once erected, this joinery allows the frame to be a very strong structure, even in heavy winds.  Because the wood is locust, the joints won’t rot.

Below you will see the two pieces being joined:Rutland Vermont Sign_Timber Frame Joinery_ Green Mountain Timber FramesThe Diagonal Braces

As we were building the sign, I felt that adding in some locust limbs for the diagonal braces would enhance the look.

Locust Wood in Timber Frame Sign by Green Mountain Timber FramesHeading out to the woods, I found some locust trees. I cut some limbs that had natural curves. We pealed off the bark and eventually carved tenons on both ends of each piece.

Tenoned Joinery in Locust Wood_green mountain timber framesAll in all, it was a fun project that took the Green Mountain Timber Frames team about 50 volunteer hours to complete.

Interested in your own timber frame structure?

Our main focus is on historic properties and timber frame homes, but we have other talents as well!  Interested in furniture that compliments a timbered home or something else special?

Let us know! 802.774.8972