Monday, 12 January 2015

Woodworking Book Review : Oak Framed Buildings by Rupert Newman

Oak-Framed Buildings

(Revised Edition (The Guild of Master Craftsmen Publications Ltd))

By Rupert Newman

If you like your woodworking on an epic scale then building your own house with a full oak frame must be the ultimate challenge. Those of us with more modest ambitions but an equal passion for understanding wood and the craft and culture that surround its use, simply marvel at the scale of these projects and the people who take them on.

Oak-Framed Buildings by Rupert Newman is a fascinating introduction to the craft and culture of this traditional, yet thoroughly modern form of construction. Writing from the UK where there is a growing popularity of “Eco homes” and self-build projects, there has been a real resurgence of interest in the art of framing, in particular using timbers such as green oak. If you are looking for a book that will give you an insight into the principles of the craft (concentrating on the English style and techniques) or are contemplating a timber frame project of your own then this is a great place to start.
 
For the general woodworking enthusiast there are some fascinating insights into the history and development of timber frames from early Iron Age roundhouses to the extravagant use of timber in the late middle ages, where showing off vast amounts of expensive timber and complex joints on your new property was a sign of social status. 
There is a wonderful section on the structural qualities of oak with the help of some simple to understand illustrations. Getting to grips with the properties of the material from the inside as it grows really helps make sense of later sections related to shrinkage, one of the key factors in ensuring long term structural integrity of the building.

If you are interested in the anatomy of an Oak Frame Building this book will not disappoint; there are plenty of annotated illustrations and beautiful photographic images that will help you identify your upper crux from your sling brace, your crown post from your hammer beam. Though this is not a step by step guide to make all the joints you might find, there are illustrations of the key sectional elements.

When it comes to tools the author describes the basic requirements, most of which would be familiar to the woodworker though in many cases the scale maybe somewhat bigger than your average workshop favourites. Concerning the workshop that’s required to construct these projects the basic rule is big, really big. If you are going to get into this, you are talking about making large sectional elements of a house.

If you are thinking about building your own home out of oak this book will give you a good start. From choosing a site to planning the layout or estimating the cost there are some really helpful tips. Probably more so than other construction forms a timber frame has to take account of how it will interact in the environment. The prevailing wind direction and the size of window openings will determine which elements need to be braced and by what method. With advice on how to clad your building, roofing, glazing and environmental impact this book will either convince you to go for it, or that your ambition is probably outrunning your ability and pocket book and you should get some help.

To sum it up this is a beautifully put together book about Oak Frames, with some great images throughout, where they come from and why they are so loved by the people who make them or are lucky enough to live in them. It’s a primer for anyone interested in making their own modern building with traditional techniques. It’s also a jolly good read if you just want to dream, or are looking for inspiration for an amazing scale model project that would actually fit in your workshop. This is one I will keep close and mull over with a mug of tea on a regular basis.



Oak-Framed Buildings by Rupert Newman is available from thegmcgroup.com  and other retailers online.  ISBN-978-1-86108-726-3