Red Suspenders Timber Frames

Front of Home

Set on acreage in Nacogdoches County, this home is surrounded by forest.  The exterior features both wood and limestone.  The roof is conventional asphalt shingles. Porches not only provide shelter for guests as they wait to enter the home but also shade windows and doors and add extra living space.

Upon entering the house you will see an expansive timber frame crafted from kiln dried southern yellow pine.  The trees from which the timbers were made were harvested from family land.  Yellow pine is an extremely strong timber and is excellent for timber framing.  One further advantage is that it can be kiln dried very easily.  The use of dry timber in a frame will greatly reduce or eliminate the shrinkage and distortion that plague frames crafted from green wood.  A sweeping curved stairway leads off to the second floor.

Beyond the stairs you enter the great room, which features ceilings that reach as high as 32’ above the floor.  The finish material on the ceilings is 1x8 pine tongue and groove boards milled from the same logs the timber frame was.  The material was kiln dried and planed at our shop.  With our two planers we can mill material as small as 1”x1” or as large as 16”x20”.

To one side of the great room is a limestone fireplace.  On the far side of this fireplace is a second fireplace in the master bedroom.  The flue for this second fireplace runs beside the flue for the great room fireplace inside the same limestone chimney.

Adjacent to the great room is the kitchen, which opens into it.  The cabinets are made of cherry while the countertops are granite.

Upstairs you will find some very interesting timberwork.  Two different sets of arches both provide support for the roof but also architectural interest.  The smaller set of curved timbers visible above the door at the end of the walkway is mostly decorative and cut from a single large piece of wood.

The much larger complete arches are fabricated from several pieces of timber each.  If you look very closely you might be able to see that each half of each arch was cut from three pieces of timber joined at angles approximating the arch by the use of scarf joints.  After joining, the three pieces were bandsawn to create the graceful arches you see.  The arches are part of an assembly that supports a large beam, which in turn supports the king post trusses, which form the roof planes.  This is a relatively sophisticated method for transferring the roof load to the posts, which in turn transfer the load to the foundation.  This is also a non-traditional method of timber framing.

There are five ways we use to create curved timbers.  The first is to cut an arch from a large single piece of wood.  The second is to join several pieces of wood at angles so that an arch can be cut from the assembly.  A third is to go out in the woods and find a curved tree.  This is good plan when you are interested in a more organic form and only need a single arch since it’s hard to find many trees curved the same way.  A fourth way is to cut thin pieces of wood and glue them to each other on a form, which holds them until the glue sets. Once the glue is dry a curved timber is lifted off the mold.  The last way is to steam a timber to make the fibers more flexible so that the timber can then be bent.

Each method of creating a curved timber has plusses and minuses.  The decision as to what method is best in a particular case must be made by balancing the positives and negatives against the desired end result.  No one method is best in all situations.

click to enlarge

All Photographs by Roger Wade