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Photo diary – Oak frame house Dinedor

A bespoke oak frame – step by step

It doesn’t look much at the moment but this is the arrival from Normandy of the oak for Dave and Viv’s new house in Dinedor Hereford. A detailed cutting list was sent to Granville Bois sawmill three weeks previously and now we’ve got something to get our teeth into in the Castle Ring Oak Frame workshop.

French oak

It doesn’t take long to unload and there’s a pleasing symmetry about stacking a pile of oak in our own planted woodland here at Castle Ring:

oak for timber frame house

Once we’ve ferried the timber up to the workshop we can begin the process of getting organised for the weeks ahead:

Castle Ring Oak Frame wood

Before we can start the timber framing per se, we spend a day or 2 sorting out the curves. As you can see they arrive “slabbed” through, complete with bark and sap wood….

bark and sap wood timber frame

…so we shape the required curved braces, collars and slings with a portable bandsaw. Care is taken to follow the grain of the timber which maintains the inherent strength of the wood grain whilst adding a unique quality to the curves. On the downside it is backbreaking work!

Using a bandsaw timber frame

Now we can start to lay up the timbers and begin the “scribe rule” process. This is an esoteric and mysterious art that is only revealed to a chosen few……and involves….well I can’t really say. Oh what the hell…., it involves the vertical plotting of the joints of one timber down (or up) into another, usually with the aid of a plumb bob or spirit level.

Lay up scribe rule timber frame oak frame Castle Ring

Here we have started on the first of many crossframes and the collar is being scribed down into the principal rafters and king post.

Cross frame in workshop Castle Ring Oak Frame

Dave and Viv’s design is a “storey and a half” with dormers, which means that the tie beams are interrupted upstairs with a raised collar to allow access through the partitions.

New timber frame house dormer

We cut the tenons with hand held circular saws and the mortices with this nifty beast…the chain morticer! Not to be messed with.

chain morticer

Once the joints have been cut, we reassemble everything to check they fit and that the overall dimensions of the frame are correct. Stainless steel tapered framing pins or “podgers” which act as removable oak pegs, allow us to pull the joints in nice and tight. This joint is a for a floor beam which benefits from a bevelled housing for extra support.

Podgers in timber framing

Almost without realising it things are starting to take shape:

Timber frame Castle Ring Oak Frame

One of the upstairs bedrooms of this 3 bed house has some particularly lovely curved braces:

Curved braces oak frame

After 5 weeks in the workshop the frame is now ready to go to site and is loaded up for it’s final journey from Castle Ring:

Castle Ring Oak Frame

On site Russell Davies from Hereford is manning the crane for the frame raising:

Timber frame raising with crane

Pegging up a feature truss with sling braces:

Oak truss with sling braces

Sometimes it makes sense to put together a whole crossframe rather than lifting in each piece at a time:

timber frame raising

Purlins jointed into the truss rafter with a pegged spline:

Oak purlins timber frame

Taking shape:

Oak frame being raised

Wallplate scarf and cog awaiting tie beam.

Wallplate scarf and cog awaiting tie beam.

This is how far we got by lunchtime:

This is how far we got by lunchtime

The ridge height of the L shaped wing comes in at a lower height.

Oak roof ridge

Roof frame with central purlin, wind braces and ridge.

Roof ridge

Nice view of all the king posts.

Oak king posts

Curved sling braces in the upstairs bedroom.

Curved sling braces oak frame

My feet (not to scale!)

Timber frame raising

Beautiful patterns.

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Topping out the finished oak frame. Dave attaches a fresh oak branch to the highest truss – read more about this timber frame tradition here.

Topping Out Timber Frame tradition

Chatting with Dave, Viv and Jake at the end of a successful frame raising.

Rob Dawson Castle Ring Oak Frame

Raised in a day!

Oak timber frame

“It has been great to work with you. The frame is amazing; far more than we imagined. We are grateful to you for being so helpful, straight forward, flexible and easy to work with – a real pleasure.”
Thank you too Dave and Viv.


Woodturning – timber framing cheats

Finding efficient ways to move big lumps of oak around the workshop is something we take quite seriously, especially as the consequences of not doing so are pain and discomfort, not to mention perspiration and effort. It’s not that we don’t like to build up a healthy warm sweat to keep off winter’s chill on a cold fresh morning………it’s just that sometimes, you just want an easy life!

A large part of the process of timber framing involves flipping over timbers so that we can mark and cut the underside, and then flipping them back again (endlessly). All very well with 6ft studs but not so easy with a 20ft 12″ x 10″ floor beam. Brute force will get the job done (we have the callouses and stretched arms to prove it) but so much easier with some little timber framing cheats.

We use some gigantic spanners to ease the pain, and then as soon as a mortice appears, it’s the perfect place to insert a suitable lever.

Castle Ring Oak Frame


Castle Ring Oak Frame


Castle Ring Oak Frame House


Castle Ring Oak Frame Jacob timber framer


Castle Ring Oak Frame at Homebuilding and Renovating Show at the NEC

For the first time we are going to be exhibiting at the Homebuilding and Renovating Show at Birmingham’s NEC. The show runs from 14 -17 April and we can offer two FREE TICKETS if you follow the link HERE or click on the image below. Come and visit us on stand F103.

Castle Ring Oak Frame Home Building show


Needless to say we have been extremely busy getting our stand prepared and decided to build an entire small oak frame to take with us – photos below:

Castle Ring Oak Frame Cruck

Working on the cruck frame

Cruck frame in workshop Oak Frame

Oak cruck frame

Cruck frame complete



Castle Ring Oak Frame Homebuilding exhibition NEC


All Hands On Deck

Oak framed deck

The stonework at Parks Cottage has recently been completed which means we finally got to install the outside decking area on the south side of the newly built oak framed house

The views down the valley are mildly spectacular on the worst of days, and so when the sun is shining the 30m2 of oak framed deck area is going to be hard to resist

The frame is short and stubby, so as not to require a handrail which would disrupt the views from inside the house……we still just managed to squeeze some dinky bracing in though for stability.

Jake and I installed the chunkily joisted frame on day 1, cutting the posts on site to suit the concrete pad levels.

Oak frame decking
How to lay Decking
Jacob oak frame Presteigne
Oak framed house decking
On day 2 we cut and fixed the dry oak decking boards with a 10mm spacing and 3″ stainless steel ring shanked nails, all piloted. Nice to do really repetitive work for a change and to give the brain a rest!
How to lay a deck
Decking oak framed house Presteigne
decking fixing boards
Decking edges
Like it? We do.
Decking Herefordshire Powys Shropshire
READ Rob’s blogs about the building of Parks Cottage on Homebuilding and Renovating here


It’s been a blowy and wet winter so far so it was with trepidation that we closely monitored the long range weather forecast in the weeks before our latest raising on the outskirts of Cambridge. Well, we needn’t have worried as the wind piped down to the merest feathery rustle and the rain clouds dissipated repectfully overnight to be replaced with crisp, clear and sunny skies. Perfect.
Jake, Sylvain, Adam and I packed our toothbrushes, lucky underpants, tool belts and tape measures, piled into the pickup and headed East. Then we headed East some more until finally the A14 ran out of tarmac and we reached our destination in the Cambridgeshire fens
Normally we shack up in some more or less serviceable B & B but this time Rob pushed the boat out and practically hired a stately home for 2 nights! Valet parking and four poster beds would not have been out of place at Madingley Hall – check it out here to see the kind of accomodation that Rob lays on for his team.
Even managed to cram in some fly fishing and wild boar hunting with enough time for a cooked breafast before an early start on site at 7.30am.
The frame we were erecting for James and Christine makes up 2 parts of a complex newbuild with essentially two asymmetric wings connected by a tall fully vaulted oak link and walkway, which itself changes angle at the mid point. Sounds confusing? You try building it!
We began with the easy bit, the roof structure to one of the wings, comprising 4 x raised collar trusses with purlins, ridge, windbracing and wallplate. So far so good and by 11am we were enjoying a well earned break.
The truss feet (principal rafters) were unusually designed to fit directly onto padstones in the blockwork wall.
Although our structural engineer stipulated supplementary metalwork within the collar joint to resist the added tension forces.
timberframe tension forces
After this point things started to get more complicated as we assembled and lifted into place the 2 massive trusses that defined the link space. Once these had been braced and supported with “scabbing” (any timbers that are used to temporarily stabilize a frame) we were able to install the connecting walkway posts and rails and finally secure the roof with the purlins and ridge. Phew!
By 4.30 we were able to send the crane home and retire to Madingley Hall for a freshen up before some Castle Ring Oak Frame team bonding in Cambridge. Ended up in the Pint Shop which was recommended by John the builder – you might be impressed (or not) by the drinks menu which includes about 80 types of gin http://pintshop.co.uk/menus/drinks.pdf
Naturally we tried them all for research purposes.
Wednesday morning was again a biffer of a day and we enjoyed pegging up the frame, fixing down the ridges and purlins and tidying up before piling back into the truck back to Wales.
Thank you Cambridge
Here’s a gallery of the project from workshop to raising – just click on images to enlarge:

Building a roof under cover of a ….. roof‏!

Yes, it’s been unseasonably warm, but it’s also been seasonably wet!

We’re thankful we haven’t had to endure anything on a par with Cumbria but close inspection of our feet reveals we are beginning to notice the appearance of webbing between the toes.

We’re grateful to have a warm and dry workshop to float about in and thankfully it’s just big enough to accommodate our latest project, a large, shallow pitched, hipped roof which is to be part of a new build home near Swansea

We can’t get the whole thing in and up in one go so we’ve broken it down into 3 sections for practical purposes

There’s quite a bit of tricky joinery to work out, framing up the “dragon ties”, “hips” and heavy 6″ x 4″ jack rafters, but it makes much more sense to be getting this done in the warm and dry with the advantage of the gantry and block and tackle, rather than on site in the wind and rain

How are we going to get it out the workshop?

Oak hipped roof timber frame


Oak frame hipped roof Castle Ring Oak Frame


Oak framed house


Oak framed house


Oak framed roof Castle Ring Oak Frame


Oak frame hipped roof




Local frames are fun‏

It’s always nice to put up an oak frame locally.

For starters it means you can stay in bed a bit longer before setting off in the morning, but one of the main benefits is that the pressure is off when it comes to remembering all the crucial bits and bobs you need for the raising. Don’t get me wrong, you still need the same bits and bobs, but if you forget something, being able to pop home 5 miles away is a real luxury. Jake forgot his hair gel and moisturiser when we were in Hampshire last, and very upset he was too!

Our latest frame went up in Shobdon a few days ago and comprised a single storey exposed oak frame onto a split level stone plinth, with plenty of glass mixed with insulated cedar clad infill panels. The raised height stone plinth is to cater for kitchen work surfaces, and at the same time serves to break up the horizontal lines. Clients Duncan and Lorna have decided to expose the roof trusses, purlins and ridge, opting for softwood rafters with an internal plasterboard finish.

Oak frame extension by Castle Ring Oak Frame

Split level stone plinth designed to accommodate kitchen worktop

A perfectly still, dry October day was the setting for the raising and as you can see Duncan and Lorna joined in the fun, not only plying us with homemade cake and bacon butties, but also lending a hand with the frame assembly.

Oakframe extension timberframe

Oak pegs timberframe

Where oak frames are exposed externally as well as internally, careful detailing is crucial to avoid future weatherproofing problems. Strategic grooves are machined into the frame before it is assembled to allow for the insertion of water shedding DPC, along with lead drips on all horizontal members. It makes for a rather painstaking and fiddly frame raising process, but still, we managed to get the final ridge beam up just before the warm glow of the autumnal sun disappeared over the horizon.

Cutting lead for timberframe

Jacob cutting the lead

Rob dressing the lead

Rob dressing the lead

Oakframe extension

Nearly done

Oakframe extension

Fixing the cleats to stop the purlins rolling.

timberframe ridge stabilised with cleats

Ridge stabilised with cleats

timberframe windbraces

Windbraces in place

Oakframe extension

Oakframe extension

We’ll try and keep you posted on this project as it progresses.


Come and build your own oak frame!‏

A few months ago you may remember we travelled down to Essex to add a complicated oak framed extension to an existing cottage for clients Richard and Abby. The raising day had been inked in, cranes, lorries and hotels booked, only for some stormy weather (the remains of a Caribbean hurricane apparently) to scuttle in accross the Atlantic.

There was to be no escape or shelter from the wind, especially as the cottage was on the site of an old windmill, and sure enough we had no choice but to postpone everything until hurricane Mabel (can’t remember what she was called but that will have to do) had blown over. Putting up an oak frame is hard enough without the added excitement of hanging onto wildly swinging timbers 30 feet up in the air.

Everything went smoothly, as I hope you can see from the photos, and Richard (who works in construction) and friendly neighbour Jerry mucked in wholeheartedly with the raising. Indeed, one of the highlights of the trip was the sight of Richard “adjusting” an existing dormer window to make room for the new oak frame with a………… chainsaw!

A few weeks earlier we had been able to witness at first hand Richard’s enthusiastic approach and more refined carpentry skills. At Richard’s request, he came and spent a day with us in the workshop getting to know his frame and actually making some of it! Along with sweeping up sawdust and making the tea, we had him scribing and chiseling out joist pockets for the floor layout.



Drilling Holes

One of the countless ways we manage to turn timber into sawdust or shavings is by drilling holes in it. These are so that different timbers can be joined together using offset oak pegs (a process called “drawboring” – see this previous blog on the subject). Most of the holes we drill are either 25mm (1 inch) or 19mm (3/4 inch) depending on the size of peg required for the forces within the joint, for example whether it is in compression or under tension. All when and good so far ………the tricky bit is being able to drill the hole vertically, through a piece of oak that might be a foot deep. If, using a long auger bit, you get the angle wrong to start with, there is no way to correct it, and it might emerge half way towards the next parish. Not good. That is why all timber framers display a “concentrating” “serious” face when drilling…

welsh oak frame Castle Ring

Castle Ring Oak Frame oak framed house


Trestles or “Saw Ponies”‏

Essential beast of burden for all timber framers, the “saw pony” (or trestle, as some pedants like to call them) is a critical part of the workshop setup.

Most oak framers lay out the frames horizontally at a sensible working height so that the top surface of the frame (the face) is flush and level. Having a substantial herd of readily accessible ponies is therefore imperative on larger frames to support all the lumpy bits of oak. It goes without saying then that the physiological characteristics of the saw pony have to be carefully selected – it needs 4 (seems obvious I know) sturdy slightly splayed legs to form a steady and resolute base, and a rock solid straight back that can comfortably support over a ton of weight for long periods of time.

Saw Pony | Trestle | Timber frame | Oak frame

Temperament is another important area where the saw pony must be carefully selected. Standing still for days in a hot and dusty environment is not going to suit the more flighty and wild members of the breed. At Castle Ring we have a rigorous selection policy and reject those ponies who demonstrate capricious and impetuous behaviour. We want boring workhorses, not frivolous fancy dans!

Currently we have a herd of over 60 ponies all of which have been sired by the splendid stallion, Balthazar the Third, who spends his days grazing serenely in the ancient monument.



If you’d like to adopt one of several Castle Ring retired ponies for £100 please get in touch.