The team at OakBridge Timber Framing has been timber framers their whole lives – it’s quite literally a part of their culture. The Howard, OH company is a family-run Amish business – they all grew up raising frames, and have a focused passion for what they do that creates unrivaled quality.
“We treat each home we build as if it were going to be our own,” says Johnny Miller, owner of OakBridge Timber Framing. “To us, timber framing is an art – it’s not about how quickly you get it done, it’s about how well you get it done.”
OakBridge has become well known for their craftsmanship and attention to detail to which Johnny refers. They’ve built homes across the US, small and large, and never forget the end result. “To know that the structures we build with our own hands are the places that people call home – where they raise their families and visit with loved ones – it’s one of the best feelings.”
Miller offers the following techniques and tips drawn from their business:
As we all know, wood is a mystery – there is always something to learn. Here at OakBridge Timber Faming, we have been doing timber frame homes for 26 years. My father is 74, and a master craftsman, and he, and the rest of us, are all still learning new things about wood.
The third and newest generation of OakBridge Timber Framing is working side by side with the experienced craftsmen. It’s all family here at OakBridge, though we always welcome our clients to participate.
A number of our clients do woodworking as a hobby. So we encourage them to come to our woodshop as we’re crafting their dream home, and get involved for a day, a few days, even a week.
Selecting the right pieces of timber is crucial for any project! For example, when you’re looking for the right piece to do a nice acorn carving (or similar), it’s important to look for a few things.
If the big timber is fresh out of the woods, it still has some moisture. So what we try to do is get a piece with more knots. The more knots, the better, since knots will stop a check. If the end that we’re carving the acorn on has several knots, that’s great.
Another thing we look for is multiple, minor checks. If there are 2, 3, or 4, we know it will never change much.
While some of our clients prefer to just observe, we’ve mentored others to carve one of their own acorns or chisel a mortise.
There are so many minor but important techniques that are available, if you just take the time and interest to use them.
One technique we use is the “draw bore” - the mortise and tenon joint is fastened with a wooden pin. We offset the pin hold in the mortise and the pin hole in the tenon about 1/8 of an inch.
When the two pieces are completely tight together, the two holes are still slightly offset. Driving a strong hickory pin through the hole has tremendous pulling power. Also, when the pieces do some shrinking, it actually keeps pulling together. This technique is a must for tight fitting joints.
Another great technique we use at OakBridge Timber Framing is cutting the shoulder for the mortise 90.5 degrees instead of 90 degrees from the face. This compensates for the slight rounding of the timber as it ages.
The rounding is caused by drying at the surface before the center of the timber. As the timber gets a little smaller, so do the pin holes. To avoid hairline checks at the pin holes, we use 25mm pins instead of 1”.
If the timber has a slight bow, releasing the fibers on the opposite side of the bow will straighten that timber. Sometimes it can be done by cutting a pocket of housing on that side.
So, if you have a timber with a bow, avoid cutting pockets or housings on that side if possible. Also, keep in mind a timber shrinks in width, but next to nothing in length. So the slight decrease in size has a minimal effect compared to a horizontal log structure.
Wood is so interesting and exciting! The more we learn, the more we know that there is so much more to learn
Johnny Miller and Levi Hostetler began OakBridge out of their experience as Amish youth, raising barns and buildings as the Amish and Mennonite people have done for generations. Hard work, a penchant for detail, and a commitment to the craft of timber framing has stood them well in every frame planned and erected.
Just like their ancestors, skilled joiners carefully handcraft each timber with hand tools, enabling exactness of cuts and precision in the joinery. The finished product is truly a work of art. As the company’s motto states, "Where quality is first, quality lasts."
OakBridge Timber frames are constructed of the highest quality timbers, whether you choose northern oak, douglas fir, or pine, high quality standards are met. Our entire building process is extremely energy efficient and non-toxic to the environment.