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.

This year’s presentations ranged from the minutiae of The Micro-Structure and Macro-Behavior of Wood in the engineering track, to techniques for Faux Finishing Timbers by Mike Westgard (an AIA Continuing Ed Credit eligible session), to Discussions of Products for High Performance Homes, to my session on a Survey of Sharpening Tools and Techniques, and many, many more. As always the featured speakers were a particular highlight of the weekend. Gary Rogowski, a Portland-based furniture maker, author, and owner of the Northwest Woodworking Studio, mused on the interrelationship of craft, design, and slowing down in this era of smartphones and mass distraction. While Bruce King, structural engineer and author of The New Carbon Architecture: Building a Cool Planet, discussed strategies in which we are able to make buildings net carbon sinks instead of net carbon emitters.  Architect Thomas Robinson, of LEVER Architecture, explored how his firm utilized careful detailing of steel, glulam, and the first domestically produced CLT’s to build their amazing new shared office, Albina Yard, in Portland.

The kid’s project for the conference was a collaboration with Girls Build to bring twenty-four 8 to 14-year-old girls to work with numerous female and male professional timber framers to build two timber-frame picnic benches during the day on Saturday and have them auctioned off at that evenings TFG Benefit Auction.

Girls Build: 8 to 14-year-old girls worked with numerous craftspeople on Saturday to create picnic benches.

In passing by the work yard that was set up on the back porch of Timberline Lodge looking up at Mount Hood, I saw lots of hard work and smiling faces. Girls Build is a non-profit organization dedicated to introducing and encouraging girls to learn the basics of building, including carpentry, plumbing, electricity, concrete, sheet metal and much more through classes like the one at the conference as well as week-long summer camps.

Saturday evening’s auction was fantastic. There were so many neat and unique items ranging from the last of its kind Timberline Lodge pattern Pendelton wool blanket to a TFG logo Lie-Neilsen Carriage Rabbet plane to a T-Shirt from a Sweedish event given out exclusively to those who presented at that event (from member Andrea Warchaizer), and much. much more. While the conference attendance was rather small at just over 170 folks, the auction brought in almost $30,000 to support the Guild.

My boy Tucker was more than ready to place his bids during the auction!

All in all, this was an amazing weekend of camaraderie and learning for all of us. One which, for myself anyway, will not fade from memory anytime soon.

Darren