I built my first timber-frame barn in 1986 at the request of a homeowner who wanted to replicate the style of an existing barn in town, which dated from the early 1800s. With permission, I photographed and examined the details of that building, noting both its structural details and the aesthetic considerations that went into its construction. The barn was smaller and simpler than barns intended to house livestock and tons of feed, which were often built with massive timbers and pegged mortise-and-tenon joinery. But with its exposed framing, solid plank sheathing, and balanced proportions, it still had tremendous visual appeal. Once I built that one, a steady stream of barn clients seemed to spring out of the woodwork. I've specialized ever since, building barns at a rate of eight to ten each year (along with some barn rehab work and an addition here and there when the weather turns bad). The form varies, but the method is pretty constant. In this article, I'll cover the essential elements.

The availability of mass-produced nails and bolts in the 19th century freed up old constraints in framing and house carpentry, turning joined and pegged timber-frame structures into quaint relics practically overnight. Liberated from labor-intensive overlapping and interlocking timber joints, builders began producing buildings with unheard-of...

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