When Jesse and I had our minds made up that we wanted to build a timber frame house (check out our timber frame house plans!), we knew it was going to be a wise idea to take on as many small timber frame projects as we could prior to starting construction of our home. The first opportunity we had that was great to practice our skills was building a battery box for our solar power needs, so why not timber frame it?
We knew we wanted to build a quality structure for our boxes that was both sturdy and secure, so instead of creating a stick-built structure, we figured we could build a miniature timber frame home! On this project we were really able to put into motion what we’ve been reading about in our timber framing books.
Watch How This Timber Fame Project Video Series
To fully see how this project came together, we put together these two videos. In the first you’ll find the frame of the project and in the second we focus more on finishing up the project rather than actual timber framing.
Books That Prepared Us For Our First Timber Frame Project
Timber framing is unlike normal construction in the fact that joinery is almost unheard of in modern construction, and both materials and material sizes are per-determined. That said, before we were ready to do anything with a timber fame we decided to invest in ourselves and our education and put some new books on our library shelf. The ones we bought and have been studying are as follows:
- The Timber-Frame Home: Design, Construction, Finishing
- A Timber Framer’s Workshop: Joinery, Design & Construction of Traditional Timber Frames
- Timber Frame Construction: All About Post-and-Beam Building
- Learn to Timber Frame: Craftsmanship, Simplicity, Timeless Beauty
- Build a Classic Timber-Framed House: Planning & Design/Traditional Materials/Affordable Methods
- Historic American Timber Joinery: A Graphic Guide
Creating and Finding the Timbers
Because we didn’t want to spend a dime on this battery box , we knew that we were going have to get creative when it came to sourcing our timbers. We took a walk around our property to see what good wood we had laying around, especially as a result of the 100-year windstorm last fall.
It turns out there was quite a bit of windfall on the back of our property due to the huge windstorm last year so we hooked sections of tree to our ATV and brought them to the front side of our property.
Instead of getting straight to work with our Alaskan chainsaw mill, we first mapped out a rough design of a timber frame box to determine what size timbers we would need. We also took into account the trees we had for us on this project and were able to create a design that maximized the lumber we had available.
Beginner Timber Fame Projects: Practicing Joinery
After brushing up on our timber frame joinery, we understood basic ideas of it yet hadn’t been able to do it ourselves, so off we went practicing our joinery! We had a variety of hand drills, power drills, chisels and saws that we were able to use to create mortises and tenons. Jesse decided which types of joints to use and where they would go in the design, and after some careful instruction I was able to help him carve these out of our timbers.
We’re happy to report that all went pretty smooth, and assembly couldn’t have gone better! Everything fit like a glove.
Finishing Up the Timber Fame Project With Modern Construction
After our timber frame was assembled, we decided to finish the box with more modern construction methods. We added additional framing to the sides, added OSB for the walls, added some 2″ foam board insulation, added some rafters, added a metal roof and called it a day.
It actually wasn’t that simple because Jesse took this as an opportunity to practice some additional constructions methods he had floating around in his head. After all… how often do we get to build miniature houses? Not very!
First, Jesse did some reading from an ancient book (published in the early 1900s by Sears… this might be a more modern one but hard to tell based on the description or lack of) on the framing square. He learned that there is more to this square than meets the eye and that it can be used for complex measurements. Using this square he was able to figure out how to create rafter seats, proper angles for the rafters and more.
Jesse also wanted to try making a boxed eave so that the box really looked tidy rather than quickly thrown together. This was worth the effort as it was a skill we should probably know and it really helped to seal up our box and make it somewhat airtight. This process wasn’t incredibly straightforward, so it took some researching as well as some trial and error to get it right. In the end, Jesse feels a lot better about eave construction.
Don’t worry… we left a vent in the roof so that the box and our solar power batteries can breathe.
Value of Small Timber Fame Projects
We stress this again and again on our blog because many people ask us on a daily basis “Why haven’t you started building your house yet?” and the answer has been that we don’t have enough experience under our belts. But we’re getting there and plan to get down to business this spring.
With every small project we take on, we learn and get to practice THAT many more skills that will help us with “the big build”, and with every project we find more and more flow with working together. That’s one reason why we built a hot tub and deck before a house.
For timber framing specially, there is even more to learn. Joinery is just one portion of timber framing. We also spent a bit of time fine-tuning our tree felling methods, fine tune how we turn tree sections from the forest into usable lumber, and even how to mill up the sides of a timber with a mini chainsaw mill. Constructing a timber frame is yet another skill set, one we have just a little more practicing doing by putting together this timber frame battery box!
Our Hopeful Next Timber Frame Project: A Model House
We haven’t talked about it much on the blog, but we’re in the process of finalizing our house plans and hoping to send them over to an an engineering firm that specializes in timber structures within the next couple of months. Then, we’re still hoping we can create a mini timber frame of our house with 1×1″ sticks, and hopefully that will be another chance to practice joinery on a micro-level. We’re hoping this will educate us even more as to how our timber frame house will come together, only we can practice with timbers that don’t need cranes to be lifted!
Have you ever practiced with timber frame construction? If so, what types of projects have you worked on? Have you seen any cool timber frame projects on the web? Let us know in the comments below!
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