Traditional timber framing is the art of connecting two or more pieces of timber using wood-to-wood joinery. Prior to the discovery of metal, this is how timber posts and beams were connected to frame the homes, barns, and businesses our ancestors lived and worked in. Held together without nails, bolts, or metal connectors–the timber frames of old tended to withstand the test of time–lasting centuries instead of decades.
Although there are many joinery variations, the mortise & tenon joint has been used for well over a thousand years to join pieces of wood. The basic joint comprises two components: the mortise hole and the tenon tongue–which are locked together by one or more wooden pegs.
(You are already likely familiar with mortise and tenon joinery–it is how finely made furniture is built).
Timber framing began to die out in the mid 1800’s after balloon framing and mass-produced nails were invented, but was still used for barns and mills into the early 1900’s.
The renaissance of timber framing began in the 1970’s when carpenters in New England began to study the many timber frame structures that still exist on the East Coast. Timber frames, if kept dry, can and do, last for centuries (the oldest surviving timber frame in North America is the Fairbanks house in Dedman MA–built between 1637 and 1641).
Today, with the revival of the craft well under way, and with the help of modern engineering, we as an industry are creating some of the best timber frames that have been built (literally) in ages.