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Squaring the circle

by on 12 Jul 2011

Over the Guild’s twenty-five plus years, we have undertaken a steady flow of building projects, generally built in some kind of workshop format. Every few years we manage a truly major undertaking.  The first of these came in 1989 with the building of two houses with Habitat for Humanity in Hanover, Pennsylvania. Timbers  cut in shops all over North America and beyond came together to be raised into two house frames on a Thursday morning.  Then the houses were finished in a round the clock marathon so the families could move in on Sunday.  In 1992 hundreds of framers came together at a Guild Conference in Guelph, Ontario to build a 144 foot long covered bridge in five days. Almost a decade later in August and September of 2001, a group one tenth the size of the force at Guelph  somehow managed to build almost twice the bridge (four trusses, two arches) with the help of the townspeople of Golden, British Columbia. Admittedly it took a little longer than five days. And there are other examples in our short history of timber framers coming together to build impossible dreams.

But perhaps none so audacious as the Gwozdziec Synagogue replica. Start with multiple courses of scribed log wall, a first in Guild building history. Surmount the log walls with an unusual timber frame roof  for a total of  450 pieces and 16,000 board feet.  Then add in a four stage compound curved cupola dovetailing perfectly inside the log walls and timber frame, with seven dozen curved ribs, including 20 backed hip/valley pieces, many of these to be hewn from natural curved sticks taken directly from the woods. Throw in 1500 square feet of cupola sheathing to be cut to form coves, domes and pendentives. Now recall that all the timber needs to have  authentic hewn and pitsawn surfaces, and that all the joinery is to be done by hand.

I suspect you would agree that this mandate amounts to something like a miracle for a crew of thirty professionals working with a team of inexperienced students to accomplish in six weeks.

That said, now essentially double the work by deciding to convert all the timber directly from raw logs using spuds, drawknives, axes, broadaxes and pitsaws to turn 200 plus Silver Fir logs into those 450 timbers working entirely by hand in the traditional manner. The spreadsheets and the Gantt charts may have said it could be done, but even the stoutest of hearts had some doubts when first walking into that field in the Skansen carpeted with logs.

In tribute to the astonishing work of the hewers and sawyers, both professionals and students, we offer the following three posts:

Tom Haanen on Hewing

Barbara Czoch on Pitsawing

Sawyers at Work

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Master hewer Petr Ruzicka and some of his tools:

A closeup of our frame saw:

And, by way of comparison, an open pitsaw at work:

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2 Comments
  1. Hello!
    Time passes so quickly and the work did not allow me to visit your place of work before your departure. I had no time to say goodbye. I am impressed with your work. Thank you for this that I could meet you. I will always remember about you. I greet you, Alicia, Barbara, Tim and the rest of the team.

    P.S.
    (To Alicia, Barbara and Tim)
    I was hoping that I get your address, I wanted to send you a postcard as a souvenir. Unfortunately I was late 😦

    greet
    Peter ,Eve and Luke (aka Mario), our son

  2. Hello!
    Time passes so quickly and the work did not allow me to visit your place of work before your departure. I had no time to say goodbye. I am impressed with your work. Thank you for this that I could meet you. I will always remember about you. I greet you, Alicia, Barbara, Tim and the rest of the team.

    P.S.
    (To Alicia, Barbara and Tim)
    I was hoping that I get your address, I wanted to send you a postcard as a souvenir. Unfortunately I was late 😦

    greet
    Peter ( INTERNETMAN 😉 ) ,Eve (his wife) and Luke (aka Mario), our son

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