What Is A Timber Frame?

Timber framing is a particular method of post & beam construction incorporating the use of heavy timbers with intricately designed joinery to connect its members. Timber framing dates back to over 2,000 years ago with structure found all over the word that are still standing today.

The most common joint in timber frame construction is the mortise & tenon, which is held together using wood pegs, typically a hardwood species such as oak or walnut. But the mortise & tenon is just of the wide variety of joints we use in our frames. Some of these other joints include the dove-tail, half-lap, tongue & fork and the scarf joint. Furthermore, all of these connections have variations & combinations, as well as more detailed options. Members can bear on a shoulder or diminished haunch or be fully captured in a housing. Joists can sit in a beam pocket and may include a dove-tail, soffit or tusk tenon. Rafters can be cut with a bird’s mouth and sit on a plate, or the plate can be notched with a rafter bearing seat or both.

In addition to pegs, some other connector include wedges, splines shear keys or shear blocks. Under certain circumstances, connections may require the introduction of steel in the form of knife plates, bolts & pins, plate washers, tension rods, etc. The idea of using steel in a connection may make the true traditional timber framers cringe. But as we continue to push the limits of all wood connections in traditional timber frame construction, coupled with the much higher snow loads in most mountain locations, the use of steel is critical in providing a more economical design by simplifying the connection and reducing the size of the timbers.

Please take a look at the Joinery gallery to see some examples.

Now that we’ve established the fact that there are hundreds of different joinery options, how do we decide which ones to use? This is where the knowledge & experience of Kenai Timber Frames comes into play. We are able to determine the demands of the joints based on engineering, assess & evaluate our options for each connection and select the most appropriate connection detail.