Timberframe construction, or post and beam, is a traditional, even ancient, method of building with heavy, squared off and carefully fitted and joined timbers, secured with large wooden pegs. It is derived from making things out of logs and tree trunks, before the advent of high tech saws, and has been used for literally thousands of years in some parts of the world — a half timbered building was discovered in the ruins of Vesuvius. The North Church in Boston, built in 1723 and made famous in the legend of Paul Revere, has held strong for three centuries.
With the arrival of industrial mills and thus “dimensional” lumber, timberframe construction lost favor and light frame or stick building became prevalent. But in the 1970’s the timberframe tradition began to be revived and today there are a number of companies carrying on the practice, although with modern improvements in insulation, design, and more.
The “topping out” ceremony is a builders rite, with a bough or small tree attached to the peak of the timberframe. The master carpenter would give a speech, make a toast, and break the glass. Additionally, carpenters would frequently carve their initials in hidden spots, not to be discovered until the carver was long gone.
The photos illustrating this post depict a masterful piece of timberframe design and construction. Kudos to Peter Stoner Architects, and to the joiners and carpenters and stone masons, and to the home owners. This is definitely one of my all time favorite projects I have ever photographed.