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Liam Kelly Building a Playground in Belize David Leviatin What’s in a name? Paul Snell Pencil Pencil. Sharpen Sharpen Rediscovering Cecil Hewett Stan Watson Getting Your Waterstone Back in Shape

At Work, The birth of a mast, Normandy, France

All photos: Francois Calame

Scots pines being felled in Normandy in the first phase of the latest Charpentiers Sans Frontières project. Specially selected for their slow rate of growth, the pines will be used to make replacement masts for two 16 metre pilot-cutter sailing boats, the Marie-Fernand and the Jolie-Brise, both of which were built in Le Havre around one hundred years ago.

Charpentiers Sans Frontières

Picture call… Show us what you do and how you do it



The Carpenters‘ Fellowship Advancing the practice and study of timber frame carpentry

Issue 55 Spring 2014 Carpenters’ Fellowship Membership fees include subscription to the M&T. Find out more at w w w. c a r p e nte r s fe l l ows h i p. co. u k Subscriptions CF Membership is available throughout the world. Please contact the Editor for more details. Back numbers Please contact the Editor. Contributions The M&T welcomes contributions. If you have anything that you would like to share with our readers please contact the editor. Copy deadlines Spring issue 31 January Summer issue 30 April Autumn issue 31 July Winter issue 31 October


At Wor k Charpentiers S ans Frontières


I n Site D avid Le viatin

5 Liam Kelly Building a Playground in Belize 1 4 David Leviatin

W hat ’s in a name?

2 0 Paul Snell Pencil Pencil. Sharpen Sharpen 2 2 Rediscovering Cecil Hewett 28

Stan Watson G etting Your Waterstone Back in Shape


G aller y

Copyright Copyright of the Mortice and Tenon is held by The Carpenters’ Fellowship. Copyright of individual articles, illustrations or photographs remains with the authors, illustrators or photographers. Printed by Welshpool Printing Group Severn Farm Enterprise Park Welshpool, Powys SY21 7DF on C o c o o n recycled paper ISSN 1 1368 4612

Belize tool kit

Editor David Leviatin Sub-editing SOServices  Design Mark Clay



In Site Soon after I arrived in the UK in the fall of 1998, I discovered the work of Cecil Hewett. I had just started out as a carpenter (craftsman) at McCurdy & Co. and I was in Peter’s booklined office getting one of those Red and Black Staedtler Tradition HB pencils he encouraged us to use when marking joints on timber. Looking for the pencil, my eyes came across the spine of Hewett’s English Historic Carpentry. I took it down from the shelf and was immediately blown away by the image on the front cover: a stunning colour photograph of the 600year-old hammer beam roof that spans the hall of Westminster Palace in London. Sixteen years later, I finally figured out how to get into the hall and have a look at its roof by myself and at my own pace as opposed to being part of a large group herded about quickly on one of those whirlwind tours. After two hours of pleasantly craning my neck and pacing off dimensions, I walked out of the building in awe and wonder, more amazed and inspired than I was when I went in. While the photo I had seen on the cover of Hewett’s book was impressive, experiencing the scale and skill of the frame itself on-site was sublime. A real treat for any roof framer. A week earlier, I was out at Cressing Temple (the home of another couple of sensational old frames – c. 13th century – that I was also introduced to in the pages of Hewett’s English Historic Carpentry), discussing the ways in which the Carpenters’ Fellowship and Cressing might develop a mutually beneficial relationship. Soon after FRAME, the Essex County Council, the body which oversees the operation of Cressing, decided to drastically



reduce the number of days that the site would be open in an effort to save money. So, just weeks after the passing of Ed Levin, one of the leading lights of the “timber frame revival”, access to arguably two of the most important timber frame buildings in the world was being restricted. Coincidence? Tragedy? I chose to look at the timing as some strange form of Karma. This was an opportunity. A chance to rediscover and reinvent ourselves as timber framers. I met with David Andrews and Elphin Watkin at Cressing Temple in an effort to figure out how the site’s beautiful old barns might be able to attract more visitors? Maybe a new version of Open Air Museum? Perhaps one based on historical reconstructions?? David and Elphin suggested beginning with a small-scale project: the building of a Dovecote. They said that Hewett had done drawings in the 1970s of one that was still standing just outside Chingford. I asked if they could get me copies of the drawings. David walked off into an adjoining room and came back carrying a 26”x 40”x 3” cardboard portfolio. He put it on the table, undid the straps and lifted the lid on a treasure trove of original drawings. He began going through the pile of studies and sketches, both rough and finished, looking for the drawings of the Dovecote. I stood and watched, stunned and salivating as any historian in the presence of rarely seen primary sources would! The smell of the old sheets of paper, their soft yellowed appearance and the powerful quality (creative, intense, prolific) of the drawings was overwhelming. Rediscovery and Reinvention. Bingo! The time is right, I thought, to move beyond revivals by bringing the best of the past into the present while thinking about the future. David Leviatin

B u i l d i n g a Playground in B elize Liam Kelly

The belief underlying Project APE is that play is an important part of education, especially for young children. Play encourages confidence, creativity, strength, determination and experimentation. However, in many deprived areas around the world, there is hardly enough money for school buildings, never mind playgrounds. By fund-raising and sending volunteers to design and build playgrounds in poor countries such as Belize, Project APE attempts to alleviate the situation. Building the playground at St. Augustin was part of a wider project to expand the school with funds raised from the William King Educational Trust. The primary construction material of the playground was timber bought from the local timber merchant in the eastern town of Dangriga. The species included Sapodilla, Manilkara zapota, Cabbage Bark, Andira inermis, Cedar, Cedrela Mexicana, Caribbean Pine, Pinus caribaea, and local Bamboo (with 20 genera and 429 species of bamboo to be found in central and southern America, I’m not sure which one we used). This provided us with a decent range of timbers to construct the playground.

All images: Liam Kelly

Ever thought about being a big kid again and building a playground? To make things more complicated, what if you’re on unfamiliar turf, with limited availability of tools and materials. Would it take six months? More? When I went to Belize in the summer of 2012, I discovered that a dedicated group of people could design and build a playground, complete with swings, monkey bars, tyre assault, balance beams, stepped play decks, a stand-alone tyre swing and a performance space in only twelve weeks. With the generous help of a Carpenters’ Fellowship Grant, I was able to be part of the charity Project APE (Adventure Playgrounds for Education) team, building a timber playground and performance space at St. Augustin Primary School in Stann Creek District, Belize. Working in a team of 10, including professionals, students, and graduates of various backgrounds, our skills were diverse too, with some of us having a good level of experience with design and carpentry, and some having none. Although the learning curve was very steep, we still managed to make it work.



All images: Liam Kelly




All images: Liam Kelly




All images: Liam Kelly





All images: Liam Kelly



Also you could get your hands on just about any dimension needed and with a planed finish. One thing that came as a surprise was aside from the Sapodilla we were priced the same cubic foot for all the timber. Of all the timbers Sapodilla is the most memorable, having a deep, rich red colour and one of the tightest grains I have ever seen. It is the most durable of all the species in Central America, with it being utilized for construction by the Mayan civilization in buildings dating back to the Classic Period (200 to 900 AD). A number of these can still be seen today in such places as Tikal, Tulum and Chichen Itza to name just a few. The build consisted of two key areas: an adventure play area containing the core play apparatus and the performance space/outdoor classroom accompanied by a number of additional swings. In the lead up to the project the various members gathered design examples and a portfolio of possible apparatus was compiled. These apparatus were then presented to the school with the kids saying YES! to just about everything. The final go ahead for specific apparatus was given by the school head along with the opinions of the teachers. The next and one of the most enjoyable parts of the project was working out how to arrange all of this in a coherent, flowing and, most of all, fun design. We came up with a methodology for the layout that might make Laurie Smith raise an eye – or David Yeomans, depending which camp you’re in. The use of the daisywheel was decided as an appropriate design process to allow us to lay the apparatus out in an interlinked flowing design. The project threw up a number of problems that you would expect from a developing country. Our first main problem was being informed that we would be unable to live on site during the build as there had recently been

attacks on tourists along the stretch of highway the school is on. This meant a 25-mile bus journey each way, adding an hour and a half of commuting to the day. Fortunately the buses were very reliable for their time keeping and tune selection, which made it easier. The weather proved to be one of the biggest challenges for the project. The monsoon rains arrived early that year and the best thing you could do was take shelter or enjoy getting absolutely soaked! This had a knock on effect on our timber orders and left us with over a weeklong delay on our timber, as the mill up state was unable to operate. The roads also became extremely bumpy and dangerously slippery. Midday heat proved to be a real challenge for people as well and I don’t know the science but roofing the performance space (just 3 meters off the ground) was intense. Material, time, travel, weather and tool challenges aside, the project was a success and we opened the playground on time and to the delight of the school community. It’s fair to say it was pretty hectic on the day the playground was opened, as the kids were extremely keen to try every bit of the playground. The kind words from the school staff and many smiles from the children involved left us all with a sense that we had provided them with a playground that went beyond their expectations. It was an experience I will never forget and would highly recommend anyone taking on a similar project. I’d like to thank all those involved in the project particularly Jenny King from the William King Educational Trust, Ollie Goddard from Project APE and a great thanks to the CF for their support. Liam Kelly studied Architectural Technology in Bristol, and has been a carpenter at the Oak Frame Carpentry Company for the past three years.



W h a t ’s in a na me? David Leviatin

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet.   Juliet, Act II Scene 2   Romeo and Juliet   Shakespeare Who Are Ya! Who Are Ya! Who Are Ya! Who Are Ya!   Arsenal Football Club Chant When someone I don’t know asks me what I do, I either say, I am a timber framer or that, I repair and build timber frames. Depending on the background of the person asking, I usually get one of the following responses. 1. Polite and clueless: Oh right, that sounds interesting. 2. Clueless and curious: Oh right, that sounds interesting. What does that mean? 3. Polite and clued-in: Oh right, that sounds interesting; are you an architect? 4. Clued-in and to the point: Oh right, you’re a chippy. Not too long ago, we were just carpenters. Very much like the all-rounders described in 1937 by Walter Rose in his book, The Village Carpenter. Then all of a sudden and relatively recently a number of us became timber framers and the work we do became timber framing. How did this happen, when and why? After making my way through the pages of historic building contracts in Appendix B of L.F. Salzman’s 1952 book, Building in England Down to 1540: A Documentary History, I never found any reference to timber framers or timber frames. What I did find were clients requesting carpentarius, carpentaruium, carpentarios, citeseyn & carpent’ de Loundres, carpentere, charpenter and carpenters to build them: halls, chambers, solars, stables, shops, houses, wharfs, gatehouses, gaols, chapels, water-mills, buildings, roofs, windmills, inns, floors, almshouses, bridges, stairs, doors, windows, quire-stalls, rood-lofts and weirs… Not until 1855 could I find a reference to a carpenter as a framer. The poet Walt Whitman, whose father Walt Sr. was a house carpenter, used the term framer in the first edition of his poem Leaves of Grass: Discovering as much or more in a framer framing a house, Putting higher claims for him there with his rolled-up sleeves Driving the mallet and chisel… Aside from the reference noted above by one of America’s most unabashed poets of democracy



(whose choice of words was more than likely designed to highlight the common work of a house-building carpenter by using the terms more often associated with the loftier business of nation-building undertaken by the framers of the United States Constitution), that is all I could find of carpenters being referred to as framers, let alone timber framers, until the early 1980s. As for the terms frame and framing and the later ones timber frame and timber framing there is much more to consider, and what one finds is a bit confusing given that the recorded references to these words come from a variety of observers (historians, architects, engineers, builders, enthusiasts) over a long period of time and, despite sharing the same English language, tend to reflect the many cultural differences between the old and the new sides of the Atlantic. In consulting the Oxford English Dictionary, one does find that the words frame and framing are generally used to describe the concepts of fashioning, constructing, contriving, making, inventing, preparing, shaping, fitting and composing. The terms were also used to describe being helpful, being profitable, making progress, preparing or making ready, to shape or give form to material. When frame is used in relation to timber, it has been used in the following ways: 1374 this timber is al redy up to frame. 1479 and when the tymber his hewyn and begon to frame. 1520 to square tymbre, frame and rere ony buyldynge. 1532 An agreement between Thomas Crumwell Maister and Thesaurer of or soveraigne Lorde the Kynges Juelles and James Nedeham Maister Carpenter for Nedeham to: workmanlie and substantialle make frame bielde and sett up oon frame of good substanciall and seasonable tymbre of woke… 1532 An agreement between Maister Thomas Cromwell Esquyer and treasorer of the Kynges Jewelles and Thomas Hall and John Kynge citizens and carpenters of London to: substancially and wirkemanly make frame and set up within the tower of London to and for the use of our said soveraigne Lorde the Kynge thre newe howses… 1542 it shalbe lawfull to erecte, make, frame and set up one good windemill. 1707 the carpenters work to hew the timber, saw it out, frame it, and set it together. As for the word framing, there are two mid-15th century references to the framynge of tymber and framyn tymbyr for howsys; the way in which the word is used, however, suggests that what is being described has more to do with preparing or squaring up timber than it does to the making of a timber building.

What we now call the framing In 1870, Sereno square – thought to have been Edwards Todd invented around 1814 (and published Todd’s patented in 1817) in Vermont by Country Homes and an enterprising blacksmith named How to Save Money: Silas Hawes who welded two old A Practical Book by saw blades together at a right angle a Practical Man. In – was around long before Hawes had Chapter VI, titled Barns his bright idea and it was not called and Out-Buildings, the framing square. On the long list of Todd uses the terms tools itemised in the Estate Inventory frame, framed and of Francis Eaton, a house-carpenter framing in explaining born in Bristol, England in 1596 Encyclopedie, Diderot, 1751 the Manner of Framing who sailed to New England with a Large Barn and the Pilgrims on the Mayflower in 1620 and remained in Framing Buildings by the Scribe or Square Rule. Plymouth, Massachusetts until his death in 1633, there is In 1909, Fred T. Hodgson published Light and Heavy recorded: 1 Iron square. Timber Framing Made Easy. An advertisement placed by a Connecticut carpenter As for describing buildings made of wood as frames or named Samuel Blin Jr. that appeared in the American as timbered, in 1817, a J. Bradbury, travelling in America’s Mercury on 12 January 1814 suggests that the concept of southern States noted that every planter is able to erect a framing had been adopted by new world carpenters but handsome frame-house. The description above appears that it was still being used to describe a craft technique in the OED with the definition for frame-house as a house rather than a building style. Blin proposed to open: a constructed with a wooden framework or skeleton covered school for teaching ancient and modern architecture, and with boards. the square rule of framing. As mentioned earlier, the balloon frame arrived in the In 1820, the engineer Thomas Tredgold published mid-west in the early 1830s and quickly put the older Elementary Principles of Carpentry: A Treatise on the Pressure and more labour-intensive types of house frames (the and Equilibrium of Timber Framing. This appears to be one braced-frame and the plank-frame) to the sword. In 1838, of the earliest published examples of the use of the term the architect Matthew Habershon published The Ancient timber framing. Half-Timbered Houses of England. And in 1887, an article In Civil Architecture, published in 1836, Edward Shaw in the Spectator noted: a master carpenter… lived in a has a chapter on Carpentry in which he has a section comfortable two-story frame-house. on Framing. Shaw wrote that framing was a mechanical In 1912, a Mr. Mcbride published The Half-Timber House: science divided into two principles – the Scribe and the Its Origin, Design, Modern Plan, and Construction. Square Rule. The Bedales Memorial Library in Hampshire, built in In Chicago in 1832, the future of both the scribe 1921 by Gimson, Barnsley and Lupton, is very clearly a and square rule of framing were seriously threatened timber frame building to all of us looking at it today but I by the arrival of an entirely new form of light-timber would be curious to know what it was called when it was construction derisively called balloon framing. Apparently, being built in the 1920s. the balloon frame got its name when one of a group of In 1951, F.H. Crossley published Timber Building in old-school carpenters watching a balloon frame being England and in 1955, J. Walton published an article titled built joked that it was too light and that it would certainly Early Timbered Buildings of the Huddersfield District. blow away. The title of Chapter XIII of L.F. Salzman’s 1952 book In his book Space, Time and Architecture: The Growth Building in England Down to 1540 is The Timber-Framed of a New Tradition, Sigfried Gideon notes that the House. This is perhaps one of the first times that the balloon frame was named, in contempt by those old fogey combined term timber-framed is used in a way with mechanics who had been brought up to rob a stick of timber which we would be familiar. of all its strength and durability, by cutting it full of mortices, 1952 was also the year in which the Vernacular tenons and auger holes, and then supposing it to be stronger Architecture Group was founded. The members of than a far lighter stick differently applied… this group, and other similar groups most notably the In 1859, William Bell, who described himself as an Wealden Building Study Group (1964) and the Essex architect and practical builder, published Carpentry Made Historic Buildings Group (1983), promoted the study of Easy or The Science and Art of Framing On a New and timber buildings overlooked by architectural historians; Improved System. With Specific Instructions for Building their work inspired the publication of numerous articles Balloon Frames, Barn Frames, Mill Frames, Warehouses, and books, in many of which the terms timber frame, Church Spires etc. timber frames and timber framed were used.



In 1958, S.E. Rigold published an article titled The Timber-framed Buildings of Steventon, Berkshire. In 1959, Harry Forrester published The Timber-Framed Houses of Essex. This is probably the first book (a short one at 93 pages) to use the term timber-framed in its title. In 1964, R.T. Mason published Framed Buildings of the Weald. (Mason was described in 1977 by Roy Armstrong, founder of the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum as having been for many years the pioneer and lone worker in the study and systematic examination of timber-framed buildings…) In 1966, J.T. Smith, a founding member of the VAG, published an article titled Timber-framed Buildings in England. Another factor that played a role in the evolution of timber building terminology was the opening of Avoncroft Museum of Historic Buildings in 1967 and the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum in 1970. Both museums grew from their first exhibits: reconstructions of a pair of dismantled timber buildings. Avoncroft opened with its reconstruction of the Merchant’s House, a late 15th century timber building that was originally located on Worcester Street in Bromsgrove before it was taken down. The Weald and Downland opened with its reconstruction of Winkhurst, part of an early 16th century timber building originally located in the parish of Sundridge, Kent that was dismantled in 1968 to make way for the Bough Beech Reservoir and reconstructed on the Museum’s grounds in Singleton in 1969. Interestingly, both reconstructions were the work of a little known German refugee, perhaps the man we might want to consider to be the original timber framer. Born in 1915, just south of Frankfurt in Jugenheim, Germany, Gunolt Daniel Greiner left Germany to avoid serving in Hitler’s army and spent World War II as a refugee in an agricultural work camp in Avoncroft College in Bromsgrove, Worcestershire. A woodcarver, Greiner first worked on repairing, reassembling and reerecting the Merchant’s House at Avoncroft (and also its watermill, the last working one in Birmingham) before moving on to the Weald and Downland, where he apparently arrived on site with his tent and mobile workshop. According to the historian Kim Leslie, the arrival of Greiner was a good omen because not only was he prepared to live and work on site much in line with the style of itinerant medieval craftsmen but Gunolt’s skills had already earned him a reputation as one of the last carpenters in the country with knowledge of medieval craftsmanship. While working at the Weald and Downland, Greiner helped train Roger Champion, who went on to become the Museum’s long standing carpenter-in-residence.



The 1970s saw the publication of a number of studies focusing solely on timber buildings and the beginning of the widespread use of the terms timber frame, timber framed and timber frames. In 1971, R.W. Brunskill published Vernacular Architecture: An Illustrated Handbook. Brunskill was a student of R.A. Cordingley, a Professor of Architecture at the University of Manchester. In his British Historical Roof-Types And Their Members: A Classification, published in 1961, Cordingley begins his Classification by identifying: two carpentry systems… known respectively as the Box Frame and the Cruck. Cordingley then goes on to discuss the…cruck form of timber structure and the box-frame system of timber structure as well as, box frame roof types and cruck frame roof types. Cordingley does not use the terms timber frame, timber frames or timber framed. Ten years on, Brunskill devoted his attention to the last of what he identified as… the three main types of timber-based wall construction: horizontal log, post and plank and timber frame. In 1971, Trudy West published a book titled The Timber Frame House in England and in 1975, in his book English Vernacular Houses, Eric Mercer discussed timber framing and Chapter VIII of the book (titled, Materials) is sub-titled Timber Framing. 1978 saw the publication of what has perhaps become the single most influential book on timber building construction: Discovering Timber-Framed Buildings by Richard Harris. The book’s title, because of the book’s popularity, no doubt helped to establish and insure the future currency of the term timber-framed. Harris notes in the opening line of his book that, ‘half-timber’ and ‘black and white’ are the common names for timber-framed buildings. While having chosen to use the term timber-framed instead of the terms half-timber, or black and white, Harris does not use the now popular term timber-framer, refering to the builder of timber-frames as a carpenter. Harris does however set the tone for things to come by noting that the builders of timber-frames are like alchemist-carpenters… the secret of [whose] magic was the craft tradition. A year later, in 1979, on the other side of the Atlantic in New England, Abbott Lowell Cummings published The Framed Houses of Massachusetts Bay. In what is a wonderful book on the development of early American architecture, Cummings discusses the significance of house-frames built by carpenters. In 1980, Cecil Hewett published what is regarded by many to be his most significant work, English Medieval

Carpentry. In this magisterial work of description and illustration, Hewett, either unaware of or resisting the new trend, refers throughout to historic timber buildings, structural carpentry and structural carpenters. Still 1980, and back across the Atlantic again, Ted Benson, who founded, Bensonwood Homes in 1973, published Building The Timber Frame House: The Revival of a Forgotten Craft. Benson argued that the loss of timber framing as the dominant building system [in the United States] was simultaneous with the loss of the human element in almost everything. While Benson wrote passionately about timber frames and timber framing, he still referred to himself and those he made frames with as carpenters: I have found it a privilege to be a carpenter in New England. Despite this, it is quite clear from his barely disguised antipathy to the mass-produced work of stud-frame carpenters that he is searching for an alternative moniker. And so, in our race to enter the promised land at the other end of the assembly line, we left behind vast stores of knowledge that for centuries had been passed through generations. Whole crafts were lost. Among these was timber framing, the joiner’s craft. Benson further develops his idea of the framer/joiner in Chapters Three and Four, titled The Joiner’s Vision and The Joiner’s Work, by introducing us to a new sort of woodworker– those of us who practice timber joinery. He goes on to describe the people who work in his shop as craftsmen. Proper joiners would no doubt wince and look up from their Norris Planes with a sneer upon hearing Benson conflate and confuse their refined efforts with those of a house wright, but never mind. The die was now cast and the so-called timber frame revival was about

to take-off. Some carpenters were about to become timber framers… In 1983, Steve Chappell published A Timber Framer’s Workshop: Joinery, Design & Construction of Traditional Timber Frames in which the identity of the timber framer is clearly laid-out for the first time. There is even a section of the book titled The Timber Framer’s Tool Box. A year later, in 1984, Jack Sobon’s Timber Frame Construction: All About Post-and-Beam Building was published. Sobon adopts the terms timber frame and timber framing throughout his book. However, he does choose to use the terms house wright and timber frame builder to describe the sort of carpentry done by a builder of timber frames. In doing so he very clearly joins other members of the revival in distinguishing between the work of medieval guild trained master craftsmen and modern day production or stud-framing carpenters: Studframing probably began in the Midwest in the early 19th century. Aside from using ready-made lumber, the frame required fewer hours to build. The process of butting lumber and joining the pieces with mass-produced nails made joinery obsolete. Also discarded were the remnants of the apprentice system. Less skilled workers who could work faster with simpler materials and tools were all that were necessary. So house building changed from a craft to an industry, and the craftsman evolved into a labourer. In 1985, The Timber Framers’ Guild was established, formally institutionalising (at least in attitude and name) the emergence of a new type of mythical old carpenter – a joiner of timber, a master craftsman, as opposed to a nailer of studs, a mere labourer. Carpentry and house building in particular were reimagined by a

Barn raising in Granby, Connecticut. Photo, George and Alvah Howes, 1902



group of people captivated by an image of the past and dissatisfied with the reality in which they lived. In 1986, R.J. Brown published Timber-Framed Buildings of England and in 1996, Recording Timber-Framed Buildings: an illustrated glossary was published by the Council for British Archaeology as the 5th Number in its series of Practical Handbooks in Archaeology. Though one would think that the process that resulted in our describing timber buildings as timber frames and the carpenters who make these sorts of heavy oak, jointed structures (as opposed to the lighter ones composed of softwood studs and nails) as timber framers is now pretty much complete, adopting the new terminology was not a smooth process and the new terms still cause confusion. For example, 1984 saw the publication of The Conservation of Timber Buildings, the classic work by F.W.B. Charles in which he refers to: timber-framed buildings, timber structures, timber buildings, timber-framed houses and the timber-frame tradition. Similarly, in 1985, even after the terms timber frame, timber frames, timber framed and timber framer were commonly used to describe jointed, heavy structural carpentry and those engaged in its manufacture, R.W. Brunskill titled his new book Timber Building in Britain. The SPAB described Brunskill’s book as the standard textbook on timber building. Though like Charles, Brunskill uses the phrase Timber Building on the cover of his book, in its pages he adopts the new lingo, writing about timber framed structures, timber-framed buildings, timber-frame walling, timber framed walls, timber walled structure, conventional timber frames and timber frame construction. Despite his generous use of these new terms for the buildings themselves, Brunskill never refers to the builders of timber-frames as timber framers but instead as traditional carpenters engaged in traditional carpentry. In many ways, the English version of the American timber frame revival was introduced to the UK in practical terms in 1980 when, according to its brochure, Border Oak pioneered the revival of green oak framing across the UK and worldwide. The architect Roderick James’s Seagull House, in which he created a green oak framed ‘barn’ room by adapting, extending and remodelling a run-down existing house and his founding of Carpenter Oak & Woodland with Charley Brentnall in 1987 helped popularise the terms green oak frames and green oak framing. In the UK, the terms oak framer and green oak framer and oak framing and green oak framing and oak frame and green oak frame were used as well as the terms timber framer, timber framing and timber frame. In 1992, the Weald and Downland Museum and Bournemouth University began offering their Timber Building Conservation course. Led by Richard Harris, this course was soon accredited to MSc level, first by Bournemouth University and now by York University.



In May 1997, the Museum began offering courses in Traditional timber-frame repair and Traditional timberframe construction. The following year, 1998, the Museum introduced its flagship-course: Timber-framing from scratch, a still popular course currently being taught by the Museum’s carpenter-in-residence, Joe Thompson. In November 2005, rather than offering more clarity on the terms timber frame, timber framer and timber framing, the BRE (Building Research Establishment) Centre for Timber Technology and Construction, in publishing its Digest 496, Timber Frame Buildings: A Guide to the Construction Process, confused matters by defining timber framing as follows: Timber frame is a modern method of construction (MMC) – using standardised, prefabricated timber wall panels and floors commonly in use in many developed countries – which bears no relation to its Tudor ‘post and beam’ namesake. Nor does it bear much relation to the form of softwood framing common in the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries. Nowhere in this document is there any reference to either carpenters or timber framers. The only people who are involved are: timber-frame manufacturers, timber-frame suppliers, timber-frame designers and timber-frame erectors. In 2007, TRADA published Green Oak in Construction. One of its three authors was Andrew Holloway, founder and owner of The Green Oak Carpentry Company, who is described as a carpenter-builder and an experienced City and Guilds qualified timber frame carpenter. Throughout the book the following terms are used to describe what is essentially structural carpentry: traditional oak frame; traditional framing; traditional carpentry; traditional methods of construction and fabrication; medieval timber frame; modern green oak structures; green oak frame; green oak framing; green oak structures; green oak carpentry; green oak building; green oak carpentry enterprises; green oak framing work and heavy framing. When discussing the people who do this work, we are introduced to: carpenters; framers; fabricators; frame fabricators; modern hand builders; frame suppliers and oak frame manufacturers. Looking through the drawings I have been sent from architects, engineers and building contractors reveals their ignorance of who we are and what we do. We are variously referred to as oak frame specialists, timber repair specialists and timber specialists. (Even more troubling are the terms used by these folks to describe the many different parts of a timber frame building. For example, I have come across principle rafters and wall or top plates called edge beams and eaves beams. ) Perhaps most confusing is the direction taken by Ted Benson, one of the original members of the American timber frame revival. Reading through the Bensonwood Homes Timeline of Innovation one can only be struck at how quickly the company moved away from many of the simple

craft principles its founder, Ted Benson, so passionately outlined in his 1980 book. After fabricating a portable mortising machine in 1985 that made it possible to rapidly create timberframe joints with great precision, Bensonwood Homes went on to pioneer a number of labour-saving, computer-driven methods of production that took much of the carpenter’s craft out of the carpenter’s hands (and his head) and moved it onto the screens (and fingertips) of CAD designers. What role does the carpenter or even the timberframe craftsman as conjured by Benson in his 1980 book play in these sort of high-tech shops? Is there a new designation for the people working in these computer and machine driven places? Where does all of this leave us? Do we have any clearer picture of who we are as carpenters or timber framers? Take a look at the photograph on the cover of this issue. I originally chose to use that image because I thought it represented the sort of no-nonsense stud framing carpentry that many timber framers have chosen over the last 40 years to define themselves against. In my mind, a carpenter should be able to take on all of the aspects of the building of a house that involve wood. That means, shuttering, 1st fix and 2nd fix. Or in American terms: formwork, rough and finish carpentry. Most of us timber framers have resigned ourselves to doing what I would call the structural fix (even though sometimes, because the oak is just for show, this fix isn’t even structural anymore). We show up after the foundation is completed, we put up a lovely oak frame and then we pack up and leave the 1st and 2nd fix to the builder. The photograph on the cover of this issue shows a bunch of guys in the process of building a stud frame. This is the sort of all-round carpentry that, for a variety of reasons, many timber framers have left behind. It is the sort of knowledge and skill that the carpenter’s carpenter, Larry Haun, managed to gain through a life of production framing. Haun, 80 years of age when he died in 2011, was born in Nebraska and endured a hardscrabble life on the western plains before heading west to southern California to join his brothers, all of whom started a residential construction company in 1953 which, because of the post WWII housing boom, became one of biggest framing subcontractors in the area. Haun was a union carpenter, who while knocking out frame after frame (it is said that Haun could drive a 16d or 3 ½ inch nail with just two licks of his Hart framing hammer, one to set and one to sink) regularly wrote articles for Fine Homebuilding magazine After he retired, he taught carpentry and built houses with teams from Habitat for Humanity. Just before his death, Haun published a book titled a Carpenter’s Life as told by houses. The first part of the book recalls Haun’s life growing up in Nebraska and the

variety of houses he saw while living there: The Soddy, The Straw Bale, The Old Frame House, The Dug Out and The Precut House. The rest of the book covers the many other houses Haun encountered and built in his travels: The Adobe, The Manufactured House, The Quonset Hut, The Tract House, The Habitat House, Small Houses and The Greenhouse. In his Chapter on The Precut House, Haun describes how soon after the Oglala Lakota Chief Crazy Horse was defeated by the US Army in 1877, the Plains Indians of South Dakota and Nebraska were forced by the US Government to abandon their traditional nomadic way of life and settle down on reservations. Instead of tepees, the Indians were encouraged to build and live in Precut Houses. The picture on the cover of this issue, titled Ten Men Building a Wood Frame House, shows what appear to be nine Indians being overseen by a white man, the guy on the left with his hands on his hips, building a braced/ balloon-hybrid Precut on the Omaha Reservation in Nebraska. So these guys aren’t the all-round carpenters I thought they were, they are a group of men fortunate to have some work who are unfortunately busily engaged in the destruction and/or transformation of their tribe’s traditional way of life. So, what’s in a name? It depends on who you ask. While some of us may care more than others about what we are called, there is little doubt that names and naming make a big difference. Essentially, what we call ourselves and what others call us is about the power of creating meaning and purpose through the construction of identity. The misnaming and continuous renaming of American Indians is just one example of the significance of what is in a name. Our own experience as carpenters, while far less dramatic and tragic, is somewhat similar. Because we have defined ourselves, and have been defined by others, in so many different ways and for so many different reasons, there is a certain sense of confusion among ourselves and our clients. We should help clarify things by being clear, consistent and unified about who we are and what we do. Trawling through the recorded history of what we have been called and what we have chosen to call ourselves, I have come to the conclusion that it is best to keep things simple. We should go back to calling ourselves carpenters. If pushed for more detail, we should – like architects, lawyers, doctors, engineers, plumbers, bankers and farmers, to name just a few occupations in which there are many subspecialties – specify the type of carpentry we do as timber framing. Easy. And with just two licks of the pen. One to set and one to sink… David Leviatin is a carpenter who specialises in the repair and construction of timber frame buildings.



Pe n c i l Pe n c i l. Sha rp en Sha rp en. Paul Snell

For pretty much all of my professional career I have worked at a desk with a computer. It’s just how architects work these days. Especially on larger projects, where surveys and engineer information comes in by email in a CAD format (“computer aided design” - the “computer” bit is true). Employers (I mean the people who paid me, not the people who paid them) like to see nice hard lines, data on the server. It’s easy to retrieve and transmit, plus if different people work on it, it sort of looks the same. Same title blocks, same fonts, same library elements (cars, tables, toilets, people). You can also build up a body of details that sort of work with different projects. But if I think back to my student days I did almost everything by hand on paper: there’s no printing to worry about, you can erase mistakes fairly easily, you can collage, annotate, watercolour, glue on photographs, mix trace and paper. Mix hard line with freehand. Draw people doing things in your pictures. Add stuff. You can work without a computer, you just need a table and some simple tools. You can also work very fast if you need to - which you always do. When you have to make a presentation, you just roll the drawings up into a tube, go to school and pin them to the wall. No queueing in the print room with a copier card hoping to meet the deadline. It’s painful to watch people late for a presentation pinning up fresh prints that look unfinished. I have seen some



amazing computer drawings, but they take real skill and lots of time (fancy paper and lots of memory help too). Most computer drawings have a very dry, or a very messy look about them. To beat this, you need to work with more than one programme - you draw the hard line in CAD, then export to Photoshop to add graduated colour, sky tones, people, cars etc. It takes time but looks great, especially if your original is a 3D with shadows. But you get a not so easy to edit file format and for the customer it’s a lot of money for two or three pretty images. The real value of hand drawing for me is something more than just the convenience and flexibility. When I draw by hand I get absorbed into the project and I begin to think of all the things that might be important to the client but that a CAD programme can’t readily include - light and shadow, access, text, questions, furniture, swirly shapes - that sort of thing. As the drawing appears I can see the whole thing at once and the elements within their context. The relationship between the small and large elements, the proportion, present themselves to me. The spaces tighten up or push out as their needs require. The hand drawings impose a kind of subtle accuracy on the project which is often lacking in computer drawn schemes.

Before I know it, an hour or two has passed and the scheme has come to a higher state of resolution. My colleagues used to wonder why I had my own Tsquare and masking tape by my desk, but I found it so helpful to resolve a detail or work out an elevation. Now I can draw whenever I like. I still use a CAD package for the final design work, but one day I am going to draw a whole project only by hand.

Paul Snell is a RIBA chartered architect based in King’s Heath, Birmingham.



Re d i s cove ring Ce cil Hewett O riginal D rawings

These are just a few of the many Cecil Hewett drawings that were recently photographed. The entire collection is being scanned and will be available on the new Mortice and Tenon website:













G e t t i n g Your Waterstone B a c k in Sha p e Stan Watson

Many veteran woodworkers and craftsmen cling to waterstones as their preferred medium for tool sharpening. For some it’s a matter of tradition, a practice passed down from generation to generation. Others simply find more enjoyment in the sharpening process when using waterstones. While there are more technologically advanced and efficient sharpening methods and media (e.g., diamond sharpeners), if you like using your waterstone, you’ll want to maintain its flatness. Simply put, if it isn’t flat, it can’t deliver a proper edge to your tools. Those who use a waterstone know it can quickly lose its flatness when used regularly. Some waterstones go out-of-flat quicker than others (e.g., softer grade stones, lesser quality stones), but all require regular maintenance to ensure peak performance. Many craftsmen—myself included—believe a waterstone should be flattened prior to each use. But before you say, “That’s way too much maintenance,” consider how a diamond tool can make the process quick and easy. A diamond lapping plate provides a reliable solution to restore out-of-flat waterstones. But, just like waterstones, not all diamond lapping plates are created equal. You’ll want to do some basic research and comparison shopping before settling on one. For example, it’s crucial that you know the grit of the waterstone you intend to flatten so you choose a diamond lapping plate designed to accommodate that grit. You’ll also want to select a plate that has a surface area large enough to easily accommodate your stone. And understanding the quality of the diamond coating and any certification for flatness is also key. The flattening process itself is simple: First, take a pencil and draw hatch marks, or x’s, on the surface of the waterstone. This will help you know when the flattening process is complete, because the pencil marks will disappear. Remember, because you’re trying to remove material in a uniform fashion, your waterstone must be wet. The water serves to remove the slurry necessary to restore



the flatness. So, run the waterstone under the faucet or keep it submerged while flattening. Next, using moderate pressure and a figureeight motion, rub the waterstone over the surface of the diamond lapping plate, inspecting frequently to see when the pencil marks are erased. It doesn’t take long. If it’s been a while since you’ve flattened the waterstone, the process could take two or three minutes; the more regularly you flatten, the quicker the process. Always take care handling the waterstone. Sometimes these stones can chip, crack or break. Waterstones are also susceptible to damage if they get too cold, so never store them in the shed for the winter. Waterstones are popular because they can cut fast, but the softness that allows for fast cutting is also what causes them to wear unevenly. If you choose a waterstone to keep your knives and tools sharp, it’s a good idea to have a diamond lapping plate handy to quickly bring the flatness back. Stan Watson is the technical director for DMT Diamond Machining Technology, manufacturer of a full line of Made in the USA diamond sharpening tools for use in woodworking, camping, fishing, hunting, outdoor and winter sports, culinary arts, gardening, police/security and industrial applications. He is the holder of 11 engineering patents in the sharpening industry. He can be reached at

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Ge offrey Lupton (1882-1949) at work building The B e dales Libra r y in 1921

TH E C O V E R I M A G E S Front Cover  Ten Men Building a Wood Frame House 1877, Omaha Reservation, Nebraska. William Henry Jackson (1843-1942) Smithsonian Institution Back Cover  Building Noah’s Ark The Bedford Book of Hours 1423

Mortice & Tenon 55 Winter 2013  

Advancing the practice and study of timber frame carpentry • Building a Playground in Belize • What’s in a name? • Pencil Pencil. Sharpen Sh...