What has happened so far?

Back in November or December of 2006 I became interested in timberframing. I don't know exactly how I came upon it, other than I was thinking about the new workshop I'd eventually build when I bought a property. Steve Chappell's "Timberframer's Workshop" was the first I bought. I ended up signing up for his intro timberframing workshop in June 2007 in Brownsfield, Maine. Being new to woodoodworking and beams/timbers, I tried to learn what I could online before the workshop. Being an avid ebayer I came across a bunch of beams for auction from a barn taken down near Rockford, IL. I won the auction and paid $0.26 a board foot(BD FT), which is how most wood is measured except for dimenisonal lumber. A board foot is the volume of 12X12X1 inch= 144cubic inches. My research had told me that red oak and pine were going for about $1.80 per BD FT rough sawn. So at the price I paid plus $440 to haul them to my place, it was still still under $0.40 per board foot. The beams are 8X8 and 8X10 pine. Three of them are 38ft long, and one is 24 feet long.
In early winter I came across some miscellaneous beams on ebay from a guy who owns an antique circular sawmill in Hebron, Indiana. Though I wasn't sure what I would do with them, they were a good price and I was learning. I bought a beautiful 12x12x 12 foot long knotty pine, some Hickory pieces and misc maple. I now knew someone with a saw mill that regularly sawed logs, including oak. The mill looked like a sawmill out of the turn of the century- it was!
At the same time I came across two doug fir beams 5.5X16 by 16 foot in Whiting, IN (ebay again). They had come out of an old bar, so I was told. I ended up paying $1.17/BD FT. That's not the greatest price, but doug fir is uncommon around here and by the time I de-nail and sand them, I'll still be under $1.80, the standard I'm using.

By February I came across 3 white oak beams 12 feet long near Indianapolis. Two are 10X10 and one is 12X12 . Since I was going there to visit relatives there anyway, it wasn't too much trouble to bring them back with me. Unloading was difficult though, with the beams weighing 750 lbs! I can't remember what I paid, but I'm sure it was under $0.60/BD FT. He also had a bunch of the slabs that were cut off the logs when cutting the beams. There were about 8 slabs, all 10" to 14" wide, 1.25 to 1.5 thick and some wane. I paid an extra $50 for the slabs. I didn't know what I was going to do with them. Later in the summer I ripped some of them to make bunk beds for a friends hunting cabin. I used the band saw chatter marks they had on them as character and highlighted them with stain.

I will definitly be able to use the oak timbers, though now sure where yet. I may have to have them resawn to a different cross section depending on the use. You can see what is called "checking" in the oak timbers above. Checking is a normal feature of large timbers. As a log or timber is cut green, as it dries, checks develop due to uneven drying. As the moisture escapes the timber, internal stresses develop which relieve themselves through checking. All timbers check, but hardwoods more than softwoods like pine. Oak, hickory, and hemlock seem to check the most. Checking is usually not considered a defect and does not compromise the integrity of a timber unless it is very severe - like greater than 3/4 inch and a check that runs completely thorugh a timber. Checking can be reduced by sealing the end grain of the green wood. The end grain are basically the capillaries of the tree and moisture will run out of the ends faster than the rest of the timber. If you seal the endgrain, it forces water to dry out the sides of the timber, which takes longer and is slower, thus allowing for more even drying and less checking.
My next venture was my timberframe class in Brownsfield, Maine. It was a wonderful class and even though I spent $1500 or so for the whole trip, the timber framing skills and general woodworking techniques I learned were well worth it. The class covered basic timberframe info, design styles, design of frames for loading and joint stress calculation, and had plenty of hands on experience. By the end of day 6, we erected our class project, a 2500 SQ FT home timberframe.

After the class I contracted with the sawmill guy to mill oak brace stock for me. Of the 66 pieces, most was red oak, but 15 were white oak. It was ok at $1/BD FT, but there were about 20 I had to return to him because they were even below grade 2. After having so many bad pieces in the lot and his giving me a hard time about replacing the bad ones, I no longer have much confidence in him to give me the grade I need. I've discovered that there are many hobby sawers in nearby Michigan who'd be happy to supply my brace stock in the future. I've been learning a lot about wood, sawing, drying, and controlling pests in wood from http://www.forestryforum.com/ The freshly sawn oak acually had some wood borer beetle larvae which eat holes in green wood. I sprayed with Sevin and it seemed to stop them cold. A few worm holes were made, but nothing to worry about structurally. Once the wood is dry, it's too hard for them to eat and then the wood is safe. The bad ones sticks the sawyer gave me are actually shown on top in the following picture. I did get these returned and replaced with proper grade stock.

In July, we had 4 straight days of heavy rains which softened the soil, and then a big windstorm came and blew over two 80 or so year old Spruce trees we had in the front yard at the farm. So I cut the branches and peeled the bark and put the trees in the barn for possible use in a timberframe later. The fresh sap caused mold to form on the logs in the barn after about 2 weeks. Following a suggestion from the forestryforum, I mixed a 10 percent bleach and water solution and sprayed down the logs. That took care of the mold! I learned that more than ten percent bleach will not be any more effective than 10 percent. A good tip to know.

In October I was going to visit relatives in Indy again, and I found some Beech beams to look at while down there. It was actually from an Amish gentleman near the Ohio border. I purchased 14 hardwood Beach beams 9X12 by 12 feet long and two that were 7X12 by 16 feet long. These are old growth beams from an old grainery barn. I got a good price of $700, plust it cost me $560 to move them. I will have these resawn probably to 7X12 or 8X12 which will cost another $500. In the end I figured these will cost $1.36/BD FT after sawing. It seems that if I can buy for about $0.60/BD FT, I can transport and resaw if needed and still keep costs well under $1.80 for substantial cost savings. I don't plan to use reclaim exclusively. When my design is finished, I will determine what of my existing reclaim can be used and now much new I'll have to order. I just got them hauled with Jason, the hauler from Woodstock, IL who I'd used to haul my on my first beam purchase. I accompanied him down to Indiana to get them and he was good company. He also hauled a used car lift I bought earlier in the week and delived it when he picked me up for the beam haul. Pics of that and the Beech beams in my next update.


Tyson said...

Glad to see that you have started a blog to track your progress. I saw it on Thomas' site.
I'll try to keep up todate with your project.


Jody said...

Hi Brad (again) and other timber framers. We have a heavily treed lot in Fraser, and although we spray annually for beetle bugs, we have many infested lodge pole pine trees which need to come down each year. My understanding is the blue "dye" created by the beetle does not de-grade the wood for building purposes, and may even enhance the desirability if owners are looking for unique features. Anyway, we cut down around 70 trees last year (ask Mike Elbert...he organized a crew at the end of the season) and I'd be happy for you to have the trees/wood (at no charge of course)in the future, if it makes sense from a transport standpoint. Most of the trees last year were removed or cut into firewood, but we still have about 30 brown trees standing. So I don't know if this is cost-effective or even of interest to you...but I'd love the idea of our dead trees going into your project if you thought it was right.--Jody West

mrmoto said...

Hi Brad,
Good luck. Wish in had the initiative and patience to take on some big projects like this. I think I'll stick with trying to perfect my green thumb. You know vinifera grapes(ha!) and lemon tree's. Doing better with that one.