timber frame

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Comments (15)

cbaisan on December 6, 2008

Hewn timber post and beam construction. Trees for this structure were cut in 1803. Typical for the day, local trees were felled and used to build a house and barn for this homestead. Exterior view here.

♫ Swissmay on December 9, 2008

Great photo of wonderful craftmanship, Chris! I live in a timber house from 1874 and I grew up in a house from the late seventeenth century. When it was renovated, they found a letter between the beams by the first owner. Unfortuantely the style of both of them has been ruined in renovating, but there are still the old beams and probably they will remain for a much longer period, as long as they aren't torn down.

It's not unusual to find old houses from the 18th, even 17th century, in fact there are more houses of that time than modern ones in my neighbourhood, like my neighbour's house. They used to build them for generations to come, often with wood of their own little forests. To cut wood, even in the own property, we must have the permission of the forest keeper to avoid wild exploitation.

Best wishes, May

cbaisan on December 9, 2008

I like the look and feel of the timbers - they are still very strong. The rafters and roof planks were sawn in a water-powered mill while the big beams were shaped by hand with adze and axe.

You see that the nice light I had here is provided because the roof to the left is missing ;) The roof here was reconfigured at some point - you can see the unused mortices in the upright posts so these are recycled from an earlier use. Probably the first roof had wooden shingles and perhaps they had to stregthen it to hold the weight of the slates that sit there now.

Pleased you like this May :)

♫ Swissmay on December 12, 2008

Yes Chris, that makes sense, what you mentioned about the weight of the slates. I would love to see it on place.

Some farmers here still cut timber for constructions only on certain days, between the 21.December and 06th of January and in certain moon phases. There maybe quite some superstition around these things, but on the other hand they have taken over the experiences from their fathers and grandfathers for centuries. Probably, it makes sense, to cut the wood, when it isn't growing.

See also mondphasenholz on the website above about the publication of Dr.sc.nat.Ernst Zuercher, a collegue of you at the ETH Zurich, but maybe you know him already or was it him you mentioned to me before? There are some more articles of him about the wood in the mountains of what I saw in google.

cbaisan on December 13, 2008

Thanks May - quite interesting. I am sure such traditions existed in New England also. I know, both from written sources and from studying the wood that most of the timber in these buildings was cut over the winter. There are practical reasons for this as it was easier to transport logs over frozen, snow coverd ground. The common practice seemed to be to cut in the winter and use the timber the following summer. It would not be completely dry and so easier to work and the mortice and tenion construction benefited from additional shrinkage of the mortise around the tenion as the timber dried - tightening the joints.

I didn't read specifically about moon phases but I am sure this was practiced in some form. I don't know Ernst Zurich personally, but I believe others at my lab do. Chris

♫ Swissmay on December 13, 2008

Another practical reason, why they were cut in winter was, because the farmers didn't have time during the vegetation growth. The farmers and carpenters here are convinced that the timber keeps better, when cut during the the shortest and coldest days and I do believe it, because they really have experience with all the wood in the Emmental and the scientist Ernst Zuercher believes so too, because of the research results. Something else - the wood of those old houses hasn't been treated with insecticides nor painted and they overdured centuries. May

cbaisan on December 14, 2008

True May, and here also there was much lore regarding the proper times to sow and harvest, cut and plant. Long experience and closness to nature taught many things.

The oldest wooden buildings I know about are in Japan - more than 1,000 years old. Fire is a more potent enemy than decay for a properly constructed wooden structure with a sound roof. The action of water in its various forms and her agents of decay is powerful and persistent so the tending of a wooden building, particularly the roof, is vital to their longevity. Perhaps that is why the ancient stone monuments and buildings are so impressive - preserving the memories of times past without care and exposed to the elemental forces... Chris

Grey-Eagle Ray on December 15, 2008

Hi Chris, I like this series of the old timber barn. Intriguing history of how the timber was cut only during a certain period!

Could this be related to native American,s tradition?

As a matter of interest I tend our garden in harmony with the Moon cycles.

Greetings from California Ray

My Contest

cbaisan on December 15, 2008

I think timber cutting culture came to this region from Europe, and as May suggests, might have been tied to moon phases. While long houses requires some timber I am not aware of their tradition of procurement. Surely the moon cycle was important to the local residents though.

Farmer's almanacs always refer to moon phases regarding planting and harvest, etc.

Greetings from Arizona, Chris

Hank Waxman on December 26, 2008

Carpentry is a hobby of mine, and I love the artistry and craftmanship of this type of work.

Best regards,


cbaisan on September 9, 2011

Wow Hank, somehow I missed this comment. These barns often had quite a long life and were re-configured or moved as necessity dictated over the years.

Regards, Chris

C.Long3 on October 3, 2011

Great photo.You posted this in the "old barns" group and it's exactly the kind of pics I want people to be able to see. Craftsmanship and how it was done in the past. Thanks, Chuck

cbaisan on October 3, 2011

No problem Chuck. I should have more barn pictures than I do - growing up in the midwest they were everywhere. Are you interested in European barns? I have some panoramio friends with some nice pics.

I also have a couple of pics of a mill dam that I was going to post to that group if it is ok.

Regards, Chris

C.Long3 on October 4, 2011

Chris,European barns would be great. My goal for this site (besides photo viewing) is for us(anyone) be able to see what other peoples use for farm storage. I had never seen or even heard of a winter barn before your photo, very interesting. What are they used for? Chuck

cbaisan on October 5, 2011

The picture of the winter barn I posted has some information in the first comment. During the short warm period - late May to early September - the animals (cows and horses) are out grazing 24/7. Hay is cut in meadow openings with scythes in late July and early August and put up in stacks in the fields. Later the stacks are hauled to the village to be fed out over the winter. The barn provides shelter from bitter winter temperatures - thick walled, low, and with the sod roof. There is no running water anywhere because of permafrost issues so the animals must go daily to the lake to drink from a hole cut in the ice. Both horses and cows are raised for meat as well as dairy products.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on December 6, 2008
  • © All Rights Reserved
    by cbaisan
    • Camera: NIKON E800
    • Exposure: 0.033s
    • Focal Length: 7.20mm
    • F/Stop: f/3.500
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • Flash fired