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Author Topic: Timberframing traditions  (Read 6731 times)

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Offline srjones

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Timberframing traditions
« on: November 30, 2005, 12:47:36 AM »
I've always been facinated with tradtions and customs.   :P

The most well known of these traditions is nailing a bough or small tree to the frame when it's complete. 
Another tradition I've read about is placing a coin under each post when raised.
A big party after the raising with much food and beverage is a good tradition as well.

But, are there other traditions?  I'd really like to hear you guys that have been through a few raisings.   I'd especially like to hear from the guys in the UK near in or near Wales which is where my ancestors come from.

Thanks in advance,

-Steve
Everyone has hobbies...I hope to live in mine someday.

Offline TW

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #1 on: November 30, 2005, 01:20:12 PM »
I will comment a little about the Finland Swedish version of the tradition with the small tree.
It was interresting to hear that it is still practised in America.

My grandfather told me about the time when he was a boy. When something was built it was a tradition that when the roof ridge was in place they nailed a small birch tree to it and the owner had to give something good to eat and drink to the workers. Usually it ended with the workers drinking too much vodka. If the owner was greedy they nailed up a small dry spruce tree instead in order to show the greediness to all the village.
The tradition is dead nowadays.
On a loghouse it was usually a big job to get the roofridge in place.

Offline Ernie

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #2 on: November 30, 2005, 11:28:57 PM »
Talk about progress.

In Fiji, they no longer place people(alive) under the main supports of a new building
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Offline srjones

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2005, 12:59:23 AM »
Maybe they were contractors that ran off with the money before finishing the job  :D  :D  :D

Oh, wait, what thread is this?

Seriously, though, something else I've seen is that the framer will carve their name or logo somewhere on the frame.  Has anybody done this?
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Offline Jim_Rogers

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2005, 08:09:24 AM »
The guild usually does some carving or branding when they do a job.

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Offline Don P

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2005, 06:05:46 PM »
Quote
My grandfather told me about the time when he was a boy. When something was built it was a tradition that when the roof ridge was in place they nailed a small birch tree to it and the owner had to give something good to eat and drink to the workers.

Ever hear "topping out" called "wetting the bush"?
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An artist uses his brain, his hands, and his heart

Offline Deadwood

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #6 on: December 01, 2005, 07:03:30 PM »
I'm into traditions too, and placing a tree branch at the top of the frame to me, is a great way to pay tribute to the forest that produced the wood.

Carving a name in a beam however just seems selfish. Sure the Timberwright has put a lot of himself into the frame, but he is compensated for that financially. I aliken it to seeing a slab of concrete with someones name fingered into it. Unprofessional and egotistical is what I think everytime I see that.

If I could encourage any tradition it would be the name of the owners and the year built placed just below the apex on the gable end of the structure. For instance: Johnson Family-2005. That pays tribute to the family that the building shelters...a much more noble tradition in my opinion.

Offline Engineer

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #7 on: December 01, 2005, 09:05:54 PM »
We put a pine bough from the property on the peak of the gable.

We put a brand-new quarter (cheap, eh?) under one of the posts.

We fed and watered (well, beered) the crew. 

Tradition is alive and well.

The next step is to carve the date in the main summer beam over the front door.

Offline srjones

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2005, 12:20:58 AM »
Quote
Ever hear "topping out" called "wetting the bush"?

Umm, no, and I should probably ask since I can only imagine that is what's done after the beer has been processed through the liver and kidneys  :o ;D :D :D :D :D.  So what does it mean?

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Offline srjones

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2005, 12:40:28 AM »
Quote
We put a brand-new quarter (cheap, eh?) under one of the posts.

I wonder if this is related to the custom/tradition of never giving someone a wallet without including money in it--the reasoning being that you'd never be without money.  My Dad told me it was an Irish thing, but I'm sure it could be more widespread than that.

So, technically, your timberframe house will always have money in.

Quote
Carving a name in a beam however just seems selfish. Sure the Timberwright has put a lot of himself into the frame, but he is compensated for that financially.

I'm not saying everywhere and in an obnoxious fashion...just somewhere small and maybe even hidden.  Like an artists signing a painting.  That I wouldn't mind.  However, since I'm my own timberframer I guess I can do whatever suites me...financiallly is not on the list for my compensation on this one.

Quote
When something was built it was a tradition that when the roof ridge was in place they nailed a small birch tree to it and the owner had to give something good to eat and drink to the workers. Usually it ended with the workers drinking too much vodka. If the owner was greedy they nailed up a small dry spruce tree instead in order to show the greediness to all the village

That kinda sounds like trick-or-treat on Halloween. I got some finns and swedes in my historical gene pool so I could see that happening.

Thanks everyone for the comments!  When the frame eventually (someday  ???) goes up, I'll make sure to document (photograph) the traditional elements I add.

-Steve
Everyone has hobbies...I hope to live in mine someday.

Offline Jim_Rogers

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2005, 09:17:59 AM »
When we put up a frame we usually have the owner put the "wetting bush" on the gable end on the ridge, if he/she is up to it.
And to say a few words.

When I did one, I thanked nature for the wood, I blessed the frame and all who worked on it and all who will enter it, (with no mention of any one type of religion as to not offend anyone present), I thanked the old masters who developed the craft of timber framing, and the young masters who taught it to me, (again without mentioning any names to protect the guilty).

We usually have a coin placed in a corner post pocket with the year that the building was built on it by the owner of the building if present or I'll do it if not, and photograph it for them.

Then all present who helped raise the frame are asked to climb up on the frame for a group photo.
Like this:





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Offline jph

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2005, 01:10:38 PM »
I seem to remember that many skeletons of cats have been found in voids  when old timber frame buildings are being renovated here in the UK. Supposedly put there to ward off evil spirits, no one knows whether they were dead or alive! :o :o

John

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2005, 01:19:59 PM »
Once a skeleton, they be dead.
south central Wisconsin
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Offline srjones

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #13 on: December 02, 2005, 02:49:28 PM »
 :o Hmmm...wow...errr...putting a cat in the frame...ummm...yeah.  THAT is...umm...weird.  :o

By any chance do you think the cats were from Fiji?   :D

When my dad built a stick-frame house (back in the 70's) he left quite a few bottles of beer in the voids between the studs.  I'm pretty sure he killed them  off first, though.

In all seriousness, though, thanks John for that one...

-srj





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Offline Thehardway

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #14 on: December 02, 2005, 10:25:54 PM »
Don't know about across the pond but here in Appalachian country a raising tradition would be some folk music and dancing when the job is complete.  Undesireable traditions would include smashing of fingers and toes and bumping your head on beams while raising.  Some timberframers had signature embellishments such as gargoyles, acorns, caps etc. on hammerbeams, or a signature chamfer of the beams such as that used by Greene and Greene.

An interesting study in tradition is also the construction of doors for the house.  They reflected history, religion, safety and wealth of the family they would serve to protect as well as the guests they would welcome.  Mantles, chimneys, fireplace structures, keystones, and stained glass are of traditional  historical significance as well.
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Offline Jim Haslip

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #15 on: December 03, 2005, 07:37:05 PM »
I've been known to sign a tenon using a permanent marker before it gets inserted and pegged. I've also seen initials carved in a tenon. Always in a hidden spot on the frame, though.
As for the coin thing, yup, seen that done as well on lots of frames.

Offline Don P

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #16 on: December 03, 2005, 11:36:42 PM »
 Straying off to the edges of the topic, we had one plumber that liked to toss a deceased cat or critter of the day in the septic tank before he closed it up, to "get 'er primed".
I've always enjoyed finding a name or something in a house, I guess it gives a link to "the old ones  :)".  While working on one 1700's house, we tore into one wall and there was fire damage and a brief description in charcoal with the date. As we sat and thought about it, a certain yankee who was careless with matches had been in the neighborhood around the same time. I wish they had written more, like a book  :D. We found old magazines folded and used for shim on one job, that was fun to read them.  I like to write on the back of siding. If I'm hanging around on a scaffold waiting for a cut, I'll either be caulking or writing. (I don't know what y'all call that situation, we call it "grab a perch and holler"). We usually save the top piece for the homeowner if they are on site and get them to write on the back. If they aren't there I'll write that we built this house for so and so on such a date and sign it. I have carved the date "in public" before when asked but have never put my name or any other on an exposed face even when asked to. I feel this is defacing the building and point to those monogrammed chimneys that have a letter 3' tall and someone else lives there now  ::). I guess if someone pushed it I would make a placque that could be removed. I usually set a new coin in the mortar somewhere on the job. I helped a friend stand up a 11"x247" tree in his house today, there's a penny on top under the ridge. The description of one old family homeplace that still stands, barely, near Jamestown is described as having "cross and bible (6 panel) doors"
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Offline mark davidson

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #17 on: December 04, 2005, 10:14:11 AM »
this summer I was raising a frame with a group of german folks....
when the last peice of the frame went up, the germans had a bell shaped "wreath" made of green fir boughs. The "wreath"(can't remember the german name for it) was hoisted by the crane and held just above the finished frame.... everything was shut down and a blessing of sorts was given to the frame.
Then came the beer...
I was back at the project, working on a staircase recently, and I noticed the wreath was hung in a protected spot, the owner obviously values it....
In my experience, three things should happen after a frame goes up:
-a living tree or branch should be brought to the frame, to give thanks and recognition to the trees.
-the owner and builder should have a chance to speak about the experience of building the frame
-there should be a celebration

Offline Deadwood

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #18 on: December 04, 2005, 06:58:44 PM »
Sounds like some great traditions people. I was hoping I would not offend anyone by saying how I felt about public displays of ownership. It seems as if I am not alone.  As for you SRJones, you are aboslutely right, you built it for yourself so all the more power to you, that is why I added that little line about finincial compensation.

I have worked on older homes myself and whenever I would remove a floor or wall I would look for old coins. I remember once redoing some siding on an old house and being able to read newspapers from 1916. It was neat to read the stories about the "Great War" (WW1) or Areoplanes, and Steamships. What I found was the most interesting though was the old advertisments. I only remember one though and it was for womens shoes for 25 cents. I wish they cost that these days as I think my wifes shoes cost over $100 a pair and she has sixty plus pairs of the stupid things.

Offline Joel Eisner

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Re: Timberframing traditions
« Reply #19 on: December 05, 2005, 01:11:16 PM »
While not a timber frame....... when we were installing built in cabinets in our study we recently placed a copy of our Christmas picture of our boys, current tax bill and a letter. 
The saga of our timberframe experience continues at boothemountain.blogspot.com.


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