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Tag Archives: Green Oak Framing

This weekend just past has to count among the more extraordinary times in my life. Not just because we raised the treehouse platform, though we did that. Not just because the weather was beautiful and the meadow and trees were in their prime. But because around 20 people, from the age of 11 to 92 (yes, 92, albeit briefly in this case) had a daylong, muscle straining, totally focused, axe wielding go at the ancient craft of riving: that of splitting a huge, green oak butt into shingles, laths (strips, essentially), and pegs, all destined for the tree house. All this under the watchful eye of Richard Archard, expert lath, shingle and peg maker. Here is the story of the oak butt, and what happened to it, in photos.

The oak tree was struck by lightning a year or so ago, and its owners, Sue and Tubby Peto, had to have it felled. They very generously donated it to us – it is a lot of oak!

Meanwhile, over in the treehouse corner, the Dove carpenters were preparing – joining and pegging – and then raising the main frame that they have been making over the summer months.

While this was happening, the barbecue was on its way.

Treehouse 8

There followed a classic night of human activity after a hard working day: songs, laughs, bonfire and booze. When the stars came out they were stunningly bright, and framed by the trees around. There were even some of the shooting stars we had been promised (more a trickle than a shower, I have to say). A late night for some.

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Sunday morning, and the rivers gathered, the carpenters made new joints, Jim extracted 4 curved handrails from a huge, unstraight piece of oak he had had for a while, and at the end of the day the laths (strips) became balusters (uprights between the newel posts) and we could start to imagine the full beauty of what was being coaxed into being. But how that will look is for another day: we ran out of time and couldn’t join the pieces just made, to the frame. Next time.

Treehouse 10

Morning light on the frame

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New joints

Treehouse 9

Curving handrail to be

Treehouse 15

Laths loosely attached. Josh checks the gap.

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Jim arrives with a load of oak…

Fast forward nearly 3 weeks from the first workshop, and Jim Blackburn turns up with a trailer full of green oak timber, an amazing sponsorship gift from his suppliers. So it was all systems go with the introductory course to green woodwork timber framing on the bank holiday Saturday just past.

First, a fascinating and informative presentation about timber framing – this has all been going on for hundreds of years, and we will all look at old barns differently from now on, as careful inspection reveals a multitude of information on when, who, what, how…

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Jim’s introduction to Green Oak Framing

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The good old Dove kitchen table! With cooks Faye Suzannah and Lois Wulff in the background, waiting to reclaim the space for lunch.

An introduction to tools followed, and then a demonstration on how to lift heavy timber without hurting yourself – all about gravity, levers and fulchrums (fulchra??)

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Lifting practice

followed by lunch – this has to be an essential part of every communal activity.

And then: outside to practice marking up the timber and then cutting it, working in pairs:

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Jemma and Marcel

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Ange and Clare

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Zan and Jya

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Bethan and Joe (and Jim)

And something very important has stayed in my head since Jim’s presentation: that this ancient craft of timber framing is precisely still relevant today because of the fact it HAS to be a group, communal activity, and that these groups were – and still are – often itinerant, spreading and sharing their skills and methods across borders and ages, a free movement of people, ideas, trade, knowledge – yes, come on everyone, bring it on!

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