Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Introduction to Timber Framing


Introduction to Timber Framing

a five day class



What is timber framing? Unlike stick framing (also known as stud or dimensional framing) which relies on nails, screws and metal brackets to hold the building together, timber framing relies on joinery to connect the framing members. The joints are cut, fit together, then pinned with wooden pegs to hold them in place. 

This was the standard for most building before 1900. The oldest standing wooden buildings in the world are over 1,000 years old and were built using these methods. We teach this course because it aligns with the school’s vision of building for longevity and sustainability.  

When thinking of timber framing, it’s easy imagine huge heavy timbers. However, the exact same principles that are applied to building a large barn can be applied to a shed or small workshop. The techniques are versatile, encompassing wood that can be rough hewn or smooth finished. The wood from the trees that build the shelter influence the shelter.

The goal of this class is to give you a conceptual understanding of the design, history, and building process reinforced by the hands-on experience of creating a pair of timber horses. 

Class Description

  • Introduction to Timber Framing: A one-week class introducing you to skills, tools and concepts.  If you are new to hand tool joinery or new to timber framing, we recommend that you begin with this introductory week.
  • This is not an introduction to hand tool woodworking. You are expected to bring your own tools.
  • Students must have some experience with hand tool joinery; sharpening, as well as using saws and chisels to cut mortises and tenons. This work is physically demanding. Please feel free to contact us if you have questions about the tools required and your ability to meet the physical requirements.

Note: If you are taking this as a vocationally certified class, you must complete both modules (Introduction to Timber Framing and Build a Timber Frame) to receive your certificate of completion. If you are using your VA Benefits and are on the Vocational Track, you must attend all four weeks (both modules).

Introduction to Timber Framing: 5 days

Timber Horse, Built in Dale Brotherton's Class, Japanese Tools

Timber Horse, Built in Dale Brotherton's Class, Japanese Tools

New to hand tool joinery or new to timber framing? We recommend that you begin with this introductory week. You’ll learn: 

  • History of timber framing
  • Design concepts 
  • Sharpening and maintenance of the tools
  • Joinery layout and cutting 
  • Applications of mortise and tenon joinery for framing walls and roofs
  • Building a pair of timber horses

The timber horse is a traditional joiner apprentice’s project for learning and practicing the methods you will use in timber framing. You will practice the joints required for an actual timber frame structure. Plus, you’ll be building an essential tool, the timber horse.  These timber horses work well in the shop or on site and provide  a sturdy yet mobile base to do your layout as well as cut, and chop the joinery. 

Mortise and tenon joinery is the go-to joint for timber framing and other woodworking such as furniture making. This versatile joint has many variations and applications. You’ll practice cutting these joints by hand to better understand the design considerations for using them in timber framing. 

Like all classes at the school, what we teach is ultimately an application of a hybrid approach which is rooted in traditional craftsmanship, but adapted to use contemporary methods (read: tools) when it simplifies the process. We strive to teach you scalable and pragmatic methods without sacrificing quality. 


  • Site planning and preparation
  • Traditional tool selection and care
  • Materials choices
  • Design orientation
  • Planning for workflow and production schedule
  • Ornamental style choices
  • Finish choices/standards
  • Production of framing members
  • Precision layout
  • Cutting joinery
  • Smoothing and pre-finish
  • Raising the frame: assembly and installation


There are required tools for this class. We strongly encourage you to bring as many of the required tools as possible. We are happy to answer questions about sourcing tools.  SEE FULL TOOL LIST


Intro to Timber Framing: open to those with previous woodworking experience. If you are new to hand tool joinery or timber framing, we recommend you begin with this introduction. Experienced timber framers can also refine their skills, depending on the project.

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.
This class takes place in Building 304 at Fort Worden. Map
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Introduction to Timber Framing (5 days)
Class size: 10

Cost: $750
Materials Charge: $ 100


When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.