How is timber frame construction different from other methods of construction?

Timber framing is the ancient craft of building with large section timbers, connected with all wooden joinery. It was used extensively in medieval times all over Europe, and was brought to the new world with European settlers. It died out towards the middle of the 19th century, when balloon or stick framing was developed here in North America. Stick framing was brought about by a need to build houses more quickly, by less skilled hands, at a lower cost. By using dimensional lumber and nails, the need for complex three-dimensional joinery and large section timber was eliminated. Stick framing is not meant to be seen from the inside of the home.

Post & beam construction is often thought to be synonymous with timber framing. It isn’t. Post & beam is heavy timber construction without the use all wooden joinery. Instead, complex joints are avoided and metal fasteners are used to connect the timbers together.

Tom Musco, the founder and principle timber framer of Royalston Oak, began his professional woodworking career as a musical instrument apprentice to Peter S Kyvelos in Belmont, Massachusetts in 1973. Tom spent several years making and repairing a variety of Middle Eastern and Western stringed musical instruments. One of his dulcimers was featured in the first Fine Woodworking Design Book in 1976. Tom and his wife Judy moved to Royalston, Massachusetts in 1977 and began building timber frames, an interest he discovered in a beautiful timber-frame barn on his in-laws farm in Petersham, Massachusetts. His first frame was for his shop and his second frame was for his house. He made furniture and timber frames until 1980 when his shop was struck by lightening and burned to the ground along with all his tools and machinery. He built a new timber framed shop with the help of his neighbors and began timber framing full time. Tom was a founding member of the Timber Framers Guild. He has done workshops in NE ( Pembroke workshop at TFG ) and England. In 1989 Tom and his crew participated in the famous Concord Barn Raising episode of This Old House. He has built timber frames in New York State, the Hamptons, Tennessee, North Carolina, Alaska, and all the New England states except Rhode Island. Tom has crafted almost 200 timber frames since 1977. Tom is also an excellent cook with an interest in food of Sicily, where 3 of his 4 grandparents were born. He has written a series of articles on Sicilian food which you can read at the website of the Umass Journalism in Sicily Program.