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Round Timber Joinery

David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
I'm about to start gathering trees to build myself a tiny house on some bedrock. Winters are long and cold here so I want to have something well insulated. Where I live I have more wood than soil and no place to grow straw. So I'm going to gather some trees, build a round timber post and beam frame and fill the walls with cord wood. It's very exciting, eh?

I want to use round timber because I do not want to square my timbers, I hear that round wood is stronger than same sized square and I don't want to pay somebody else to mill wood for me (burn fuel bringing it, etc). By happy coincidence, there are a few very tall white pines standing in or near my building site. Since I don't have a tractor or anything I have to move whatever I gather to the building site, "right there already" is nice.

So, my question is: does anyone know of a good source for information about Round Timber Joinery? Simple is best, the whole place will be 24'x18' so I am guessing that will be four bents spaced 8' apart. Also, I am guessing that I'll want to let White Pine dry for a year before I chisel the joints. Is that right? Or is it best to let them shrink when they are together?

Thanks.


much of what my neighbours consider to be good I consider to be bad
Allan Laal


Joined: Oct 02, 2011
Posts: 31
Location: Estonia
sadly I do not know any free resources about this topic, but check out Ben Laws book and DVD "Roundwood timber framing"


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Country: Estonia (Northern Temperate. affected by Baltic Sea)
Snowy, cold winters w 6 hours of daylight and 18 hours of utter darkness in january.
Wet, windy, sunny summers w 18 hours of daylight and 6 hours of twilight in july.

January avg -18 ºC, (-0.4 ºF), min -34.6 ºC (-30.28 ºF) -> 44mm/1.7" snow
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Yearly: 646mm/25.4"
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Allan Laal wrote:sadly I do not know any free resources about this topic, but check out Ben Laws book and DVD "Roundwood timber framing"


Thanks, I will. It makes me a little sad too. I'm going to meet the man who has been building roads and lanes for people in my area for the last half century or so. When he visits I'm going to ask him if he knows any people around there (hopefully old people with time on their hands) who can shout instructions at me while I learn. That would be the best way
Kate Nudd


Joined: Dec 09, 2010
Posts: 108
David,Hi
All the best with your building.
At www.livinginthefuture.org in episode 29 about 3.5 minutes into it is a well-pictured example of some roundwood joinery.
Kate
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Kate Nudd wrote:David,Hi
All the best with your building.
At www.livinginthefuture.org in episode 29 about 3.5 minutes into it is a well-pictured example of some roundwood joinery.
Kate


Thanks Kate. I see that she's built herself a round shaped building with round posts. The cross pieces rest on the top of perfectly round logs but are flattened on two sides to form a lap joint. That's pretty cool and looks easy to do. I like the piece of rebar that pegs into the top of each joint, the fact that none of the logs are massive and that there is no raising of heavy bents required.
Miles Flansburg
steward

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 2507
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
    
  68
David, how about a hogan. Then you do not need joinery. Well maybe some log cabin type cuts.
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Wyomiles McCoy wrote:David, how about a hogan. Then you do not need joinery. Well maybe some log cabin type cuts.


A hogan would be a good choice except for the building inspector. I need simpler math for the engineers... fewer different joints.
Mike Dayton


Joined: Dec 15, 2010
Posts: 149
Location: sw pa zone 5
When the Amish raise a Barn around here they use green timbers for everything and let it dry in place. The only thing that they want dry are the wooden pegs used to pin the timbers together. The main beams then dry around the pegs, but the pegs do not change size. If you use metal pegs that is not an issue. A barn has alot of weight in it after the hay is in, so maybe that helps the green wood dry in place and not warp or twist, I don't know that for sure. But your house would have you and your stuff in it to help keep things in line. Good Luck with the project. If you are trying to dry logs you should know that they dry slowly, about an inch per year. So am 8 inch log takes about 4 years to dry fully [ an inch in on all sides toward the middle each year ] That maybe the reason the Amish use green timbers, they do not stock pile lumber for years. If you are using a basic post and beam construction a drop pin through the beam extenting down into the center of the post will hold things together. You can add a round shaped metal strip over the top of the round beam and bolt it to the post for more support. This site would not let me use the letterU in this post, because the computer thought it was poor english, I did not use a space between the letter so that it would approve its use. Not as pretty as some joints but cost effective and sturdy. There is a fellow here on this site that uses metal from old oil tanks that he gets for free to make these strips. I think his name is Dale Hodge, of something like that. He has several posts about using metal strips to fasten wooden beams and how he cuts them from old oil tanks. The tanks are free and the metal is fairly thick. He drains the old oil out and uses it in an oil furnace. .


Never doubt that a small group of dedicated people can change the world,  Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. Formerly pa_friendly_guy_here
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Mike Dayton wrote:When the Amish raise a Barn...


Thank-you.
Tim Crowhurst


Joined: Jun 18, 2012
Posts: 45
Location: Bedford, England: zone 8/AHS 2
    
    1
The cordwood will need to be dry before you build, as otherwise you'll get cracks in the wall as it shrinks. It should dry more quickly if you cut it to length when it's first harvested.

If you don't want to wait, one option may be to build, then a few years later add a "jacket" - fasten 2" deep battens vertically around the outside of the wall, then nail in wooden laths and cover in lime-plaster or daub. Once that's done, pump in some cellulose insulation or perlite. The cordwood wall will now be protected from drafts, and the insulation will make it act as thermal mass, improving your home's energy efficiency.
Kate Nudd


Joined: Dec 09, 2010
Posts: 108
David,Hi
Hope your log gathering and timber framing is going well.
Will you use the traditional cordwood mortar or cob? What are your design ideas?
I,too, liked what the Lammas woman did with her joins and yes it appeared easier than I thought.
I would like to incorporate this when I am at the building stage.
For now, I am building a tiny trailer house and checking out intentional communities to find one to join.
I look forward to the day I can construct a small, truly natural home.
All the best with your build.
Kate
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Kate Nudd wrote:Hope your log gathering and timber framing is going well.
Will you use the traditional cordwood mortar or cob? What are your design ideas?


Hi Kate,

I have picked the trees and am waiting for the winter time to cut them down, building will start in the Spring, traditional mortar. Even though the drought is nasty the trees are still pretty heavy. I am planing to use Oak for the cordwood.

I hope you find a community you like, I've sometimes thought of starting one but I figure I should get my land productive first.

- David.
Kate Nudd


Joined: Dec 09, 2010
Posts: 108
Hi David,
What is your planned size and shape of your home? What is the land like in your area? I've not been further east than Oshawa.
I am interested in your choice of oak instead of the usually used softwoods for cordwood.
I had an opportunity a few years ago to help build on a cordwood home north of Winnipeg. It was an enjoyable process. I came away wanting to work with a more natural mortar though and that is what lead me to learn more about cob.
Have you heard of the Mudgirls in BC? They build with cob and cordwood with cob. Wonderful buildings.
Kate
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Hello Kate,

I checked out the Mud Girls, fascinating

Our site is on bedrock which still has some soil over top of it. So the shape of the house depends on what we find when we finish digging down to the rock. The size is easy, as small as the Township let's us build and still get an occupancy permit. The land is rounded granite, orange and grey with meadows and bog between ridges. Canadian Shield

I have read that Oak is good for cordwood provided you don't let it get too dry, so six weeks.

I wish that I had as much experience as you working with this type of construction... it would be fun to work on somebody else's project but I guess I should get ours underway, winter is around the corner.

- David.
p.s. I am about to head back into the woods so won't have internet for a week or so.
daniel mielke


Joined: Aug 13, 2012
Posts: 7
Location: South Central Minnesota, Finally Zone 4
Hey David, I've been to a couple of cordwood workshops in the past few years and to the Continental Cordwood Conference in Merrill, Wisconsin in 2005. At the conference one of the guru's of cordwood construction Rob Roy had told a tale of woe. He related that at one of his early training workshop attempts at building a cordwood structure was with oak. At the first good rain the exterior log ends of the walled structure absorbed the moisture and the wood expanded, breaking apart the wall.

At the conference another guy named Jack Henstridge echoed that story as well. Jack had been one of the modern day builder's who got a lot of people interested in cordwood construction in the late 60's and 70's. He related that in the old days of rock quarrying that holes would be drilled into a surface by the front section, then oak logs inserted. Water would then be poured onto the ends making the logs expand and breaking the slab of stone off the front face of the quarry. He said hardwoods are a very poor choice for cordwood type of construction.

If you had planned on covering the outside somehow to seal off the moisture it might be possible. But you would forever have to be vigilant about any moisture seeping in somewhere and causing your walls to break apart. Go the the web site daycreek.com and onto "all things cordwood". This has all the info you need to do this right from the start.

The woods they highly recommend are soft woods like aspen, cottonwood, white or red cedars, norway pine, tamarack... I'm personally working with cottonwood. One of the instructors, Cliff Shockley used old utility poles that the electric company discarded, that he would cut down to size to do a double stackwall type of construction. His book is also listed on the literature page. On a side note, in the conferences that have been held there are reference lists of how to approach your county or province building committee with the type of construction you plan to do. That can be helpful too.

If this is the only abundant type of wood you have, consider it for heating purposes thru the long term. My suggestion would be to look at the daycreek web site and get better educated before going into something that might cause a lot more heart aches somewhere down the line. Hope this helps. Best regards...

Miles Flansburg
steward

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 2507
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
    
  68
daniel, I have lots of aspen. About one quarter of my forest is standing dead wood so it is already very dry. Would I still have to watch for shrinking or water with this wood?
daniel mielke


Joined: Aug 13, 2012
Posts: 7
Location: South Central Minnesota, Finally Zone 4
From what I gathered at this conference in 2005 and from the training sessions is that the aspen you have would work fine. Use the dry stuff. Using wet soft woods and locking it into a wall system will probably cause to wood to rot from inside to outside. Most pictures I have seen of cordwood structures have a field stone type of facade for the first three or four feet from the ground up. But still being cordwood beneath that facade. Having that in place will keep the moisture from rain coming off your roof ( if no rain gutters ) off of the lower reaches of your wall and the close proximity of the moist ground. Dry ends of soft woods tend to not wick moisture into the log ends. And after a rain will not expand as a hardwood will. Check out the site I have mentioned previously. I contacted Richard Flatau who is listed on that site by e-mail and he replied thanking me for a mention on permies.com. It really is a very insightful web site if your interested in building with cordwood. Good luck, Dan.
Miles Flansburg
steward

Joined: Feb 03, 2011
Posts: 2507
Location: Zones 2-4 Wyoming and 4-5 Colorado
    
  68
Thanks !
Matt River


Joined: Jun 30, 2012
Posts: 36
A very simple, code friendly way to build with round timbers is lag bolts. They are available in pretty much any size and serve to reassure enforcement officials. Pre-drill and use a large corded impact driver, very simple and strong. I like to use a big fender washer then one or two standards after that.

Also, a good technique to align the flats and notches in the same plane is winding sticks. This is a set of two or preferably three boards. perfectly straight and matched and often painted in black and white for contrast. By laying the three to four foot boards across the joints in your timber, you can easily sight the ends of the boards to visually determine if things are planar. Also works as a method to take the twist out of square timbers, or to at least make sure that the joinery itself is aligned correctly.
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Thanks for this help... as you may see I have not replied to this thread for about half a year now... that's because I moved out into the middle of nowhere and it has taken me this long to get the electricity and Internet established.

Right before I did leave I read the "Cottonwood" advice and now I see "Aspen". I am just North of Lake Ontario, at the Eastern end so we don't see any Cottonwood and the few things that I call "Aspen" only grow to about four inches in diameter. We do have "Poplar" which I would think of as an "inside" wood because it rots quickly when it is wet. There is also White Pine, Cedar and (as I mentioned) I have hardwood coming out of my ears.

To start I think I will be collecting and debarking White Pine trees for the structural parts of our building (with lag bolts, thanks for that). It would be handy to use those for the cordwood infill but it sounds like I may have to switch... hmmm.

Just an aside, we got here and needed quick shelter for the winter. I build a 2x4 frame and plywood leanto against the side of our existing, small, locally milled frame shack. Don't tell the building inspector but the foundation is four cedar posts with two cedar rails bolted to run across the top of them. The posts sit on a big slab of bedrock, and are all different lengths so that the rails are level... the rails are notched into the top of the posts and a 1/2" bolt goes through.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
Hi David,

I was just wondering how much land you're on, and where. Also, I was wondering if you are at all affected by conservation in your area. Are you allowed to cut pine? I know there are some places in Ontario where you cannot, for conservation reasons. I hear the fines are extravagant.

Also, keep in mind the rot and fungus resistance of cedar, and anything else that does poorly in hugelkultur because it won't rot; I don't know cordwood building at all, but unless there are specific reasons why cedar is unsuitable, I would strongly consider it.

Do you have a glut of these trees? I hope that you are taking trees out with a mind to what you are going to put in the sunny spots left in their absence.

Good Luck,

-CK
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Chris Kott wrote:I was just wondering how much land you're on, and where. Also, I was wondering if you are at all affected by conservation in your area. Are you allowed to cut pine? I know there are some places in Ontario where you cannot, for conservation reasons. I hear the fines are extravagant.

Also, keep in mind the rot and fungus resistance of cedar, and anything else that does poorly in hugelkultur because it won't rot; I don't know cordwood building at all, but unless there are specific reasons why cedar is unsuitable, I would strongly consider it.

Do you have a glut of these trees? I hope that you are taking trees out with a mind to what you are going to put in the sunny spots left in their absence.

Good Luck,

-CK


Chris,

We live on thirty acres and there are no tree conservation rules in our area. If there were I would not trust the folks with the one or two year community college certificates to decide for me anyway... the conservation people around here care about "Wetlands". They are Duck hunters.

Earlier in this thread I was warned against softwood like Cedar. I should scroll up and see why... probably because it expands and shrinks too much with moisture.

Here is an interesting tidbit: I have TONS of Hemlock here. It is supposed to be rot resistant. I've put pieces of it here and there and find that it rots quickly (compared to cedar) I thought it was supposed to be great for damp places. Then an old builder pointed out that it is good *under water*. If it dries out, gets wet and repeats then it rots. Maybe I need to build a Beaver lodge for us instead of a house?

- David.

- David.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
daniel mielke wrote:The woods they highly recommend are soft woods like aspen, cottonwood, white or red cedars, norway pine, tamarack...


As I said, I have no direct experience of building with it, but if the guys teaching it say to use it, I would.

From what I gather, in humid continental climates like ours, any wood will expand and contract with changes in moisture if you don't seal the outside cut faces. This takes away the outside appeal of stackwood/cordwood (I don't know the difference in terminology, is there one?), but having your walls swell up and then contract, and having your wall fall apart would appeal less.

Do read the posts properly. Another one that you might have missed is the oak horror story, same deal, but talking about the species you indicated you thought was preferable.

Exaggerating the overhang of your roof won't help if the issue with moisture is caused by moist air, meaning that you will have to seal the outside.

I would love to get an answer to this, as it is a building option open to me as well (lots of trees, not so much straw production, and I wouldn't support destructive conventional agriculture that way if I was paid), and I won't care if I need a more weather-resistant outer envelope.

Also, I don't suppose you have the consistency of size required for log structures? That is a technique still in use (the practical rough construction for outbuildings, not the decorative boutique shit) north of you in the Madawaska Valley.

Good luck, David. Please let us know how it goes.

-CK
Richard Cobbs


Joined: May 18, 2012
Posts: 11
Location: Yalaguina, Nicaragua
Hi, You mentioned locally milled wood. Why not build a log frame covered with board and battens. I have built several structures with B&B and like the looks, speed of construction, and durability (get foundation high enough so bottom of boards don't get wet). I get boards (1x8 and 1x10) planed one side (install rough side out) and battens approximately 1 1/2" by 1/2'.
I am starting to build in Nicaragua and looking at different techniques. One thing that I am trying to get is dog toothed timber washers. They are code approved in the UK, but no supplier will sell and send them to me in Nicaragua. Are they available in Ontario?
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Richard Cobbs wrote:Hi, You mentioned locally milled wood. Why not build a log frame covered with board and battens. I have built several structures with B&B and like the looks, speed of construction, and durability (get foundation high enough so bottom of boards don't get wet). I get boards (1x8 and 1x10) planed one side (install rough side out) and battens approximately 1 1/2" by 1/2'.
I am starting to build in Nicaragua and looking at different techniques. One thing that I am trying to get is dog toothed timber washers. They are code approved in the UK, but no supplier will sell and send them to me in Nicaragua. Are they available in Ontario?


I have one board and batten building here, we built it a few years ago, I don't know if it meets code. Actually we call it board and baton here because we assume the French people in Quebec started it and "batten" is a mis-announciation of the French word.

The trouble with board and batten is that the temperature gets to -30 or -40 degrees, so when you build it you need to plan insulation. The cordwood construction will provide an insullated wall.
Chris Kott


Joined: Jan 25, 2012
Posts: 796
Location: Toronto, Ontario
    
    9
I like stackwood/cordwood building, or the aesthetic, anyway. It doesn't make practical sense, to my mind, to adulterate a cob structure with piles of wooden moisture wicks. Oh I know the downsides can be minimized with use of appropriate wood (not one that swells/contracts too much with moisture), but it sounds like too much trouble to be worthwhile, and the wood would be worth more buried in my hugelbeets.

I like roundwood joinery, though. And the whole planing only the edges you require to be flat. In any multiple storey structure I build, roundwood and limited planing will provide me with lumber for interior walls, flooring, and interior structure.

-CK
Jay C. White Cloud
volunteer

Joined: Nov 05, 2012
Posts: 1639
Location: Thetford, Vermont
    
  91
Hi David,

I am not sure if you are checking this post thread you started, but if you are still looking for advice, please let us know? I specialize in vernacular folk and indigenous architecture. Your project sounds interesting, and I have enjoyed reading the post thread. Some highlights that I can share at this point.

Hemlock or cedar would work for "stack wood" architecture, means, and methods are the contributing factor to any potential issues you may have. Stack wood has been around for some time, and in several cultures, predominantly Eastern Europe, but the concept is applied in others. Originally it was always parged especially on the inside of the structure with either cobb and/or lime renders.

The traditional home of the Diné people (hogan) would work as well as any other "heavy mass cobb and timber" structure. When built well they will also meet code, as they are often being built today with either a "corbel roof" or "reciprocal roof" system.

I would need more details of your building site and local topography to give any advice on foundations and wall, roof design. You do have the extra challenge of doing this manually. Will you be using any rigging to give yourself mechanical advantage?

What tool experience-construction experience do you have?

Best of luck,

jay

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Remember..."Often for the "self builder," fast building is money spent foolishly, and time taken to build puts money in the bank..."

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David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Hi Jay,

Thank-you for that good information.

Yes I am still following this thread. Here I am (about "n" years later) sitting beside my building site. I just cleared three or four trees from where I *think* two large pieces of bedrock slope together to make a good cliff underground. The man with the backhoe will be along in a week or so.

That is good news that Hemlock will work, I also have plenty of Eastern White Pine. There is a monster log lying in the building area... I guess that I'll take the bark off and split it into cordwood to use because it is too large for my planned, tiny house to use for beams or posts. "That's a ten foot long wall but the posts are eighteen inches in diameter, so keep you arms by your sides".

I'll post some pictures of the hole when it is here...

- David.
Jay C. White Cloud
volunteer

Joined: Nov 05, 2012
Posts: 1639
Location: Thetford, Vermont
    
  91
The great news that you're moving forward David!

Feel free to contact me offline should you ever choose.

I am curious about your detailed plans?

Have you ever considered timber framing, with your stack wood infill?

You have a backhoe coming so that means you do use modern tools. What other tooling will you use?

Look forward to your progress reports.

jay
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Thank-you Jay,

I do use modern tools: Back Hoe and Chain Saw.

Also, the main plan at this point is to build round timber with infill of cordwood. There may be a Yurt sitting on top of that, off to one side. My other tools are chisels, axes, draw knives and mallets. I have a froe too but it doesn't like me much. I do not use electricity.

Oddly, I had a bit of a problem deciding what to call a modern tool here because when I am working I usually think about how much more *involved* I would be if I was using hardened wood and stone.

One thing that I keep coming back to is using Cobb instead of mortar for the cordwood. I have time, would prefer not to buy a truck load of sand and cement and the soil that I am going to remove from the rocks will be... right here.

- David.
Jay C. White Cloud
volunteer

Joined: Nov 05, 2012
Posts: 1639
Location: Thetford, Vermont
    
  91
Hey David,

PLEASE USE COBB!!! This is something that Roy and I have discussed on several occasions. I like Roy a lot and love his passion, so don't think I do not respect him, but I am much more of a traditional builder. Portland and modern cements have NO place on my work sites if they can be avoided at all. As I said earlier, "stack wood," is normal mortared with cobb and then plastered with cobb and/or lime renders. These methods have been around for thousands of years and we are quickly learning that "modern" concrete is not all it is cracked up to be...cracked being the key word.

Even if you work in the round, you can still use traditional timber framing joinery methods. Your layout will need to be as it is done in Asia with "line rule" as your method for determining joint locations, then using templates, story poles and the like to achieve uniformity.

Do you have a drawn plan for the structure?

Regards,

jay
David Bates


Joined: Dec 05, 2011
Posts: 79
Location: Mountain Grove, Ontario, Canada
Jay,

I'll put Cobb at the top of my list then.

I don't have drawings yet because I don't know the shape of the rocks I will be building from. The site is Canadian Shield granite with a dump truck or two of the soil and glacial fun that has been left in a crevice. When the crevice is dug out them I'll see the shape. Low Cobb cordwood and boulders for the cold lower parts, roundwood timbers to make space beside that with infill of cordwood and probably a bathroom sized yurt on a platform above. Something like that.

- David.
Jay C. White Cloud
volunteer

Joined: Nov 05, 2012
Posts: 1639
Location: Thetford, Vermont
    
  91
Hey David,

I look forward to pictures. I love building directly off ledge or natural rock, be warned that for your area some of the stone can generate large amounts of Radon, (some deposits are as strong as getting an xray 3 times a day-everyday, so you may have to test for Radon.)

jay
 
 
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