Timber Framing Experiment

In envisioning/designing/building this backyard pergola, I’m putting a lot of faith in my ability to wing it. That borders on sounding flippant, no doubt. And I do sketch things out and spend quite a lot of time poring over books, websites, etc. in order to get a decent feel for what it is exactly that I’m trying to accomplish. But I think I work better focusing on one step at a time.

So rather than have everything in perfect order, ready from start to finish, I tend to think about the stage I’m working on with an eye towards the finished product. I like to live with the thought of the piece/project rather than set everything in stone from the beginning.

And so at this point, I’ve gathered all the wood and rough milled all the pieces. The beams/posts/joists came from two different barns, one in Eastern Iowa and the other in Western Illinois. I still need to size up the ends and get everything to length and then rip the leftover 2x6s which will form the thin strips of the grid-work ceiling.

And the planed 2×6’s:

And here is the pile of sawdust I created-you can see a nice shadow of our Pin Oak in the shavings:

I’ve laid out the space on the ground where the four main posts will go (the 6x6s) and now that the ground has been cleared for excavation, I’ll begin removing the necessary pavers and digging the holes for the posts. They will need to be at least 3’ deep and I’ll use pea gravel at the base of each hole to account for water runoff and then once the post is inserted, I’ll mix cement to secure the posts. The pergola footprint measures 12’x10 ½’ and the height will be approximately 8’ but no higher. I tried to use the principle of the golden ration to come to this size and I was also constrained by the size of the patio itself as well as the slope on the North side of the area.

Once the posts are set, I’ll be able to trim them to height and then begin laying out the joinery. I’ll be using two different joints to attach the beams. Each come from James Mitchell’s, “The Craft of Modular Post & Beam”. The two corners next to the house will use the “corner dovetail variation with peg tenon post” and the southwest and northwest corners will utilize the “half-lap corner with a post peg tenon”. That way with the two posts next to the house, there will be no excess of the beams but with the two western posts, I’ll be able to hang the beams over and extend them beyond the posts by a foot or so each. That way I’ll be able to decorate the ends. I will also use internal knee-braces to shore everything up.

But for now, it’s time to focus on the digging.


4 thoughts on “Timber Framing Experiment

  1. Good Luck,

    The project sounds exciting. I hope you enjoy the process. You have picked a great author to follow, (a friend and teacher checkout his web site,) Give me a shout if you have any question.

    Jay C.

    • Thanks for taking a look, Jay. I will definitely check out the website and I may very well take you up on some advice along the way. There’s something about building a timber frame structure that just feels right. Hopefully the pergola is only the first step-who knows what future projects may result.

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