A few of you here might recognize the name Will Holladay. Will Holladay's one of those living legends (he insists he's not a legend, just "a broken-down old carpenter," but we at JLC persist in calling him that, alongside Larry Huan, may he rest in peace, Don Dunkley and Sim Ayers)* and we've been fortunate to publish a number of his framing articles over the years. A couple of favorites include Stacking Supported Valleys and Framing an Elliptical Staircase.
*(Tim Uhler, no doubt, also has a place among these storied framers, but he's in a different generation, more prodigy than legend, perhaps. All these terms of accolade, and even the whole premise, could be hotly debated, though. The collective knowledge of the building trades owes much to countless unsung heroes.)
Will made his mark early as a roof cutter, using production techniques developed by old-timers working in the post-WWII California housing tracts, and an array of dangerous and illegal saws. The framers who invented these tools and techniques were trying to stick-frame roofs as fast as trusses (which were then new-fangled) could be stacked. A few production roof cutters prevailed ... for a time, but trusses ultimately won out in the tracks. Roof cutters, though, dominated in the custom home market of the 1970's and 80's. The bigger the home, and more cut-up the roof, the better.
We first heard from Will in 1989 when he sent JLC a copy of his "Roof Cutter's Secrets," a home-published manifesto on the methods he'd learned over several decades. We summarized the basic, brilliant method of calculating Line Lengths, which is used throughout the book, in a 1990 article, Production Roof Cutting. And Will's early efforts to teach production roof cutting to a live audience - first at a 1991 NESEA conference that JLC participated in, and later at the early CBTC Shows - paved the way for what eventually became JLC-Live (and the live events really became a happening concern under the sage management of Don Dunkley).
JLC Books published a new version of Will's original book in 2002, but when JLC got out of the book business a few years ago, all rights reverted to Will. His passion to teach and advance the trades remains strong as ever, and he's now made A Roof Cutter's Secrets available online. Anyone who's still holding rafters up to the ridge in order to scribe the birdsmouth on the wall plates should run, not walk, and get a copy to study. It's a classic text, which codifies the principles of roof cutting. (But after reading it don't be shy about searching JLC's Rough Framing forum for discussions on roof cutting, in which Sim and Tim and many others refine and strengthen the fundamental principles.)