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Monday, April 10th, 2017



Saturday April 1st was a drizzly, chilly day but it did not stop our dedicated Woodwrights Guild from coming out to erect the new addition to our barn. The Woodwrights, under the expert tutelage of our Historic Buildings and Grounds Manager Scott Schotz, completed the timber framed addition in three short months. But what exactly does timber framing mean, and why are we doing it here at Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village?

Let’s pretend for a moment that it is 1800 and you have just arrived in the United States. The first thing you must do is build a home for your family before winter sets in, but where to begin?  Remember, there is no Home Depot for you to visit to buy your lumber.  You look around at the abundance of woodland around you and let out a sigh of relief.  This is how you will build your home.

The most predominant means of construction up until the middle of the 19th century was timber frame construction, for all it required was materials which the average farmer already owned. Logs would be gathered from local forests and shaped into rectangular hand-hewn posts and beams. Timber framers would rely on axes, chisels, wooden mallets, draw knives, and hand-powered augers to turn their logs into the posts and beams of their homes.[1]

There are four different approaches to timber framing available to the average North American timber framer.  They are: scribing, mapping, “mill rule” (using timbers planed to exact dimensions), and the “Square Rule”. Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village Woodwrights used the “Square Rule” for the barn’s addition.  This technique is considered the traditional system throughout the United States during the 1800s.[2]

The art of timber framing regrettably went out of practice around the middle of the 19th century as nails and smaller timber began to become mass produced in a faster and cheaper manner.  This provided a more economical way to meet the demand for housing in the rapidly expanding American frontier.[3]  Thankfully, timber framing has begun to make a comeback in American construction and Buffalo Niagara Heritage Village is lucky enough to be one of the only, if not the only, places locally teaching this ancient craft.

Make sure you find time this summer to stop by and check out not only our timber frame constructed barn, but also its newly erected addition.


[1] Woodhouse The Timber Frame Company; http://www.timberframe1.com/timber-frame-resources/history; and Timber Framing Workshop handout

[2] “Timber Framing: Square Rule Layout”; The Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts Blogbook; http://heartwoodschool.com/wordpress/?p=228.

[3] Woodhouse The Timber Frame Company.


Contributed by Sara Miller, Farmstead Assistant. 

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