Basics

The best way to make a curved knee brace

When I'm making curved knee braces for our frames, rather than cut curves out of straight material, I procure trees that have grown with curves already in them. This means, first of all, that there is no short grain runout, which makes the brace stronger, and secondly it means that each knee brace is bespoke — original; beautiful.

Finding this material takes a great amount of knowledge, time and energy, and above all a developed artistic eye. The artistic eye begins in the forest, in the tree selection itself, and ends in your home.

I air dry our brace stock to insure dimensional stability. The result is a stronger and much lovelier knee brace that is completely unique to your project.

 Hand selecting crooked timber. What is typically used for firewood now becomes the highest expression of the craft.

Hand selecting crooked timber. What is typically used for firewood now becomes the highest expression of the craft.

 The second step is to slab the timbers on two sides.

The second step is to slab the timbers on two sides.

 A finished brace on top of an unfinished brace.

A finished brace on top of an unfinished brace.

 Douglas Fir brace in the shop.

Douglas Fir brace in the shop.

 A bifurcated version.

A bifurcated version.

 Douglas Fir braces in use.

Douglas Fir braces in use.

 Naturally curved Birch braces  in situ

Naturally curved Birch braces in situ

Wood texture

There are differing ways that wood is finished or left unfinished. Often, there will be more than one type within a home.

Rough Sawn: Rough sawn describes how the log comes off of the sawmill, either circular sawn or band sawn. Rough sawn wood blends well with our Western Mountain Vernacular — in other words, it tends to meld with what people find appealing about the tradition and culture of the Northwest.

Hewn: Hewing is the craft of squaring up a log with an axe, in this case a felling axe and finally the broad axe. Hewing can be done from the whole, round log, or veneer hewn from an already-sawn timber. Hewn timbers have an ancient look and add movement to the frame.

Hand Planed: Hand planing brings out the grain and natural beauty of the wood, creating the most refined surface possible. 

Working with green wood

As a craft tradition, Timber Framing has utilized green wood — in this case, meaning freshly-cut or still living — since its inception. Throughout the ages, carpenters refined a system of joinery to work with live wood. Joinery, as the name suggests, is a method of bringing and holding timbers together.

Using various species of green wood keeps our local economy vibrant by supporting smaller scale sawyers, and all others who make their living from our forests. Millions of Timber Frame structures from the twelfth century onward have been joined in green wood and are still in active use today.

Being joined in green wood means these timbers go through transformations as they dry. Drawpinning, or drawboring, keeps everything in place. This is the process in which the craftsman drills holes in the timbers and sets pegs in them, offsetting one peg, called the tenon peg, from another peg, called the mortice peg. This allows the peg to draw the joint tight and hold it tight throughout the drying process.

As you can imagine, these little pegs need to be strong, so we make them by hand to ensure that they are. Using a club, froe and shaving horse, we rive pegs from billets. Riving or splitting keeps the long grain of the peg intact, affording it the most strength.