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The workshop process

The ‘intelligent oak frame’ takes an interesting journey through our workshops here at Oakwrights. Once a design has been given the go-ahead by the client and engineer, the green oak is ordered and arrives in our yard as rough sawn lengths of timber, ready to make its way through the workshops, eventually ending up as part of a unique timber framed home.

The joint shows a metal ‘podger’ acting as the oak peg that will be used for the build Photo credit: Oakwrights

The first step we take is to plane each piece of oak, using a 4-sided planer, giving it a smooth, attractive appearance – a look adding elegance to any building. During this process each beam is inspected for any excessive knots, shake, sapwood, or anything else that may cause concern to the structure. The oak is then taken to our high precision CNC machinery, where we have already input all the necessary information to cut each timber for that particular project, taken from our millimeter accurate design software, Dietrich’s, used by our frame and encapsulation designers.

Each timber is labelled & given a colour coded paint mark so they can be identified easily Photo credit: Oakwrights

The oak then gets taken to the framing workshop. Although the majority of the cutting and shaping is complete at this point, the more skilled and intricate details that allow the frame to fit together with ease are then completed by skilled craftsmen in our framing workshop. These tasks include any chamfers on purlins/ridges/chamber beams, putting curves on braces, any grooves used for our encapsulation system, ensuring peg holes are correctly offset, and plenty more. The structure is assembled flat, frame by frame, the framers ensuring every joint performs to the best of its ability, meaning that by the time the building goes to site, it can be assembled quickly and easily. An essential aspect of timber framing is the oak pegs used on each joint. The holes for these pegs are offset by 2mm, keeping the joint tight as the oak dries and moves, strengthening the structure. Each piece of timber is unique, even down to each individual brace, fitting perfectly to its allocated position, and nowhere else.

A craftsmen shaping a sling brace tenon by hand and some sling braces Photo credit: Oakwrights

Any larger unique timbers, such as a sling brace or an arch collar brace, will be completed entirely by handwork in the framing workshop. Arch collar braces, for example, consist of four braces averaging 500mm wide and 95mm thick, span from posts to collars and then across and over to parallel posts. These timbers are too big for our machine, and therefore we curve these and cut the tenons by hand in the workshop.

The braces are framed up and scribed if necessary for a perfect fit Photo credit: Oakwrights

Once the framers are happy with the finish, they will then create traditional carpenters marks on each piece of oak using a hammer and chisel. This will be a simple symbol, assigned to a single frame of the structure, followed by a number using roman numerals. This was historically used to identify each timber and make sure it was assembled correctly and is still found helpful by our site crews to this day.

Assembly line Photo credit: Oakwrights

The workshop process is then complete and the oak is loaded onto a lorry ready for assembly on site. This is done so that the oak that will be required first on site will be at the top of the load and easily accessible. The logic behind the framing sequence comes from where the crane will sit in relation to the building – as ideally we will begin the construction of the Lego-like timbers from the furthest point from the crane, meaning we don’t have to lift over any erected frames. We will start with the longest frames and all those parallel. The amount of work done in the framing workshop leads to a smooth erection on site.