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Timber Framing Software Toolkit




Timber framing is a very old construction technique, but it is a new concept to many of us. After taking a workshop at the Heartwood School, I was anxious to try my hand at this building methodology, but I realized that my understanding of the craft was only skin deep. As I puzzled over a timber frame plan, I realized that I needed practice in visualizing the joinery and translating the plans (and that vision) to the surface of the timber. I needed to get it right before I made any cuts, because unlike my time at the workshop, my layout wasn't going to be checked for accuracy by a pro. A typical set of plans gives a seasoned veteran enough information to build a frame, but beginners are often left wondering about dimensions and placements that aren't obvious.


CAD software helps you to design a frame, but many of us simply want to understand a set of plans after the frame has been designed. I came up with some software which I'll use to record the specifications for every timber in a plan as I study and attempt to understand what the plan really says and how the frame will ultimately go together. Each timber will have multiple joint connections. The exact location and dimensions of each joint is recorded, and I'll eventually end up with a set of instructions for the entire frame, not unlike the input required to operate computer controlled machinery.


It occurred to me that other members of the timber framing community might find this software useful. I'm making it available for free in the hope that other people will try it out, suggest improvements, and possibly even want to share timber framing plan information with other users of the software. This first version doesn't have any report or import/export facilities, but if enough people are interested, I'll be willing to (eventually) make improvements and release new versions.


What the software can do


This Timber Framing Software Toolkit package is designed to help a newcomer to the world of Timber Framing to learn the craft and to understand the intricacies involved. Using the software, you can maintain and utilize an industry contact list, a timber framing glossary of terms, and a Tips and Techniques resource. The software comes with the complete text and illustrations from two books on woodworking in the Library. A Calculation section will show you the basics of sizing timbers. A table of Wood Properties aids in those calculations. Standard Joints are illustrated, and they are available for use in a database of plans that you can maintain and study and use.


All information is maintained by you. If you want to add a glossary term, do it. If you want to make a note about how to execute a particular cut, add it. Even the images can be created and modified, so the software can grow and become a more valuable resource for you over time.


One of the most difficult aspects of cutting a timber frame is translating the plan dimensions to the actual timbers. Most plans are presented as a set of drawings, but (for the beginner) it is not always clear where to find the exact placement of a line or the exact length or depth of a cut. Study your plans, and record the details of each cut using the software. Then compare your details for each tenon with the details for the matching mortise, and take another look at the plans to see if you got it right. It's less expensive to change the cut specs in the database than it is to waste a timber.


Each plan can have an unlimited number of timbers, and each timber can have an unlimited number of joints. The size and placement of each cut is documented by entering the appropriate values as depicted on the standard joint image. Here is an example:



A Sample Standard Joint

A Sample Standard Joint


Over time, you can accumulate a library of plans - the software will handle an unlimited number of plans - that you can study and refer to as you develop your timber framing skills. If enough people are interested, future versions of the software will have the ability to print plan details, as well as import and export plan data so that users of the software will be able to share plan information.