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Complex timber frame home built by owner with help and instruction from Wise Owl Joinery
Jim & Jana Urbanowski, Gagetown, New Brunswick – Summer-Fall 2004

We received a phone call one morning from Jim and he began to explain his situation. Jim had received a one-week timber frame course from a company from Maine, with the hands-on project of building the frame for his house. Although much had been achieved in one week, the 85 feet long, two-storey structure was far from complete.

Jim faxed the drawings to Richard and, after completing a project near home, Wise Owl Joinery headed to New Brunswick.

(From Jim and Jana’s Chrismas letter that year: “After some quick calls, salvation came in the form of one Richard Cormier, a framer extrordinaire from Nova Scotia, who took up residency at our house site in Gagetown…. Thank you Richard.”)

Over the course of 9 weeks, we made three trips to the site. It was definitely a test of patience and teaching, as we were working with local help who had been exposed to little or no timber framing. From quick lessons on sharpening chisels to rigging a frame with come-a-longs, this incredible project forged on.

Birch tree in timber frameoak bow tie jointThe main focal point is the yellow birch tree in the great room. Timbers pass through, over and under the birch gem.

Jim had found some other interesting pieces in the bush, so another bent was created using book-matched knee braces held together with a custom oak bow tie joint.

October 1st was the last day Wise Owl worked on the project, and we were a bit tired and overwhelmed.

Because the complex frame was being built on site, the crane was brought in on several different occasions to erect pieces.

Special thanks to Rodger Hyatt, Ken Hargrove and Ian Stewart from whom we learned a great deal, not to mention the hospitality they showed us. Finally, thanks to Jim and Jana for opening up their house and making us feel at home while we toiled long days.
Update: some semi-finished photos below.

Jim built his own steam box to create the magnificant curves for the loft.