Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Timber Framing


Timber Framing

Module 1: Intro to Timber Framing (5 Days)
Module 2: Build a Timber Frame (3 Weeks)

Scholarships available


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, and 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 used 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 small timber framed building. 

Class Description

This program has two modules:

  • Introduction to Timber Framing: A one-week class introducing you to skills, tools and concepts. If you are new to timber framing joinery, we recommend that you begin with this introductory week.

  • Build a Timber Frame: A three-week timber frame build class.

You can chose to take the intro module, the build module, or both.  Please read the paragraph below, if you are interested in or are pursuing a Vocational Certificate.

Note: If you are taking this as a vocationally certified class, you must complete both modules 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

A pair of timber horses support a post and transom girt for dry fit

A pair of timber horses support a post and transom girt for dry fit

New to timber framing joinery? 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 our actual timber frame. 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. 

Build a Timber Frame: 3 Weeks

You’ll be part of a team joining a frame for a moderately sized structure (probably a small barn or workshop) yet is complex enough for you to fully understand the historic design and building processes. 

We're looking for a partner in the Port Townsend area who would want to sponsor a timber frame that we can build as a team. If you are interested in sponsoring a timber frame to be built in this course, please let us know.

The design (or at least the parameters of the design) may be fixed by the time the class starts, but we will walk you through the design and materials selection process.

Holistic Planning
The frame of a building cannot be considered in isolation. Joining and raising the frame is only one portion of the entire process. Anticipating the needs of subsequent steps is what separates the novice builder from the expert. 

From the very beginning of a project you’ll need to take into consideration: planning for the utilities, roofing, methods for constructing walls, siding choices, and pre-finishing the beams when left exposed. You’ll learn how to anticipate these needs and design the frames appropriately. 

Practical Processes
Contemporary buildings that utilize timber framing techniques also employ other framing methods for parts of the building. 

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: is a prerequisite to Module 2: Build a Timber Frame* and open to those with previous woodworking experience. If you are new to timber framing joinery, we recommend you begin with this introduction. You must have a firm grasp of sawing and chiseling joinery as applicable to structural frame systems.

*If you are unable to take both modules the same course calendar year, you may complete Module 1 and then return the following course calendar year to complete Module 2.

Experienced timber framers can also refine their skills, depending on the project.

Build a Timber Frame: students must have some experience with hand tool joinery; including 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.

Class Information and Registration

Class runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday. 
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.

Module 1: Introduction to Timber Framing (5 days)
Class size: 12

$775 for students attending Module 1 (Intro to Timber Framing) only
$600 for students who choose to take the entire series Module 1: Intro to Timber Framing and  Module 2: Build a Timber Frame

Materials Charge: $ 100

Module 2: Build a Timber Frame (3 weeks)
Class size: 8

Cost: $1800
Materials Charge: $ 50

Modules 1 and 2 (4 weeks)
Cost: $2400
Materials charge: $150
Note: To register for both modules, please sign up for each individually. Discount will be applied at registration.

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. 


Scholarships are available for this course. Please read "Learn More" if you are applying for a scholarship. The deadline for applying is June 19, 2019.