Converting Trees to Timber

The course includes the Game of Logging™ tree identification, woodlot management, harvesting timber, chainsaws, hewing, and milling.

Timber framed buildings last hundreds of years if built and maintained properly, and can be viewed as a more sustainable use of structural wood than light framing. The craft relies on a continual and sustainable yield from the forest, and the proper management and selection of trees from local woodlands can provide numerous benefits now and in the future. In New England, we are fortunate to have maturing forests that supply an abundant variety of tree species.

Course Description

Please Note: 
This course takes place in Windsor, MA, NOT at our Schoolhouse in Alstead, NH

In this course, students will learn how to maintain a woodlot for future generations of builders and woodworkers. Architect, author, and timber framer Jack Sobon (Hand Hewn: The Traditions, Tools, and Enduring Beauty of Timber Framing) will show us how he manages his own stand of pines for sustainable yield. We will learn various techniques to identify the species of hardwoods and softwoods on the stump, and how to estimate the volume of wood before the tree is cut. 

We will demonstrate how to safely and efficiently cut trees and get them out of the woods. Special emphasis will be placed on the safe and proper operation of the chainsaw: its versatility often makes it the best tool for the job at hand but requires a thorough understanding of the chainsaw's use, maintenance, and sharpening. 

This course includes the Game of Logging (GOL), a two-day certification course appropriate for landowners and woodworkers who want to fell their own trees. GOL is widely acknowledged as the premier hands-on chainsaw and timber harvesting training program. Top instructors across the country combine demonstration with participation to teach safety, productivity, conservation, and cutting techniques. Level I introduces participants to open face felling and safety, including protective equipment, chainsaw safety features and reactive forces, bore cutting, pre-planning the fell, and understanding hinge wood strength. Level II focuses on maximizing chainsaw performance through maintenance, carburetor setting, and filing. We'll dive into limbing and bucking techniques, spring pole cutting, and more felling.

Turning round logs into square timbers ("conversion") will be demonstrated and practiced. This includes traditional hand tool techniques such as hewing, riving, and more. We skid logs out of the forest to the log landing, where we will demonstrate conversions using a portable WoodMizer™ band sawmill and use axes for hewing logs into timber.


Bill Girard, Jack Sobon, & Neil Godden

Bill Girard is a certified Game of Logging Trainer.  He has been a professional logger for more than 40 years and in 2005, he became one of Massachusetts first Master Loggers. He is a certified trainer for the Hardwood Value Improvement Project. Bill also runs a band sawmill for custom sawing. Bill has taught safe logging practices at the Heartwood School for many years. Bill shares his considerable knowledge of chainsaw safety, productivity, forest conservation and cutting techniques. 

Jack A. Sobon is an architect, builder, and teacher specializing in timber framed buildings. Since 1980 he has devoted his life to understanding the craft of timber framing. Using only traditional hand tools and often starting right in the forest, he has framed and erected over 50 structures. As an architect, he consults on historic structures as well as designing new timber framed structures. He was a founding director of the Timber Framers Guild and founder of the Traditional Timber Frame Research and Advisory Group, an offshoot of the Guild. He has four books to his credit including his latest: Hand Hewn, the Traditions, Tools, and Enduring Beauty of Timber Framing.

Neil Godden has been a timber frame contractor in western Massachusetts specializing in building traditional timber frames using primarily hand tools since 2000. Neil received his Civil Engineering degree from the University at Buffalo in 1996. Soon after, he completed an apprenticeship under master builder Jack Sobon and he has been in love with the craft ever since.

Neil demonstrates a passion for timber framing in all that he builds, and this is evident in the many timber-framed buildings he has built, and in the workshops, he has taught throughout the years. As an experienced timber framer, Neil enjoys sharing his knowledge and techniques for this time-tested craft.  Neil has been an instructor at the Heartwood School since 2005. He has taught at many Timber Framers Guild Community Building Projects over the years, including the Bayles Boat Shed Long Island Seaport and Eco-Center (Long Island, NY), Sunrise Mill hand tool workshop (Schwenksville, PA) and was the Project Manager for Champlain Canal Visitor's Center (Schuylerville, NY). Neil taught a cruck frame workshop at Pingree Campus of Colorado State University (near Fort Collins, CO). Neil also teaches a Timber Frame Workshop at the Hancock Shaker Village (Hancock, MA). Neil instructed with Jack Sobon in the summer of 2021, teaching a Square Rule Workshop on the Island of Gotland in Sweden.

Recommended Reading

"Lessons of the Woodlot" by Jack Sobon, Timber Framing 75

Additional Reading

Reading the Forested Landscape by Tom Wessels

*For any questions, please contact the Heartwood School at or 1-603-678-1156.

Click on a photo to enlarge.

Student and instructor assessing trees in a woodlot
Student and instructor begin cutting a tree
Student cutting tree under direction of instructor
Student cutting tree with instructor guidance
Jun 5, 2023 - Jun 10, 2023 $1,450

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Aug 28, 2023 - Sep 2, 2023 $1,450

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