A Student’s Reflection on Tillers’ Latest Timber-Framing Class

This is zero to sixty timber framing; start to finish, beginning to end.  No matter your level of skill or experience, everyone starts at the beginning; day one: naming of parts.  Mortise and tenon; bent, post, and beam.  By the end of the week, a pile of timber becomes a standing frame and your work is evidenced by thousands of wood chips and a stronger back.  This is real work with a real goal: students learn it, then build it.

IMG_4425Every working building and barn on the Tillers campus lends itself to instruction on timber framing styles and construction.  A museum rounds the experience by providing both an example of modern uses of timber frame construction and the agricultural heritage that gave birth to the need for 60 foot sills.  Other buildings show uses of king and queen truss construction, and other roofing solutions.  There’s even a timber framed chicken coop that could serve as a first project idea for students eager to get started at home.

When you arrive at Tillers, you immediately are welcomed into the community; even the goats and cats come to say hello.  You eat together, work together, and learn together.  And you eat well; good food, grown and cooked right on the farm.  The staff is not only a group of the friendliest people you’ll meet, they are also extremely focused on making sure you’re learning what you need to learn.  Every moment of the work process is a training moment, and no question is too small.

The primary instruction in timber framing is enhanced by additional classes in tool sharpening, and timber frame engineering.  You will sharpen chisels and learn why a king post needs a support brace all in the same week.  You will learn how to cut a tenon to fit, and also how to remedy any wood defects  — no, knots aren’t fun, but you will conquer a few by the end of the week, with confidence.

A book can’t teach what you will learn here in just six days.  And, your timber framing books will make more sense when you’re finished with the class.  Day by day, concepts come together until you see the fruit of your labor on raising day.  And, when you wake on raising day, the only sadness you have is the thought that your time at Tillers is almost at an end.


Stafford, VA


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