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Lancashire Hot Pot – a new oak framed home

Janet and Peter met us at the NEC Homebuilding and Renovating show in 2015 with the vague notion of incorporating an oak frame into a budding self-build project.

Nearly 2 years down the road, we finally delivered their oak framed house from our workshop to Leyland in Lancashire last week, and spent 2 days erecting the fruits of our labour.

By way of introductory context, Janet and Peter are an extraordinarily intrepid couple who (amongst myriad other things), find the time to be practically self-sufficient, have been running a wood turning business for 40 years, and can build narrow boats from scratch to sell on – they have just completed their 4th! All these activities may need to be set aside for a while, as they get to grips with their new project: no doubt they will be launching into as many aspects of the self-build as is humanly possible!

Loaded up at Castle Ring

We travelled up to Leyland on the Monday night and were greeted on Tuesday morning by the clear dry and still weather we had been praying for. We forgot to ask for a bit of warmth and so obviously it was punishingly cold…..but you can’t have everything.

Once the crane was rigged and positioned, we spent a good hour sorting the packs of wood: sod’s law…..everything you need is always at the bottom of the stack, and were ready to start erecting the frame by 10am.

The house comprises 7 crossframes, so we start at one end and keep going until we run out of components at the other. Post, beam, post, rail, post, wallplate, beam, post, rail, wallplate – and of course, not forgetting the braces. Concentrating on one timber at a time can be meditative and helps to prevent worrying about whether you are on schedule or not, and before you know it, there’s a big structure taking shape.

Castle Ring Oak frame

Dropping in a wallplate

Timber frame house

Jake and Sylvan inserting podgers to temporarily hold the frame together

Oak Frame house

Working along the frame

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Mexican standoff

Castle Ring Oak frame

Meeting of beam, post and brace

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Down tools, lunchtime Day 1.

Another of Janet and Peter’s skills was hospitality and we were treated to epic homemade catering fests. Day 1 featured hot dogs, jacket potatoes, baked beans and cheese (perfect for a cold winter’s day) Day 2 was possibly even better – Lancashire hot pot (what else?) all washed down with homemade cake and lashings of hot tea. On Tuesday evening, Rob, Jake and Sylvan were treated to a Lancashire Fondue (?) with various home brewed beverages – cider, strawberry wine and blackcurrant gin!

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Hot Pot – Jake, Sylvan and Shawn the crane driver tucking in.

By the end of Day 1, the main structure was up, and the trusses in place.

Day 2 was equally generous, and we enjoyed the same clear skies and frosty morning. By mid-morning we had installed the purlins, ridges and wind braces. The single storey “extension” was in place by lunchtime and then all that remained was to drop in the joists for the gallery/walkway, peg up and take some photos in the fading light.

Oak framed house

Flying in the purlins

Castle Ring Oak Frame

Castle Ring Oak frame

Castle Ring Oak frame

Oak frame extension

Single storey bedroom extension

Castle Ring Oak frame

Joisted gallery and walkway

Castle Ring Oak Frame

We were sorry to say goodbye and left bearing gifts and fond memories.
Thanks Janet and Peter for a great raising.


In defence of green oak

People often ask why it is that we make oak frames out of freshly sawn green oak with a high moisture content rather than using more stable dry oak.

Well, having laboured hard this week over a small glazed gable frame made from bone dry oak, I’m feeling well placed (and motivated) to answer.


Green oak will bend to your will, cleave along the grain, respond compliantly to a reasonable sharp chisel or saw, and pretty much do what you ask it to do. Air dried oak on the other hand will sap your strength, blunt all your tools in a heartbeat, mess with your mind and leave you weeping on the workshop floor in a dusty heap.

Here’s the fruit (dried?) of my labour:-

Oak Frame Gable by Castle Ring Oak Frame


Double Jowl

A post with a single “jowl” is a fairly common occurrence in timber framing (see our very first blog post about the English > Tying Joint ) but a double jowl? Does such a thing exist?

Well yes, although a rare and secretive species, double jowls have been spotted this side of the Welsh border. Usually found in small groups, here we have an example of 5 double jowl posts cosying up to each other.

Castle Ring Oak Frame

The upper jowl or flare is designed to allow a tenon to insert into the tie beam whereas the lower jowl’s purpose is to add bearing support to a heavy floor beam. It also of course adds some beautiful curves to the whole structure which is never a bad thing.

If anyone ever comes across a triple jowl, please send me photographic proof!


Jack Rafters

Rafters usually span from the apex of the ridge to a connection on the wall plate and are designed to support the roofing material – slate, tiles, shingles etc. When a roof has hips, some of the rafters are shortened to land on the hip rafter – these are called jack rafters. They can either be designed to attach into the side of the hip rafter, or to connect to an opposing pair on top of the hip rafter.
Either way you are going to have to get your calculator out, dust it down and remember how to operate the trigonometry functions.

If only I’d paid more attention in maths lessons at school all those years ago. I didn’t realise that it was actually going to be useful for something one day!

Check out these douglas fir hip rafters on our new cartshed.

Castle Ring Oak Frame


Hip Rafters

When your old hips are worn out you need new ones. You can get them replaced on the NHS of course, or you can come to Castle Ring for a truly bespoke service for hips in oak or douglas fir that are guaranteed to see you out. No anaesthetic required.

Green buildingHip rafters are the 2 diagonal timbers that stretch from the ridge down to the corners or the frame. The jack rafters either bear onto the hip or they attach into the side.

Eco HouseString lines, sliding bevels, a sharp saw and a clear head are essential elements that all need to come together at the same time.

Eco House Oak Frame


How to take advantage of unsuspecting friends and neighbours….

Over the years at Castle Ring, when we’re busy with one of our projects, we have on occasion had cause to solicit help from friends, neighbours and even random walkers of the Offa’s Dyke. Most people we know are now finely attuned to that look in my eye which indicates I’m about to ask an eight hour favour, and will have a fine and verifiable excuse ready and waiting to trot out.

The trick, I have learnt, is to innocently ask people round for coffee and then spring the frame raising on them having removed their car keys. It works every time but is somewhat dependent on an annual increase of net migration to the Welsh Marches.

Malcolm and Karen were the latest victims and happily joined in the fun with gusto and enthusiasm, holding posts, knocking in pegs and podgers and braving the odd sharp squally shower. Thanks also to new recruit Jacob and grizzled pro Simon.

This lovely cart shed has been designed to house our old vintage caravan in the raised bay, to park a car, for log storage at both ends and as a garden shed. It took 4 weeks to make in the workshop and 4 hours to put up. Let’s hope it lasts 400 years.

Castle Ring Oak Frame Cart shedOak-Framed


Waist Rails

Half timbered oak frames

Waist rails are the horizontal timbers that span from stud to stud and are more commonly seen in half-timbered frames. They break up the long vertical infill panels into more manageable chunks for wattle and daub or brick infill, whilst at the same time showing off to your neighbours how much oak you have in your frame.

Oak Timber FrameFun to do in the workshop as it’s an easy joint to cut and you can churn out dozens in a day. Putting it all back together again can take a little head scratching though…….

Castle Ring Oak Frame


Furry Apprentice‏

Work is really stacking up at the moment – so much so that we have decided to take on more staff to keep up.

Our latest apprentice is Bonnie the Welsh Collie who has recently joined the team. Bonnie freely admits that her CV is not the most comprehensive when it comes to traditional timber framing, but feels sure her tenaciousness and deep sense of loyalty will more than compensate. She lists “rounding up chickens” and “fetching sticks” as her key qualities, both of which I’m sure will be very useful.

Bonnie’s first week in the workshop has been taken up selecting curves for braces – a task at which she has excelled. She is hoping to undergo chainsaw training shortly.

Castle Ring Oak Frame - workshopGo Bonnie!

(no animals were hurt in the making of this blog post)



If you are thinking of commissioning an oak frame you might naturally be inclined to think that the most important considerations are (in no particular order) your budget, design, external cladding, vaulted ceilings, ensuring the accuracy and delivery of laser level blockwork to receive the long awaited frame etc etc.

These details may of course take up some of your time, but overarching priority should really be given to providing the best, and least cost effective refreshments for the raising team on the big day. A Castle Ring contract usually stipulates at least 3 varieties of biscuits in unlimited quantities, home made scones and/or rock cakes, copious quantities of FairTrade coffee and tea with organic milk and demerera sugar……and that’s before we even start.

Tea at Castle Ring Oak Frame

We like to finish off the day with a hog roast and home made cider (please).

Hog Roast at Castle Ring Oak Frame


The Ridge

You know you’re getting to the end of a job when you start work on the ridge.
The roof frame is always the last frame that makes it’s way into the workshop having worked through crossframes, wallframes, and floor frames, and the ridge purlin comes after work has been completed on the purlins.

Castle Ring Oak Frame - Oak framed houses

The junction of ridge purlin and the apex of the truss is a pesky little joint to work out, and of course it can’t be scribed modafinil200mg into place as it is impossible to set 5 or more trusses upright in the workshop!. Well, not impossible, but who wants to do it.

Great care needs to be taken with geometry to make sure that the ridge height accurately corresponds to the underside of the rafters – basically you need to get it in the right place and you only have one shot at it. No pressure then.

Oak Framed Buildings - Castle Ring Oak Frame