Virginia Military Institute Timber Frame FTX 2016


It is springtime in Lexington, Virginia. That means chilly mornings and sunburns by evening, green grass and blooming bushes and of course the smell of fresh cut wood and the sounds of timber framing at the Mullen compound.

This April I returned to Rockbridge county for my third time instructing at this great event that brings together beginner and expert timber framers to build a structure for the community. All the while enjoying the community that has grown around this 20 year tradition.

Whetting bush timber frame raising tradition

Whetting bush on the cottage frame


This year’s edition of the Timber Framing Field Training Exercise for VMI cadets had plans to build two frames at the same time and using all hand tools.

Post and sill layout timber frame

Layout begins Saturday morning

timber frame boring machine

First mortises are drilled

VMI Timber framing FTX 2016

Timbers are spread out on horses all the way to the blacksmith tent

VMI Timber framing FTX 2016 foot adze

Foot adzes trim the joist ends in their pockets

Half dovetail lap joint VMI Timber framing FTX 2016

An oak tie beam half dovetails into the cherry cruck blade.

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Braces that connect from post to sill allow for easy low tech raising of all four posts on to the floor system.

A-frame to raise timber framed plate

An A frame and pulleys are used to raise the plates onto the waiting gunstock posts.

live edge cherry down braces

Plates raised. Waiting on the cruck.

Live edge brace

A red oak live edge ridge brace in process.

hand raising tie beam timber frame

Preparing a tie beam for raising with an A-frame.

hand raising tie beam timber frame VMI 2016

Tying proper knots

oak timber frame raising fork lift

Meanwhile, in the back of the compound, the 14’by14′ square pavilion gets raised.

Oak timber frame raising fork lift

The two walls are joined.

Oak timber frame raising

Ridge and rafters fit beautifully

Cruck frame hand raising

The cruck has been assembled and is ready for raising.

Cruck timber frame

The cruck raised and tied off

Cruck frame interrupted tie beam live edge

Cruck blade to plate connection by an interrupted tie beam. Half dovetail connection.



The ridge brace scribed and test fitted.

Timber frame raising king post truss

The forklift uses a ‘unicorn’ attachment to raise the king post and upper chords of the truss

Timber frame hand raising VMI FTX 2016

The ridge ties the trusses and the cruck together.


Hand raising timber frame VMI FTX 2016

Rafters get handed up in the afternoon sun

Timber frame Cruck blade English Cottage

A somewhat different gable solution with short hips.

Timber frame Cruck blade English Cottage Timber frame Cruck blade English Cottage Timber frame Cruck blade English Cottage

       Freshly joined timbers in the afternoon light rank among the prettiest things to see in Virginia in the spring.

VMI FTX 2016 Timber Framing Cadets

VMI FTX 2016 Timber Framing Cadets

Thank you cadets, volunteers, fellow instructors and gracoius hard working hosts Cindy and Grigg Mullen.


The more sublte morning light shows off the cruck blades within the frame.


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