Timber Framers Gather to Construct Public Pavilion


Timber Frame 

Squinting against the bright September sky, project foreman Rick Collins surveyed the scene before him. Something extraordinary was about to happen in a small town in Michigan — a gathering of people from around the world to construct a timber frame pavilion. “I would go so far as to say that it’s probably been well over 100 years since anyone has built a structure this way,” Collins declared.

The 120-by-46-by-24-foot post-and-beam construction would take 70 timber framers and 29,000 board feet to build — plus about 3,500 recyclable paper plates. More specifically: carpenters and apprentices from 20 U.S. states, Canada, France, England and Poland; white ash, oak, black locust, poplar, and cherry donated from local landowners; and paper plates full of homemade food prepared by 330 members of the local community. All that after two years of dreaming, planning, and the fundraising necessary for the vision to be realized: a pavilion where the farmers market, summer festivals, and special events of Vicksburg, Mich., would have their home for the next few centuries.

Timber Framer 

The pace of progress over ten early fall days required vast quantities of leadership, skill, efficiency and people. According to Collins, who owns Trillium Dell Timberworks out of Knoxville, Ill., “You need about 5,000 man hours to do a project like this. Based on the crew we’ve pulled together, that means every person has to be productive for ten hours a day on this site.” Incredibly, that’s just what happened. “It’s not all been perfect, but I guess we don’t want to anger the gods,” said Kristina Powers Aubry, a host from the Vicksburg Historical Society. Co-host Bob Smith added good-naturedly, “Well, I’m more worried about angering the guys with the power tools.”

Made of Sturdy Stuff

This kind of work isn’t for the faint of heart. Every gritty, safety-goggled worker bent over a tool was putting his or her whole heart and soul into the endeavor. Richard Barnes, who owns a sawmill south of town, turned the logs to timbers, and then he joined dozens of volunteers from the Timber Framers Guild (TFG) and local community who put in long days on the construction. For many, it was their first timber framing experience. Some were getting a good dose of on-the-job training from TFG instructors. Others were the kind of woodworkers who just might be using some of their grandfather’s tools as well as an iPhone FingerCAD app. It’s that reverence for old world ways combined with new age technology that is the hallmark of timber framing today.

5/23/2016 12:51:02 PM

Its great when people work together, the men building the structure and the women making the food to feed everyone.

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