Jan 312014

Last fall we collaborated on a project for Camp Dudley, with our highly skilled friends at High Peaks Carpentry, who we always enjoy working with. Camp Dudley is a YMCA Camp in Westport, NY, for boys and girls, and it is the oldest continually operated camp in the country.  It is situated on the western shores of beautiful Lake Champlain.

This Pavilion project is located in the center of the Camp on the green, and is surrounded by other Camp buildings.  The structure will serve a number of functions:  It will be a as a band shell and outdoor performance space, with its fireplace it will be used for events and dances, and allegedly there will be a big movie screen that can pull down so that it can be an old fashioned type “drive in” movie theater, except that movie goers will get to lounge on the downward sloping lawn instead of in cars.

We fabricated the basic structure, utilizing square Douglass Fir timbers for beams and braces, peeled White Cedar logs for the vertical support posts, and  four very large laminated Douglas Fir beams that span over 30’ from log post to log post.  To connect these three different structural elements, we used both custom steel components and tradition timber frame joinery– whereby we joined square timbers to round logs.  It was quite a challenge to find quality White Cedar logs of adequate diameter and length, and in the end I had a logger friend harvest a number of trees specifically to meet my needs.

The Pavilion sports a beautifully crafted stone fireplace, built with local stone from the Lake Champlain Valley.  I am certain that many, many future generations of campers will enjoy evenings here around a blazing fire.



Oct 222013

Last spring I was approached by some clients who wanted a timber framed barn attached to a new house they were building.  Fact is, this “barn” was mostly going to function as a 2 vehicle garage, but the clients had built new home with very traditional colonial detailing, both inside and out.  And, they wanted this garage to be attached to the house in the manner in which New England barns are frequently attached.

The result was this 24’ x 36’ story and a half timber frame project, with a second floor, and a gable end hay mow door with a run out ridge beam so equipment could be raised to the second floor via a rope and pulley system.  We crafted the structure out of rough sawn, local Eastern White Pine, and used very traditional joinery, including under squinted, wedged scarf joints.

The structure has a strong resemblance to historic New England timber frame barns, but meets the more modern needs of the clients, such as sheltering their vehicles.



Jul 192013

Adirondack Timber Frame HomeEarlier this summer, I visited a completed timber frame home that has a wonderful story.  It is a beautiful, modest sized home for a couple and their two young children, here in the Adirondacks.  We are neighbors here in this East Branch of the Ausable River Valley: they live 10 miles upstream.  For every aspect of the long and intricate process of building a home, their house is a complete success story.

Erik and Molly approached me about building a straight forward timber frame for them back in the fall of 2005.  I had been friends with them and with Molly’s father for many years, and I was honored to be asked.  They had a tight budget by modern standards, but were prepared to do a lot of the work themselves.  At that time, Erik was a teacher in a local private sports academy.  He has as highly inquisitive and analytical mind , had some basic but solid woodworking skills, and was eager to jump into the building process.  As such, I had no doubt that he and Molly would pull off their dream.

With Erik and Molly leading, we worked out the design and details of a straight forward 24’ x 34’, story and a half timber frame, with one ridge line and no dormers.  To save money and because the site was quite wet, they opted for a frost wall and slab foundation instead of a full basement or crawl space foundation.  Their mechanical needs were straight forward and did not require much space, so the on-demand/tankless hot water heater,  pressure tank, and electrical panel were placed in a utility closet.  They chose to heat with an efficient wood stove, and installed a propane fueled, vented through the wall, Monitor heater as a back up system.  They chose to utilize high quality windows, and combining these with the intrinsic energy efficiency of the Structural Insulated Panel enclosure system, they ended up with a home that knocks the socks off of the already stringent New York State Energy Code.  It takes very little fire wood to heat!

We cut the frame and Erik helped raise it.  Next he worked with a skilled local crew (that we have often utilized) to install the SIPS, windows, and roof the house, so that they quickly had an enclosed and weather tight shell.  Then he and Molly took over, with a planned time frame of over a year and a half at their disposal, so that they could do much of the actual labor and pocket the savings.  A good example of the kind of “dollar stretching” choices they made was opting for a cedar shingle exterior—the kind of siding that could be installed leisurely over time by one person working methodically.

The uniqueness of the house, however, really is the result of Erik and Molly’s vision.  To further save money, we utilized local rough sawn Eastern White Pine timbers from a favorite sawyer of ours, then Erik later chose to sand the timbers, thus reducing their “roughness” but keeping the texture and character of timber in a “rougher” state.  Erik worked with many friends who are fine local crafts people and ended up with such unique touches as a copper sheet covered counters in the kitchen, a wood stove hearth and surround made of local slab stones, a timber frame inspired stair case, large wood slab counters and dining room table, recycled interior doors, and simple but elegant painted kitchen cabinets.  They picked great colors for their home’s interior!  Erik even tackled two timber frame porches for the home, which he executed with precision.

It was refreshing and inspiring for me to see the final and one-of-a-kind project.  They truly crafted a “custom home”, in the real sense of the word—not just picking parts off the internet.  And, on a tight budget as well.  Congratulations!
Adirondack Timber Frame Living Room

Adirondack Timber Frame Cozy Hearth

Adirondack Timber Frame Open Floor Plan

Jun 122012

A few weeks ago we raised the largest Timber Frame Barn we have built to date, a 64’ x 80’ beauty that is 32’ feet to the ridge, and has a center aisle section with 32’ clear span trusses and 2-16’ wide side sheds. Fact is, it is the largest free standing structure Amstutz Woodworking has ever contracted for. This barn is destined to serve a number of purposes on a working alpaca farm south of Syracuse, NY. It will ultimately house animals, store farm equipment and possibly some antiques tractors, and provide space for sheering Alpacas and storage for Alpaca-related needs. In the immediate future, I am told it will host a wedding reception!

We did this project as a collaboration with Drumm Construction of Tully, NY. We purchased 20,000 board feet of rough-sawn Douglas Fir timbers from a specialty mill in Oregon. One truck load came cross country through a Rocky Mountain snow storm to us in Upper Jay, NY, and a partial truck load went to Tully, where 72 common rafters were cut by Drumm Construction carpenters. In Upper Jay, we cut all of the rest of the frame, including the 6 -32’ clear span trusses. All of our timbers met up with their timbers in Tully in early May, and Cal and I worked with Mark Drumm and his team on the raising. It was a fabulous and fun team effort, and I know we were all impressed with how smoothly the Timber Frame was erected despite less than perfect weather.

Mark and I worked together to design this very efficient Timber Frame. We were able to “stretch” the spacing of all posts and quadrants of the frame to lay out grids of 16’ x 16’ or 16’ x 32’. (The whole frame stands on only 24 posts!). In so doing, we were able to maximize the efficiency of joinery placements, or to put it differently, because of the large spans we could engineer using the Douglas Fir timbers and the trusses, this Timber Frame achieves a very high amount of square footage of usable space for the total number of timber joint connections. We also kept the layout very symmetrical and the joinery highly repetitive, which added to the “big bang for the buck” in this project.

The trusses were engineered by the folks at Fire Tower Engineered Timber, and they did a great job. We designed the trusses so that they could be completely assembled on the ground, and then set on the wall lines with a crane. In turn, the trusses carry a timber ridge system, which then carries the top of the common rafters.

It is our hope that we get to work more with Mark Drumm and his team.

Feb 212012

When meeting with clients about prospective timber frame projects, we often tour some of our completed projects. And I try to take clients to see projects that bear a resemblance to what they are dreaming of building for themselves and show them what is possible with timbers. Nowhere are there more design options than in a roof system: what we can do with roofs is darn exciting!

It is a rare day in which we build a house that has a real attic, where the roof structure is hidden out of view with all those old boxes of stuff. With a timber frame and the complete exterior enclosure and insulation system of Structural Insulated Panels, “under the roof” is often the most architecturally exciting place in the house. In short, we like to flaunt our roofs. And we especially love building trusses.

Trusses are structural configurations of timbers that allow for large spans without the need of intermittent posts. As such, they allow for open floor plans and dramatic vaulted ceilings. Many of the trusses we have built over the years originated in the Middle Ages, and were used for great halls, churches, and bridges.

Here are some examples:
Raised cord king post trusses: This intimate living room with a fireplace at the end utilizes red oak timbers to do the real work of holding up the roof. The horizontal cross member that connects the two principle rafters of each truss is called the cord; the vertical center post of each truss is the king post, and the branch like curved elements going up to the principle rafters on the right and left are called struts. The raised cord gives the room a taller and more curved ceiling feel, but allowed us to keep the height of the side walls and ridge lower.

King posted trusses; one with a “live-edged” cord: For this “vehicle barn” that we built for our own family use, we wanted a garage-sized space with no internal supports. We wanted to create a building that was attractive and demonstrated our timber framing skill. We also wanted to use some of our left over timbers from our northeastern forests or timbers harvested from our land. As such, we have pine, hemlock, ash, red oak and white oak timber in this structure. The front king post truss has a curved red oak beam (often called a “Tyco Beam” in Japanese timber framing) that we sawed flat on 2 sides, which allows us to appreciate the interior grain of the log—something that does not happen when building with logs. The king post is also “live-edged”, and the “live-edged” struts are “book mated” by sawing from the same log and opening the faces to each other. The middle roof element is also a king post truss, but with a straight cord that is positioned at the eave height. Note that the kids’ barn swing that is attached to the ridge timber, is being enjoyed by my wife, Nan.

Hammer Beam Trusses: The trusses originated in the “Great Halls” of Medieval Europe. The utilize rigid triangular configurations of timbers that transfer the roof loads out to the walls. Dramatic and eye catching, they often crown modern great room spaces. These trusses are fabricated from old growth and very fine and dense Douglas Fir timbers salvaged from forest fire burned areas in Oregon. To see more photos of this beautiful home, check out the Ray Brook House in our Gallery section.

Burr Arch Trusses: This style of truss was designed for covered bridges that require large and strong spans. In such bridges there would be two trusses, flanking both sides of the road way, and the roof rafters would sit perpendicularly on top of the upper horizontal cords. The Burr Truss used an arching timber element to help transfer loads out to the end support walls or abutments. These trusses were designed for the roof system of a great room, and made of laminated red oak. We were able to fully fabricate and assemble each of the four trusses in our shop, load them on a truck, and transport them to the site and install them with a mobile crane.

Oct 282011

Massachusetts Timber Frame StudioThese photos are of the work in progress on the Timber Frame Studio in Massachusetts. The detailing of the exterior is exquisite, utilizing red cedar shingles, and detailed with 2 shingle flare-outs. The main gable end is fenestrated beautifully with an upper curved top set of 3 windows and curved muntins. Below, the 3 window set is trimmed below with vertical cedar paneling. Elegant Greek Revival fascias and soffits trim on the roof, which will be done with standing metal roofing.

MA Timber Frame Studio InteriorThe interior photo shows the Structural Insulated Panels on the walls prior to any interior wall finish. Note that the Sips are put on the exterior of the Timber Frame, so that the insulation entirely wraps the timber structure and maximizes insulation efficiency. On the ceiling, white washed pine tongue and groove boards were applied over the purlins prior to putting the roof SIPS. The loft area is being planked with structure tongue and groove boarding. A concrete slab win radiant tubing in it will be poured for the floor.

With its complete SIPS enclosure system, high energy efficient windows, and a radiant in floor heating slab, the Studio will be toasty and easy to heat.

Aug 302011

Adirondack Timber Frame Barn, Canton NYI just received some photos and an update from the folks for whom we built the Barn Timber Frame in Canton, NY, back in May. The roof is now on, and the walls mostly sided. Doors are in, and the windows were picked up last week from a local Amish millworks shop.

Perhaps more importantly, the goats and chickens have already taken up residence. And I am informed that while picking up the windows, some baby bunnies came home to the barn as well….

Like the traditional timber frame barns of the Northeast, this one was sided with locally milled, rough-sawn pine planking, sheathed vertically, i.e. the way the lumber grew in the tree. Boards are gapped about an inch, and then vertical batten strips will be nailed over the gaps to make the barn more weather tight. It will weather to a nice dark grey without any stain or paint. Continue reading »

Jul 302011

This project is a timber frame for the studio of a metal sculptor, who does fabulous and intricate kinetic sculptor. We raised it in coastal Massachusetts in June.

It utilizes curved laminated timbers (glulams) that transition from the posts to the principle rafters, and in turn are held together with custom steel bands that are tightened with oak wedges. It was a unique, challenging and enjoyable project for us, with a great collaborative effort between us, the general contractor and the engineers.

Timber Frames on the TruckThe timber frame just barely fit on the truck, but boy were we glad we pre-assembled the post to rafter with curve with all its hardware components here at our full shop. It took close to 3 days to assemble the 12 sections…We had the engineers model a truck loading plan of the assemblies and other timbers and it just fit on the 48’ long semi.

Raising Timber FrameThe raising was honestly easier than anticipated. We raised with staging, as per photo, and accessed all purlins up to and including the 4th purlin up from the bottom. We then put 16’ aluminum picks across from 4th purlin to 4th purlin, and thus accessed the 5th purlins, ridges, and cupola jack rafters. A hard frame to climb on, even with full harness rigging and static lines, etc…. Not comfortable.

Finished Timber FrameInside timber frame finish view….the client loves it! He is a great guy….