Picking the Right Timber Framer

Author, Jonathan Orpin: founder and president of New Energy Works and Pioneer Millworks; board member and past president of the Timber Framers Guild, enjoys some time on the water.

From Jonathan:

For years I’ve resisted writing this post. It can come off as very self-serving. Please don’t let it. Instead, I’ll attempt to be as neutral-valued as I can, and share some of my 30-year history, and perhaps just a tad of the experiences, and sometimes frustrating stories, our clients have shared…and some that I have witnessed.

The timber frame industry has a great many good people in it, associated with it, and as I’ve often said, many of the coolest clients I can imagine. So first, think about a timber framer who is involved with the Timber Framers Guild. At our Guild conferences and our meet-ups, in the committee work we do, in the publications we create, two important things occur: we learn, and are better professionals because of it; we share, and our craft is better for it. In both cases you win.

Photo courtesy of the Timber Framers Guild.

And when you ask, “Is your company a member?” be sure to dig just bit deeper. Do you attend the conferences? Do you send your shop folk and your designers? Do you give, as well as receive?

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Timbers, Music, Friends, and Views: The bandshell is up in Flanders Park

Flanders Park bordering Raquette Pond in Tupper Lake, New York in the Adirondacks is in the process of being transformed into an inviting outdoor performance area. Our craftsmen created a performance bandshell using a combination of custom finished solid and glulam Douglas fir timbers which were raised and joined on May 31, 2018.

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Challenge Accepted: Integrating technology and artisan craftsmanship.

Deep in our core there is a desire to continually learn and expand our capabilities so our clients receive the highest level of craftsmanship…always with obsessive attention to detail. Our fine woodworking group, NEWwoodworks, has some of the most woodcraft obsessed folks you’ll ever meet and they love a new challenge. Enter CNC technology. As this technology has evolved, the NEWwoodworks team has pushed the capabilities of their 3-axis CNC router to better meet their high expectations.

Stepping up NEWwoodworks already notable capabilities is “Thelma”, a Thermwood CNC MTR-30 5×10 3-axis router. Much of their work is done with reclaimed timbers and board stock so a raised z-axis to accommodates the larger timber stock, additional table reinforcement and stiffer axes to aid in cutting denser material and an upgraded vacuum table to make complex jigging and complicated hold-downs easier and faster are all incorporated into the CNC.

What does this integration mean? Some of the rough cutting work and sculpting work can be hogged out by the CNC, then finessed and finished by the artisan’s hand. It helps afford a level of speed and precision that while possible by hand, is difficult and time-consuming work. It can be the best way to get that fine detail after the rough-in, which really eliminates multiple shapings and sandings.

“The CNC allows us to be more productive, even with highly custom designs like our live edge cabinetry. It excels with, and really helps us on, the simple bulk work like plywood cab parts and solid wood parts and pieces, significantly reducing handling and touches,” shared Rob D’Alessandro, general manager of NEWwoodworks. “Complex joinery, carvings, curves, and even typical furniture parts can be created more quickly leaving our craftsmen free to focus their unique capabilities on details, fit, and finish.”

The stringers for this floating stair were cut using the CNC. Photo by Don Cochran Photography.

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Unforgettable: Timber Framers Guild Western Conference

Timber frame champion and Guild member, Darren Watson, shares with us about the Timber Framers Guild Western Conference:

To say that Timberline Lodge is a good location for the Timber Framers Guild is akin to saying that the Grand Canyon is an attractive hole in the ground. Timberline Lodge, on Mount Hood, is the perfect location for this community of like-minded individuals and companies to come together and gain new knowledge from each other and from the wisdom of those that built this magnificent structure at the height of the Great Depression working for the WPA. Timberline Lodge was built scrappily using site sourced rocks and trees and reclaimed materials including telephone poles turned into carved newel posts on the stairs and fireplace andirons made from an old railroad track. As was said by The Builders of Timberline Lodge, Federal Writers’ Project, “Each workman on Timberline Lodge gained proficiency in manual arts. He was a better workman, a better citizen, progressing by infinitely slow steps to the degree above him.” So does the Guild, and these conferences, build each of us into better craftspeople.

Many of our coworkers joined the Timber Framers Guild annual Western Conference in May. From the left: Mike W, Eric, Michael H, Justin, Simon, Sean, Chuck, David, Mike R, Maxine, Jonathan O, Jonathan T, and Alexander (plus Darren (yep, that’d be me) behind the camera). Mike W, Sean, Jonathan, and I hosted different educational presentations during the conference.

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“Our NEW Jewel”. A note from homeowners.

Thanks, Phil and Rocio. Little did you know how perfect your timing was when you came to us and asked for a “small but perfect home”. Fertile ground indeed, and our minds raced with the many thoughts about working on something like a precious gem, or what we called a NEW Jewel. The project is completed and officially “home” to Phil and Rocio, who continue to generously share their Jewel and their words:

Phil and Rocio along with pups Luca and Sherlock enjoy a moment on the porch of their nearly completed NEW Jewel.

“Jonathan, et al…
As I write out the final check for Invoice #9, it seems the right moment to pen a note of appreciation for the bundle of work, energy, and creativity that we currently reside in. It is not lost on us for a moment that we discovered NEW at a moment in time that was just right for everyone; Rocio stumbled onto your website looking for a builder of ‘barn homes’ and was immediately captured by the concepts and pics displayed. Everything seemed to line up:  small house, close to shop, (relatively) simple design, similar vision, seasonal timing, etc. to enable you all to pull off an amazing, wonderful, beautiful, efficient, stunning, one-of-a-kind home for us.
It is quite difficult to express the deep sense of gratitude we feel towards everyone that contributed to the Jewel…many of which I don’t have the ability to send this to, or even be able to name. The artistic, creative flair combined with real-life practicality is a major component of our place we will love for many years to come.
Please pass on our thanks to everyone that was involved. We look forward to visits from any and all as time goes by.
Sincerely,
Phil and Rocio
Dayton, Oregon”

Against traditional shou sugi ban charred siding, a warm-toned reclaimed oak door welcomes all to the Jewel.

Inside the NEW Jewel a ridge skylight allows natural light to filter in throughout the home.

Detailed execution of all pieces and parts make up this Jewel, including custom Walnut cabinetry and island.