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Heartwood School: English Scribe

The majority of historic timber framed structures in the United States built before 1800 were scribed using a system brought here from the British Isles. It did not involve the use of plumb bobs, piquage, or full-size drawings lofted on a shop floor. It was a simple, direct method using primarily the square that allowed the utilization of tapered, twisted, crooked, or out of square timber. After the development of the Square Rule about 1800, this older scribing system was named “scribe rule,” “try rule,” or “cut and try rule."

In this six-day workshop, we will scribe a small English barn. It will feature classic English tying joints with “gunstock” posts and lapped half dovetails where the tie beam joins the plate. We begin with an introduction to the history of English carpentry and its migration here in colonial times. Then, the floor or footprint of the structure is first scribed, set up level and square to become the basis for the subsequent eave level plan, longitudinal walls, cross frames, and roof frame. We’ll use both “tumbling” and the “double cut," the two traditional scribing methods employed in the English scribe. We’ll learn about plumb and level marks, two-foot marks, and we’ll use traditional parts numbering systems. The workshop will culminate with the raising of the frame.

Attendees should have some basic timber framing background and be able to cut basic joinery. This workshop is geared toward those working with historic buildings framed according to the Scribe Rule or those just interested in keeping alive traditional timber framing methods.


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