- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2001

Surrounded by tourists and locals out on a beautiful weekend, a group of about 20 men slogged around the National Mall trying to lift a heavy beam to the top of the wooden frame of a carriage shed they were building.
But for these men, this wasn't work. So far as they — and several people gathered to watch them — were concerned, they were making art. Or rather, reviving it.
Timber framing, the home-building style they were demonstrating, is on a comeback course. Admirers say it is one of the most cost-effective methods of building because timber frame houses last hundreds of years and are extremely energy efficient.
The carriage shed being built yesterday was part of a demonstration for the Smithsonian Folklife Festival's "Masters of the Building Arts," which showcases a variety of building styles. The style and size of the 12-by-18-foot shed resemble a house from Ipswich, Mass., that is displayed at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History.
After the festival, the carriage shed — made of pine, oak and spruce — will be transported to a buyer in Eliot, Maine, who will live in it.
Rudy Christian, president of the Timber Framers Guild, which has 1,600 members around the country, travels all over "to educate the public on how timber framing is a great way to build."
The first homes in Plymouth were built using the timber-framing method. Some houses in England built in this style date back 800 years, said Mr. Christian, who owns his own timber-framing company.
But over the years, he said, timber framing had lost its popularity to more modern home-building methods. "Especially after independence, when we decided that we didn't want to do anything the English did," he said with a laugh.
But there has been a "tremendous resurgence" in timber framing in the past 30 years, he said.
Proponents say one of the most appealing aspects of timber framing is how beautiful a finished building looks. "The frames of modern homes are hidden inside the walls, but here the framework is exposed. It looks strong and secure," Mr. Christian said.
Artisans began work on the shed two weeks ago, when they started cutting and shaping the planks of wood in preparation for the actual raising of the building, which took about three hours yesterday. Though they used some modern tools to prep the wood, they did the final raising with mostly period tools, such as the beetle or the commander, a big hammer used to beat in the planks of wood; the slick, a large chisel; and wooden nails called trunnels.
Arron Sturgis of Preservation Timber Framing brought along a crew of five men from Burbank, Ohio, to help build the shed. "What is fascinating to see is how people worked in another time. Through timber framing, one can tell so much about our ancestors," he said, taking a break from the building.
Such homes, Mr. Sturgis said, could be a little more expensive than modern homes because they are labor-intensive to build. But the materials cost less, he said. "This is extremely economical, as compared to a standard, prefabricated house," he said.
Spectators camped around the cordoned-off area where the men worked, watching in fascination as the beams went up.
William Hydro, 52, a carpenter from Rockville, said this was the first time he had had a chance to see a timber-framed building go up. "It is very interesting — very different," he said. However, he added, it did not appear very practical because of the time involved. "It is more like a work of art," he said.
Jamie Balducci, 23, a resident of Seattle, said she hoped her father, a construction engineer, could have been around to watch.
"It is fascinating to see how it is done. To realize it is all wood and all hand-done," she said. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In fact, I wanna go help."

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