Champlain Canal Region Gateway Visitors' Center in Schuylerville, New York.

Community Build Project: Champlain Canal Region Gateway Visitors' Center

Phase II: Cutting the Main Frame 
September 5-15, 2016 

Tom Haanen

Thursday night (September 8th), the team was treated to a presentation on New World Dutch timber framing by Jack Sobon. The Dutch hugely influenced New York City - formerly New Amsterdam - and the Hudson River Valley. Jack spoke of the inherent benefits of Dutch design and, as expected, the benefits of using hand tools.   

On Friday morning (September 9th), project instructor and local hero Dave Bowman demonstrated riving and carving octagonal pegs from white oak firewood rounds. Dave said that his favorite woods for carving pegs are black locust and red oak. He uses traditional tools, including a froe, a froe club fashioned from a hickory root, a drawknife, and a shaving horse. All participants are encouraged to make pegs for this frame and the best-case scenario is all the approximate five hundred pegs required with be rived and carved. By day’s end, there was a 5-gallon bucket full of pegs. Don’t bet against us. We’ll do it!

Later in the morning, Project Manager Neil Godden demonstrated the French snap creating one-half of the tenon on the top of a 10 by 10 post. This was good fun, and you can see a video of that demonstration HERE.

In the photo shown here, taken this morning, Neil Godden demonstrates cutting an anchor beam tenon using an axe. 

What’s goin’ on here? Timber framers using handsaws to make end cuts 10 by 15 timbers. Millers Falls versus Mafell. Hollow out scarf blades with spoke shaves? Use hand planes and slicks. How fun! What’s happening here is a good, sensible mix of using power tools and hand tools. Got some time? Stop by and see what’s happening! More to come.

September 11, 2016


Phase II: Cutting the Main Frame 
September 5-15, 2016 

Tom Haanen

The following is excerpted from an interview with Mr. Joe Finan, Director of Special Projects for the Historic Hudson-Hoosic Rivers Partnership and retired Superintendent of Saratoga National Historical Park. The Partnership is a coalition of municipalities from the region, four state agencies, and fourteen not-for-profit agencies. For more about the Historic Hudson-Hoosic Rivers Partnership, based in Schuylerville, visit Joe is our go-to man this week.


TFG: Tell us a little about the importance of the Schuylerville area in the war for independence from the British.

Joe: Schuylerville is the location of the turning point of the American Revolutionary War. The British general John Bourgoyne surrendered, and his troops laid down their arms at Fort Hardy, which is the site of the visitor’s center. This is purportedly the first time a British field army unit surrendered and was a huge embarrassment for the Crown. As a result, Benjamin Franklin was able to secure the alliance of France. The French blockaded the harbor at Yorktown and British General Cornwallis was defeated. This ended the war.


TFG: Why does client want to replace the existing visitor center?

Joe: The existing visitor’s center is a shed built in the 1970s, with shelves full of pamphlets. The new visitor’s center will provide an interpretive experience to better illustrate the rich history of this area. The intended goal is to stimulate outdoor recreation and heritage tourism throughout the upper Hudson and Hoosic River corridors. Schuylerville is recognized as the hub for the Champlain Canal system.


TFG: How was the design of this building developed?

Joe: The style of building, Dutch timber frame, was modeled after the original Schuyler house. General Philip Schuyler was the commander of the northern armies for the Americans. He was relieved of duties after losing Fort Ticonderoga. The Schuyler house was occupied by General Bourgoyne, who burned the house as he retreated.


September 8, 2016


Phase II: Cutting the Main Frame 
September 5-15, 2016 

Tom Haanen

It gets light at Christ the King Spiritual Center, where we’re staying near Greenwich, NY, around 6am. The volunteers and leadership team walk a couple hundred yards down the hill to the visitor center where we’re fed breakfast at 7:15, cafeteria style: scrambled eggs, bacon, melon, and pineapples. Lots of good food.

It’s a short 10 minute drive through hill and dale to the Canal Region Project in downtown Schuylerville. It’s located between the historic Champlain Canal and the Hudson River. The volunteers started working today. After introductions and introductory comments by Project Manager, Neil Godden, Guild Instructor Shannon McIntyre lead the group through the body mechanics warm up and stretches. Good stuff.

The group was then divided by the components to be produced: plate fabrication, led by Dave Bowman; joists, led by Seth Kelley; braces, led by Shannon McIntyre; outshot ties, led by Will Beemer and Mike Jones; and posts led by Tom Haanen and Evan Taubes. Anxious volunteers were patient through the morning training. By lunchtime, all the respective groups were laying out sticks. By midafternoon, there was a constant "whack-thunks" of mallets and chisels and familiar whine of circular saws. Something a little unfamiliar, though, was Millers Falls boring machines being used for mortising and handsaws cutting tenon shoulders. More to come on this…

The site is set up well. All thirty-five volunteers and instructors are working under tents. Power is being supplied by a very adequate and quiet generator. We are working in a beautiful park in downtown with lots of space and a nice building where lunch is served. Things have started off well and the crew feels relaxed and confident. Tomorrow we shift into cutting.









September 6, 2016


Phase I: Walkout Framing Workshop 
August 8-12, 2016 

Neil Godden, Project Manager

Volunteers to construct the Walkout portion of the Champlain Canal Region Gateway Visitors' Center came from near and far. We had participants from New York, Montreal, Colorado, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Participants from all areas of New York, including Adirondack, Delanson, Greenwich, Hudson, New York, Schuylerville, and Stillwater, joined in to be a part of this Guild project in their home state. In total we had 20 framers who were willing to give their time for the week, learn a little about timber framing, and have some fun along the way.

We gathered on the Fort Hardy Park worksite in Schuylerville, NY, on Monday morning. This is where many of our crew worked, ate, and slept for the the duration of the workshop, nestled in along the bank of the Hudson River. It is a historic site of the Revolutionary War, where General Burgoyne from the British Army laid down his arms in defeat. This was considered the turning point in the American Revolutionary War.

In the grueling summer heat, the Guild members, with various levels of timber frame experience, worked together to learn, layout, and cut joinery.  

Timbers for this project were locally sourced from Mead Lumber of Queensbury, NY, and ranged in size from 4x6x10 to 10x14x33. The timbers for this project are Eastern White Pine with oak braces. 

Please join us for the next Timber Framers Guild Community Building Project! For this project, "Phase II: Cutting the Main Frame" will take place September 5-15, 2016, in Schuylerville, NY. It would be great to have you as part of our team!

August 25, 2016


Introduction: Schuylerville, NY, Community Building Project 
Mack Magee

Several years ago, Joe Finan, Park Superintendent, Saratoga National Historic Park, approached Joel McCarty and Alicia Spence to enlist the Guild to fabricate and erect the timber frame for the first phase of a visitors center to be constructed in the village of Schuylerville, NY. 

Officially the Canal Region Gateway Visitors Center (GVC) will serve to “Direct visitors to the Canal Region's waypoint communities, heritage centers, and attractions; provide an introduction to the activities and interpretative themes of the region; and provide interpretation of key features of the Gateway Visitor Center site”  (Canal Region's Gateway Visitors Center Conceptual Design Study, Saratoga Associates).

Besides featuring the Champlain Canal and Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor, the GVC will feature the Saratoga National Historical Park and the initiatives of the Historic Saratoga-Washington on the Hudson Partnership. 

Using the requirements developed by the design committee and the architectural style influences of the region at the time of its settlement, Saratoga Associates developed the design using a timber frame structure as would have the buildings built at the time of the Revolutionary War when this area was being settled. 

The Historic Hudson-Hoosic Partnership is a 24-agency consortium overseeing the project. As with any project involving such a large group of stakeholders, the project development and design extended over years.  As the process moved towards construction, the Guild hired Neil Godden to be the project manager and Mike Beganyi to be the designer.

Before they could get engaged, the inevitable Friday afternoon emergency call came in: the partnership needed a timber list for the following Tuesday Saratoga County forestry planning meeting. The emergency was compounded by a decision to make the raising a hand-raising and to work towards hosting it in the two days before the annual conference this year. So, Mack Magee and Ben Brungraber of Fire Tower Engineered Timber convened an emergency session to re-design the frame, from a hybrid bent and wall structure with principal rafters and common purlins, to a wall structure with purlin plates and common rafters more amenable to a hand-raising, and then sized the members for the client. Later, the team incorporated characteristics of the Dutch barn frames native to the area into the design.

“The timber frame is a modern take on a traditional Dutch style barn that was common in the Hudson Valley,” states Mike. "The traditional design has been adapted to meet program requirements for a visitor center which will house interpretive displays, rotating exhibits, and host community events.” Large anchor beams with thru tenons and celebrated joinery will tie together the frame of locally harvested pine and hardwoods. Additionally, they lowered the outshot beams to improve connections, removed unnecessary braces to open the floor plan, and made extensive design changes to exterior porches. 

The timber frame is comprised of roughly 300 pieces and 30,000 board feet of timber. The exterior timber and interior braces will be hardwood, and the balance of the timber will be Eastern white pine. Neil and Joe chose a local sawmill, Mead Lumber Company of Queensbury, NY, to saw the locally sourced logs.

Recently, at the annual meeting of the Structural Insulated Panel Association (SIPA) conference in Puerto Rico, Mack and Jonathan Orpin proposed to SIPA executive director Jack Armstrong and SIPschool president Al Cobb that they host a demonstration project and SIPschool training session at the site. This would extend the community outreach and benefit both timber framers who use SIPs to enclose their structures and SIPs manufacturers and installers. Jack and Al enthusiastically signed on.

The result is a significant project for the Guild that includes timber supply, two timber frame workshops, and a SIPs demonstration project and installation training, all of which are open to the Guild community and the local community.

The first workshop, August 8-12, will fabricate and erect the walkout level of the timber frame. The second workshop, September 5-15, is to cut and raise the upper and mezzanine levels with the hand raising on September 14 and 15, followed by the SIPs demonstration, which commences at the close of our annual conference. 

The project team, Guild staff, board, Township of Saratoga, and partnership of those 20-plus local and regional stakeholders are looking forward to what we all expect will be an excellent educational workshop series and a widely popular and informative community event.  We hope to see many of our Guild community participate, especially at the hand raising prior to the conference, once again demonstrating our dedication to the art and science of timber framing as well as the vision and values of our community. Members can register for free at

July 18, 2016

Published on Sep 11, 2016

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