Why I Love Traditional Timber Framing

Why I Love Traditional Timber Framing

Why I Love Traditional Timber Framing

Generally speaking, I like building things rather than writing about building things. But it’s worth making an exception for traditional timber framing. Plus a key part of my tutoring on the Prince’s Foundation is trying to communicate my passion for this traditional craft. I do have an extensive power point presentation on this, but I’ll not replicate all of it that here. Instead, I’ll share the highlights.

Here’s an outline of some of the reasons why this craft has won my heart and hands (as well as my mathematical brain, but more of that shortly).

Early skills:

  • Some of the very first, primitive timber structures were lashed a-frame shelters. They were followed by iron age roundhouses, Saxon and Viking post hole, lap and notch construction techniques, the heyday of timber framing in the 16th & 17th centuries, 18th century king post trusses, Arts & Crafts houses, and modern-day timber framed buildings. 
timber frame construction
Blackwell is a famous Arts & Crafts house in the Lake District


  • It’s a very honest way to build as you can see the structure with its braces and joints. It’s a pleasing aesthetic, and one that communicates strength and solidity. People often feel instinctively comfortable in timber framed buildings where they can see the structure that’s holding the building up. Timber frames are built to last.
timber frame construction

Working with a high quality, natural product:

  • Hand laying timbers gives you absolute control over quality as each piece is carefully selected. Whether you’re working with softwoods like Douglas fir or larch or more expensive hardwoods such as oak, they all dry over time and strengthen the structure further. Longevity is literally built in.
timber frame construction

You create a 3D jigsaw puzzle

  • Using trigonometry and Pythagoras’ theorem, you can square up lengths of wood that don’t run true. Sitting in lessons learning the theories is nothing compared to their practical application in the workshop and on-site. Scribing joints and creating the theoretical square point (look up the ‘3, 4, 5 rule’ for proving right angles), or constructing elaborate roofing elements from a series of triangles is the best challenge for a mathematical brain. The resulting structure being both geometrically and visually pleasing is very satisfying.
timber frame construction
A skilled timber frame carpenter

If you’re looking for a skilled timber framer, please have a read of one of my client testimonials – it’s a good way to get a sense of my working approach:

“Jonny’s done a lot of work on the estate, including designing the pagoda in the Rothesay gardensHe has a very good reputation. He’s organised, methodical, and likes to know exactly what’s happening before he strikes a blow. We put a lot of trust in him to do the main farm building, but he was more than capable and produced a very high-quality product.”

Gordon Neil
Development and Facilities Manager at the Dumfries House Trust

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