Best Timber Frame Workshops & Classes

In preparation of the building of our debt-free timber frame home, we thought it would be a wise idea to first attend a timber framing workshop for some first-hand experience, and so began our search for the best timber frame workshop to attend.

timber frame workshop - shelter institute maine

In our research, we wanted to find a timber frame workshop that was representative of a real-life home build. In our observations, many timber frame classes teach on very small structures, hardly representative of a home build.

The workshop we decided to take is the Purely Post and Beam workshop at the Shelter Institute in Woolwich, Maine. Talk about having to travel over halfway across the United States, but it seemed worth it!

We went with Shelter Institute because in their Purely Post and Beam workshop they put together a 24×24 timber frame and seeing as our home would be 36×36 this didn’t seem too far off. Not only that, but they have a reputation for working with owner-builders such as ourselves throughout the entire home build, willing to help as much or as little as you need, so it seemed to be a great connection to have.

Shelter Institute was kind enough to let us shoot a video a day at the workshop and not only share some of the things we learned, but also to share what the workshop experience is like and how we thought it would contribute to the building of our home.

UPDATE: Since attending this class over six months back, we’ve worked with Shelter Institute on the engineering of our own timber frame and they’ve been critical to our success of the home build. In fact, they even came to our property in Idaho to host the Purely Post and Beam class on a real-life home build (third time they’ve done this in 45 years)… check out the full timber frame workshop playlist on our YouTube channel!

Packing for The Timber Frame Workshop

Packing was something of great concern to us since we’re not just packing a bag of clothing each. We each need to have a full set of timber framing tools, work clothing, all of our videography equipment (including the drone, just in case) and Jesse’s chiropractic tools since he’s in rehab for an ongoing back issue.

In this video, we’ll share what our pre-pack day looks like… you know… practice for THE BIG DAY! We’re happy to say that with a little ingenuity, we were able to make everything fit (we think)!

Traveling to the Workshop

As we’re in small town America and the timber frame workshop is in a small town in Maine, we have a lot of driving and flying to do to get where we’re going.

Join us on this video as we travel across the United States to Shelter Institute in Woolwich, Maine!

Workshop Orientation & Tour of Rare Owner-Built Timber Frame Homes

Today was orientation day where we learned what to expect from the workshop and also brushed up on some basic timber frame knowledge.

Not only that, but we had the opportunity to tour a couple of beautiful owner-built timber frame homes that were built cash over time. This was incredibly meaningful to us to see what’s possible and we’re so thankful for the opportunity, and that the owners were willing ot let us share it with you!

Day 1: Drafting, Sawing & Layouts

The first day of the workshop was full of some great introductory information including learning how to draw frames to scale as well as sawing and laying out the joinery.

Day 2: Chisel Sharpening

Today we learned that no chisel comes truly sharp from the factory – our Barr chisels included. We learned a great way to predictably sharpen most any chisel and then got to work chiseling! We sharpened all day long to end up with 1.5 sharp chisels which we completed the rest of the class with. What this means is that we have A LOT of sharpening to do before we begin the joinery on the frame of our house!

Day 3: Timber Frame Joinery

Today in class we focused primarily on joinery. Every student had the opportunity to cut almost every type of joint on the 24×24 frame.

Also, we learned the value of power tools in the joinery process including use of a chain mortiser. Power tools can really help to speed things up but it’s great to learn the art without them first!

Day 4: Finishing Up Joinery + Owner-Built Timber Frame Home Tours

Day four of the timber frame workshop was one for the books… we started off the day by finishing up all of the joinery and then we hit the road to go tour some timber frame homes! Not only that, but we finished up with a group potluck which really helped tie the entire experience together. We watched a couple documentaries on Shelter Institute and it gave us goosebumps that the mindset of people that wish to build their own homes hasn’t really changed from those that were building their homes 30 years ago.

Day 5: Timber Frame Raising + Out Takes!

The day you’ve all been waiting for… frame raising day! It was such an honor to be part of this group on this special day and see all of our hard teamwork come together almost flawlessly.

It’s amazing what the power of a dedicated team can do, and being part of this frame raising really helped to put this portion of our home build into perspective.

Be sure to watch to the end of the video… the out takes are priceless!

Costs to Attend this Timber Frame Class

Want to know the total costs to us to attend this timber frame workshop, including tuition, travel, lodging, tools and food? Unlock using one of the buttons below (and many thanks for showing support to our blog)!

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  1. says

    I look forward to seeing what you learn at the workshop as something like that might be something my husband and I might look into. We are actually planning on being in Maine later this summer so will definitely check out the Shelter Institute.

  2. Debbie says

    You guys are going to have a great time and learn a lot! I wish I could go! The inside of that house is amazing!

  3. Plinker says

    Alyssa I followed the trip to Maine and smiled all along, Jesse should really be careful in respect of his back as it tends to become chronic. Will you video the place your staying in Main a bit more because its so interesting and neat.

    You guys are great! Hope this makes Jesse feel better….


    • says

      We will certainly try! We’re running short on time already but hopefully we can do a short video tour of some of the things that make it so special 😉

  4. Susan Nielsen says

    Glad you made it! I too, notice the lack of quality food at airports, especially since the doctor put me on a Paleo diet. Yesterday at SeaTac I found a delicious omelet at the Japanese vendor… so ironic!

    Your host house is stunning! Do show us the custom details!

    Have fun, be sure to rest so you can comprehend all of the stuff you will learn.

  5. Mechelle says

    I am so excited for you guys. A chance of a lifetime with the bonus of staying in the timber frame home.


  6. Tess says

    When I was growing up, it was understood in the farming “community” that whenever it was time for a family to be away, the fellow farmers would step in…more recently, I’ve stayed at a friend’s hybrid-off-grid property for a week to 10-days and tended to the dogs and horses (even administering equine medicine each day), while they were away doing art installations, etc. Community is crucial!! <3

  7. says

    You two are really into it ,this is very interesting i wish i could go back to my 20″s or 30″s ,learning is probably the most important thing in life you ever do i love watching your videos .

  8. Doug says

    You guy’s are lucky to be doing that. I would have thoroughly enjoyed that class ten years a go. Unfortunately I had a stroke about then which pretty much wrecked my body from doing this kind of work. Keep up the good work and the great photography!

  9. Pansy Jordan says

    So enjoyed watching this video. Glad this is so y’all are enjoying this workshop. Great knowledge to bring back home to build your dream house. Can’t wait to see more videos of the workshop and then back home to life on the grid.

  10. Dezri Dean says

    Apparently you haven’t met any of the American woodworkers that I know when you are talking sharp tools.
    I’ve been using the “scary sharp” silicon carbide sandpaper system for at least 6 years now.
    Grits as fine as 2 microns and polishing compound makes a super sharp edge!

  11. Plinker says

    Alyssa the sharpening part is so important and you never, never buy chisels pre-sharpened as they told you. This is why the older well made chisels with good tool steel are so well worth bringing back to life. We used to use a large round wetstone for many tools…. Jesse my father used to sharpen and then strop the chisels and was only happy when he could shave the hairs on his arm with them…

    Many people have the latent ability and sometimes skills to take on building a wood house like that but due to other things never get the opportunity.

  12. Dennis and Helen says

    Really enjoying your adventure and I must say I sure hope the video is not cutting into your learning time. I know it would be great to always look back at them.
    Can’t wait till they are all published. Quality second to none.

    • says

      Definitely not 🙂 First priority was the workshop but we’re pretty handy with cameras so we’re still able to multi-task with most things.

  13. Kimberly says

    I love that you are sharing everything you are learning in your class. Oh…and I love both the Strawberry Rhubarb and Grape beers (I just had one of each this week!) YUM. Can’t wait to see how you do for real on your dream house

  14. Susan says

    I’m thoroughly enjoying this! You are learning old-time craftsmanship. And the wood shavings will amend your garden soil. What kind of wood are you using?

    • says

      Glad you’re enjoying the series! Yes, we’re certainly learning old-time craftsmanship and the wood shavings won’t go to waste! For the workshop we’re using eastern white pine but for our home we’ll be using douglas fir 🙂

  15. Sara says

    I am absolutely glued to this series. I’ve been investigated a enormous variety of building materials that exist and this series is enormously educational!

  16. Ty Tower says

    Get the good oil on sharpening chisels . This guy Louis Sauzedde ,knows what he’s doing and is an old experienced boatbuilder . He covers grinding planer blades and sharpening them perfectly and this is the only way to do t properly . Other methods just try to get here . They are just unbelievably slow .

    Its clear your teachers above don’t know how to do it right and do it quick

  17. Marc says

    The old timers would hit there tools everyday after work to keep sharp so no marathon sharping. And sharp tool mean faster work. Enjoy the videos to see how some thing are done.

  18. Mateo Campomar says

    Great Blog. I’ll sure continue to watch! How can i find those huge sharpening stones?

    Keep up!

  19. Donald Nicholson says

    I think I have watched all of your videos and some more than once, I am really enjoying this series at the Shelter Institute, great learning, wish I could be there as well, looking forward to when you start your own home project. Keep safe and God bless you in your endeavors.

  20. Susan says

    You have learned invaluable skills! Your tuition was worth every penny. I can’t help but think you chiseled lego-like building blocks that fit together. Now I bet you are scrutinizing every tree on your land as a potential beam.

  21. Jeremy Sauter says

    Hey Jesse and Alyssa,

    My Wife and I are long time watchers for your U-Tube Channel and we absolutely love it! You guys are awesome!

    I was wondering if you have time to go through the tools that you got at the work shop for timber framing. I see bits and pieces scattered but not really a central location or lets say a guide to what tools you will need and what they are used for.

    Anyways you all are great and we are very excited to watch the new home build!


    Ashley and Jeremy Sauter

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