A mentor


A note from Brad:

At Uncarved Block, we take continuing (continual?) education pretty seriously. We send employees to the Heartwood School and other workshops, we go to trade shows like JLC Live, and there's a good bit of on-the-job training. I've recently been evaluating that training, and it made me think about how I learned carpentry.

That's a long story (that I'm happy to share), but one of my primary mentors for the last 15 years has been Billy Dillon of South Mountain Company. Billy taught me traditional housed stringer stair construction and the German method of building eyebrow dormers, both at Heartwood.

He too, has been devoted to always learning more. We were both in workshops on French developed drawing techniques for crazy roofs (le traite), and then out in Seattle together for a rare opportunity to learn tangent handrailing (the 19th century technique of dealing with stair rails that curve and also twist in profile).

At Uncarved Block, we've built many housed-stringer stairs, cut a lot of crazy stick and timber roofs, and we're about to start our first eyebrow dormer (we'll certainly be posting pictures).

Billy recently retired from SMC, and the link below is a good testament to his work and the people that he has worked with and taught.

I know that if I've got some questions on our next tricky project, I'm sure to call Billy and he can point me in the right direction. I might call him anyways just to see what his latest adventure is...


Early December Morning

Berkshire Custom Kitchen 1

Working through the winter introduces all kinds of difficulties, but every once in a while, it’s not so bad shoveling snow.

This is a small vestibule and kitchen bump out for one of the nicest homes that I’ve ever been in. The house is not fancy, filled with expensive finishes, or terribly ‘high-design.’ It’s just a collection of amazing spaces. It’s a real privilege to work here.

Mountain Top Arboretum Education Center 4

Lots of scribing and cutting going on in the shop for the Mountain Top Arboretum project.  

Berkshire Log Cabin Remodel

A fairly drastic before and after of the same room.  We changed the whole building envelope, installed new timber trusses, a gut remodel, and a timber frame gable end with direct glazing.  

Connecticut Timber Frame Gambrel Barn 2

Progress on the barn in Litchfield County, CT.  There's a full timber frame floor system and basement, and the bents are ready for raising.  The aisle tie beams are 9x16 with large wedged through tenons.   

Mountain Top Arboretum Education Center 3

Custom sawing and scribing of some funky timbers.  

Connecticut Timber Frame Gambrel Barn 1

We've been working on a large timber frame gambrel barn, cut entirely in white oak timbers.  Design by Uncarved Block and engineering by Fire Tower.  We'll keep adding pictures, and it will be going up soon.  

Mountain Top Arboretum Education Center 2

Brad was out in the woods with the loggers, hand-selecting the trees.  They pulled out some amazing curved and forked logs.  We'll be custom sawing them next.  

Mountain Top Arboretum Education Center 1

We're very excited that Uncarved Block was awarded the timber framing contract for the new Mountain Top Arboretrum Education Center in the Catskills of NY.  Architecture is by Jack Sobon, and shows his characteristic funky curvy framing.  The whole frame will be scribed.  All 23 species present in the Arboretum will be used in this timber frame.  

A little cruck frame from many years ago

I designed this little cruck timber frame many years ago, as an exercise for the Heartwood School apprentices in scribing.  I literally pulled the cherry and pine logs out of the firewood pile.  Heartwood and UB raised the frame at several fairs and trade shows, and we always stood out from the crowd.

New hybrid timber frame/double stud wall home 6

Lots of outdoor work lately.  We've completed the deck and porch framing and finish.  We framed the deck with galvanized steel joists, which are strong, fast (they're pre-cut), straight, and won't warp like large section PT lumber.  The decking will be thermally modified ash from western Mass.  The porch and deck roof is painted tongue and groove 2x6 over native cherry rafters.  The hips over the deck are irregular (meaning that they are not 45 degrees in plan view), so the jack cuts are different on each side.  

New hybrid timber frame/double stud wall home 4

We had a preliminary blower door test at the house, before the insulation (dense-pack cellulose) was complete.  The blower door is a very direct measure of how air tight the house is.  We had a great preliminary number of 465 cfm or 0.58 ACH50 (air changes per hour at 50 pascals pressure difference).  That's pretty impressive with 48 windows in the house, and beats the incredibly stringent Passive House standard of 0.6ACH50.  

I also put some pictures in of the elliptical ceiling in the upstairs hall.  We made ribs of 12' MDF, and sheathed it in 1/4 plywood.  We very slowly bent 1/2" sheetrock to the radius (they don't make 1/4" that long).  The ellipse comes in tangent to the wall surface, so it blends in perfectly.

New hybrid timber frame/double stud wall 3

Lots of activity on the job.  Framing is complete.  The interior air barrier (Intello) and service cavity are complete.  The entire house is off of the electric grid, so we're running all of our tools off of PV.  Dense-pack cellulose in the 12" double stud walls and 18" cathedral ceilings is complete.  And windows and doors are in.  While the sheetrock is being done, we'll be outside starting the south porch and west deck.