The 2008 Timber Framers Guild Western Conference was a total blast. It was hosted just up the road in Coeur D'Alene Idaho. I am incredibly glad I went to it.
Joinery With a Chainsaw
I took a day-long workshop on cutting timber frame joinery with a chainsaw. The instructor was so skilled with a chainsaw that he was able to quickly cut out perfect tenons and clean them up with a chainsaw such that the finished tenon felt like it has been planed. Seriously.
By contrast, my first chainsaw-cut tenon was ugly as hell. We cut tenons, mortices, and even compound angles. We milled beams free-hand with a chainsaw and even tried our hands at carving pendants. I eventually realized that a chainsaw was a perfect and efficient tool for certain kinds of cuts, especially cuts which involved angles which would require a special jig with a circular saw. Cutting joinery with a chainsaw is also ideal when out in the backwoods without a power source.
Stress Testing Joinery (Engineering):
I attended a fascinating lecture about joinery stress testing. The engineer rigged a large hydraulic press to literally pull massive timbers apart at the joint. The results were fascinating. It took about 5,000 pounds to pull apart a tie-beam attached to a post with two pegs. The type of failures were surprising, too. No only did the pegs fail in some cases, but tenon relish failed. The most unusual failure was a complete separation of the face of the post straight down the grain. Amazing.
SketchUp + TF Rubies (Clark Bremer)
I met Clark Bremer, owner of Northern Lights Timber Frames and the author of the TF Rubies extensions to Google SketchUp. Oh. My.
I've been using SketchUp for quite awhile, and I thought that I had become quite proficient at using it. Clark's TF Rubies extensions are a revolution in timber framing design. It creates shop drawings and timber schedules very, very easily. In addition, I just learned about a zillion shortcuts to using general SketchUp which make things super, super easy.
There are powerful CAD programs out there, but I am now convinced that nobody needs them if you've got SketchUP + TF Rubies.
The keynote speaker was Rob Hadden from Castlemaine, Australia. Rob is truly an artist. A student and lover of old, authentic English timber frame buildings, Rob is entirely self-taught and has been constructing some truly amazing timber frames for many years. He does this work on a shoestring budget: donated logs, chainsaw mill, and other recycled building materials. When he can't find or afford a building material, he often makes them: leaded windows using recycled glass, traditional ledge and batten doors with wooden hinges, slate roof, stones, wide pine floors. He scribes everything, and includes very unsual, twisted timbers in his frames. He infills his half-timbered buildings with wattle-and-daub, and lime. The guy is a genius nut, and I love his work. I got a chance to talk with him, and he's great. Rob submits articles on his work to The Owner Builder Magazine as well as TF Guild periodicals.
In addition to all these cool things, I also ran into some other regional timber-framer, some of which do very interesting work. I met some local suppliers of salvaged wood, and I got to personally meet the people who mix and sell the Landark oil that I use on my projects.
In general, I learned a ton. I had a blast. I met some good folks. I came away with a better understanding of what is possible with timber framing.
In particular, while I won't entirely abandon square rule layout, I think I am going to start scribing more... :-)