Thoughtful - Personal - Hand-made - Lasting

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Dan and I believe in the movement of things. We don’t keep things around the house that we no longer use or like. Once something starts gathering dust, it’s off to the curb to become a lucky find for some passerby. We live on a busy street where absolutely anything that we put on the curb will find a new home within a few hours. Sometimes we get to meet the person who stops, help them load the object into their vehicle, and hear an interesting story about their lives and the circumstances that made this particular thing a welcome, serendipitous discovery.

It also offers a chance to teach our son how to let go of stuff, and not to let it become something overly valued in his life. We tell him, “Now that you are too big for this tricycle, we can give it to another baby to enjoy.” He seems to have internalized this lesson, especially after the day that we made a serendipitous find of our own. Driving home from school one day, Danny spotted a toy lawnmower conspicuously placed at the curb. “I wish I could have one of those someday,” he said wistfully. “You can have that one,” I told him. We turned around to go get it, and I could see the understanding dawning on his face as to why we put things on the curb. Because someone else who needs or will enjoy it is free to take it. That lawnmower is now one of his favorite toys.

But there is one, and only one, piece of furniture in our home that I can’t imagine ever kicking to the curb.

Many years ago, a dusty aluminum wine rack with a fake wood top caught Dan’s eye in a second-hand store. He brought it home, spray-painted it black to look like iron, and replaced the top with a natural edge slab of walnut. He presented it to me on my birthday, which is in November, and vowed to fill it with wine as a Christmas present.

These days it is rarely filled with wine, and even rarely has a single wine bottle at all (we tend to drink wine as soon as be buy it). But even so, to me, it’s a thing of exceptional beauty. Maybe it’s the contrast between the cold, matte “iron” and the warm, glowy walnut. Maybe it’s the entertainment value of watching the cat try to climb through the empty wine-holder rings like a jungle gym. Maybe it’s the way the few pretty treasures I display on top are often joined by Danny’s small toys in an eclectic still-life.

Probably it’s because it was the very best kind of gift … thoughtful, personal, hand-made, lasting.

Dan and I tell each other that if we ever move from this 100-year-old American four-square to a timber frame home of our own, that wine rack may be the only piece of furniture we’ll take with us.

Frames of Heart

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“It seems the happiest humans sprinkled throughout mankind’s history were those who found balance between head and heart, between intellect and emotion .… Yes, pay attention to frames of mind .… But pay equal attention to frames of heart ….”
(The First Year of Homeschooling Your Child, by Linda Dobson)

Standing inside a timber frame structure is like standing in a forest. Light plays off the broad surfaces of wood. There is a fresh, warm smell. A dignified silence. A regal span of vertical space. And a sense that the trees are still alive and growing, sheltering, protecting.

I first experienced this about 14 years ago, when Dan worked on his first timber frame; a residence built within the lovely Cuyahoga River Valley here in Northeastern Ohio. He served as sawyer for that project, custom-cutting beams onsite using the customers’ own trees. The house also included many “green” elements, including what at the time was the largest residential solar panel array in the state. We were both captivated by what we saw and learned.

More so than other building techniques, timber frames have the potential to reflect the individuality and values of their occupants. The owners of the Cuyahoga River Valley house love nature; they admire artisan-level craftsmanship; they invest deeply in their personal relationships; and they possess a sense of responsibility to future generations. All of this is reflected in their choice of timber framing as a construction method for their home.

Artisan skill is needed to mill beams for optimal strength and beauty, and to handcraft joints that come together with stunning precision.  Respect for natural resources and a sense of duty to the future is inherent in the choice to responsibly harvest trees and to build using a method that takes a little longer, but pays dividends of endurance.

A proportionate balance of head and heart.

The goal of this blog is to address both within an exploration of the craft of timber framing. We want timber framing to be more widely known, loved, and utilized, as we believe it deserves. Join us on this journey!