Introduction: Hand Tools for Timber Framing

About: Here I will share videos form my YouTube channel as well as other projects from my shop and farm. Hope you enjoy and follow along.

The video speaks for itself. On this journey I have been on to learn timber framing I have found that good hand tools have their place in major projects and have become a lost art in this world of power tools. Over the last couple of generations of craftsmen the hand tools have started to go by the wayside. Believe it or not I have found many tasks in this timber framing project that the hand tools have been faster and easier to use where a power tool would have taken longer and the results would not have been as good.

Step 1: Layout Tools

Layout tools are the first tool that will be used in virtually all building projects. Think of it, you wouldn't cut a board without first measuring it and then drawing a square line. It is no different with timber framing. There are four basic layout tools that you should own if you plan to do a timber frame. Most of these are tools that most hobby woodworkers already have on hand.

1. The framing square is a tool that was originally designed at a time when timber framing was still king in the building industry, invented by a blacksmith in Vermont in 1819. A proper framing square will have many tables on the body of the square for many different building tasks. With a little research one can learn how to use each of them. The square is also set up for basic 2x2 or 1.5x1.5 mortise and tenon layout.

2. The combination square is a must have. If you use it for nothing else in the project than a tool to check mortise depths and the squareness of the mortises it will have been worth the small investment for a good one. This is one tool that you should buy name brand, this tools needs to be accurate.

3. A good tape measure goes without saying. An important thing about a tape measure is that once you start with a tape measure on a project like this you really need to take all measurements with the same tape measure throughout the project. This will ensure that your measurements are consistent. Consistency is vital to cutting a timber frame, how well your joinery fits will depend on how carefully the joints are cut, this all starts with good measurements.

4. An angle finder. You will occasionally run into some odd angles that you will need to be spot on for you joints to line up. An angle finder is perfect for such tasks.

Step 2: Hand Saws

There are two basic types of hand saws that I have found the most useful. A Japanese pull saw is a great option that can handle most of the cutting tasks where a hand saw is needed. With a little practice one can become very proficient in their use. The other hand saw is the standard saw that you can buy at most hardware stores and cuts on the push stroke. I like the latter for the length of the blade, although you can get them in many lengths.

Step 3: Framing Chisels

There are few tools that invoke the same feeling while using them as a good chisel that is sharp enough to shave with. Probably the most used tool in any timber frame if you're doing it traditionally is the framing chisel. The most common ones for timber framing seem to be a 1" corner chisel, a 1.5" firmer chisel, a 2" firmer chisel and a slick.

I have used my chisels on every joint in my barn build. Even where I use the chain mortiser to cut my mortises I always end up cleaning them out with a chisel. You can spend as much or as little as you want on chisels. If you have the patience and the time to wait around for estate or yard sales you can pick up old ones that can be restored and used without any issues. I chose to buy new as I did not have the time to try to find used ones.

Step 4: In Conclusion

Do not be afraid to pull out the hand tools for you projects. Learning how to use them and care for them properly is what makes a hobby woodworker into a craftsman. There is something special about the old ways of doing things that seems to give better results than many of the power tools that we see as time savers. People seem to forget that the joy of working with wood isn't always the end result but the process of creating.

I hope that you folks have found this useful. For more information on timber framing as well as many other trades skills you can also follow along on Youtube at the TheTradesmanChannel 2017.

Jim from TheTradesmanChannel 2017