Fox Maple School of Traditional Building
65 Corn Hill Road,
P.O. Box 249
Brownfield, Maine 04010
(207) 935-3720
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New Revised
Edition 2011

A Timber Framer's Workshop
Joinery, Design & Construction of Traditional Timber Frames
by Steve Chappell.

"Throughout the book, Chappell shares an infectious love of the art and craft of timber framing. A
journeyman carpenter would be able to cut a timber frame with the information presented in this
book...His comprehensive 'Joinery Design', 'Tension Joinery', and 'Roof Framing & Truss Design'
sections are technical enough to hand to your engineer, but also comprehendable by the layman."
--Fine Homebuilding Magazine

This 250 page workbook includes comprehensive in-depth technical information on the joinery, design and construction of Traditional Timber Frames. Illustrated with over 230 photos and CAD drawings. Included are Frame Plans, design and engineering formulae, rule-of-thumb design and engineering guidelines, shop setup, builder's math, joinery design criteria, practical timber framing tips, tools and more. If you are an architect, engineer, builder or an aspiring owner builder wishing to build your own timber frame, A Timber Framer's Workshop will provide the information you need.
ISBN 1-889269-00-X  $30 cover price.
Order on line Now

Revolution Means Building

Providers and Educators of Timber Framing &
Traditional Building
since 1975

We now have the Fox Maple School Booklet available to download in Acrobat Reader PDF format. The 40 page booklet provides a comprehensive overview of our workshops and educational program including specifics of what each type of course entails, tools and supplies to bring, as well as a full description of the Fox Maple campus, how it was built, CAD drawings of the timber frames, photos and descriptions of the processes, including natural clay building and thatching. In itself an educational tool. It is also what we send to all workshop registrants in our confirmation packets. A must have for all students. To download click on the link below. Download FMSTB booklet in pdf format now!

For tool requirements, student comments and lodging info,
please scroll down.

Fox Maple Timber Framing Mallet

A good mallet will prevent fatigue and possible wrist injury that may arise from using a mallet not designed to meet the needs of heavy timber work with a framing chisel. The key is to hold the mallet lightly in hand and let the mallet do the work and not your arm or wrist. This requires the correct balance of handle thickness, length and weight.

If you have a wood lathe, we recommend turning your own mallet. Hornbbeam, Rock (sugar) Maple and Osage Orange each make great mallets. If you can't make your own mallet, we are now offering the perfect timber framing mallet for sale to students.

These mallets are hand-turned from a variety of tropical hardwoods species salvaged from dead tree limbs and old fence posts in the mountains of Costa Rica. Some of the best wood comes from fence posts that have been in the ground for over 25 to 50 years. Due to the varying density and weight of any specific wood, each mallet will vary in size, weight and length most suitable for the specific wood used. Sizes range from 16 to 18 inches in length, 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 inch head diameter and from 2.5 to 3.5 pounds. Because the wood is salvaged some mallets may have slight blemishes, however, these will not affect the use or the life span of the mallet. These mallets will provide years of daily use and due to the beauty of the wood, will even make a beautiful mantelpiece once your timber framing days are over. Each mallet is essentially made to order, so please allow up to 3 to 4 weeks for delivery. For students planning to attend a Fox Maple workshop we recommend ordering at the time of registration and having it waiting for you when you arrive at the workshop. This will save shipping costs. $75 plus $12 SH. Purchase Now!

Chappell Universal Framing Squares
Chappell Universal squares and center rules are now available. For a full description of these squares on this site click here.To go to the Chappell Universal Square & Rule Co website and to purchase click here, .

What tools do I need to build a timber frame?

This is the most common question asked by workshop students. My first response is usually, A chisel and a mallet. This may not be the whole truth, but I believe that tools should be purchased only after they've proven to be absolutely essential to the work at hand. With a chisel and mallet, a brace & bit, and a hand saw, an experienced carpenter can build anything given the time. When learning a new trade, it's best to start out with only the few essential tools of that trade.

The first priority is to learn how to use these few tools really well; to execute your work accurately and efficiently, and to understand the nature of the work before you go out and spend a bundle on a cache of tools that may spend most of their time in the tool box. Tools can be an addiction, I will admit that, but owning a hoard of tools will not necessarily make a person a better craftsman. A craftsman, however, can expand the capabilities of just about any tool he touches.Timber framing is demanding work, both on the tools, and on the body using them, so it is important to purchase and use only the best, top quality tools available. As a novice you may not have all the understanding as to what makes a tool good. Some insight follows, but it is my advice to get by with the basics. After the workshop you will have a much greater understanding of tools and begin to know the feel of a good tool.

More than any other type of housebuilding, timber framing demands a level of intimacy and dedication that tends to make people extend the limits of their abilities. When people extend their limits, tools will be asked to do the same. This is why it's so important to buy professional quality tools. We have a ritual at the beginning of every workshop in which we check all of the tools before we start. The framing squares are checked for square, the tape measures checked for accuracy, the chisels are checked for trueness. Inevitably, about half of the tools fail to pass the test and end up in the cull pile. In the workshop you'll have an opportunity to use a variety of tools, hand and power. This will give you an insight into the full range of the tools of the trade, and the experience to make wise tool purchases.

So...can I expect to learn enough in the workshop to actually build my own timber frame home?

A tough question, perhaps, but I only need to look back to our past students to find the answer. Over the last 25 years over 30% of our students have gone on to actually build their own timber frame, or have gone on to make timber framing their profession. Many have started their own timber framing company, and some of the most successful TF companies today are in fact our students. No small number have subsequently served on the Board of Directors of the Timber Framers Guild. Essentially, you can expect to receive as much from the experience in a measure equal to what you're willing to give, measured only by your devotion.

Our goal is to instill confidence by organizing systems and techniques that can be followed and applied to any number of framing situations. There is a mystery to timber framing, but it does not lie in the physical or mechanical act of laying out and cutting joints. Past woodworking or building experience has little to do with your ability to be a successful timber framer. In fact, it's often those with no woodworking experience who excel at timber framing. If fine joinery is to be the result, it's imperative that the pressures of time and speed of production be removed from the equation. Professional builders often have a more difficult time adjusting to the slower pace required to do fine work than novices who have never been subjected to the wrath of an irate project foreman. Our approach is to first develop a visual image of what it is we're building. Once this mental image is developed, we begin to unfold the frame, timber by timber, joint by joint, in a systematic way so that each timber can be visually seen and placed in the frame.

Progress begins slowly and systematically, making sure that the concept and approach is fully understood on an individual and group basis. As the group congeals into cohesive teams, confidence rises and talents increase. With this, speed naturally picks up. It's common for more work to be produced on the last work day before the raising, than in all the preceding days. The mystery of timber framing? This is difficult to describe in words, but you'll catch a glimmer of it as you stand back after the raising and begin to realize what just happened.
Steve Chappell

Comments from Students

Thanks for the wonderful experience this past week. Nicki and I had a great time taking the workshop and being in Maine. Our trip home to Virginia was long, but we had a lot to talk about over our 800 mile long trek. We're still amazed by the overall effect the workshop had, and just how beautiful the process is for cutting and erecting a frame. As we drove home we knew we accomplished a lot! We made new friends, we learned how to use new tools, and we especially learned how to say "Jean-Claude." Nick and Nicki Salido, Alexandria, Virginia

I just wanted to drop you a note to let you know what an excellent time I had at your workshop. I really feel like I learned how to use the tools, and got a good overall understanding of what goes into a timber frame...You can read all you want, but for me there's no substitute for hands-on experience! I can't wait to take another workshop. Of course the real highlight of the workshop was meeting you. I thought you were going to be just another builder. I had no idea you'd be an artist, and a visionary. You have such a contagious passion for your craft! I found it very inspiring. I also like the way you kept the group focused on the philosophical/spiritual as well as practical aspects of Timber framing. David Parchen, Irving, Texas

I wanted to send along my regards and a few words about my experience at the High Rolls, New Mexico workshop. I feel that I received the full value of the workshop fee on the first day. I gained valuable insight into the "quality" of the raw timbers as we chose the right timber for the various frame members. It was helpful and useful to begin each day with the 'skull session' and then have the opportunity to immediately apply the learning. Over the week my understanding of the principles of timber framing deepened as my skills with the tools increased. Your passion for the craft inspired us all and your enthusiasm for the project quickly transformed a group of strangers into a cooperative, productive work team. The environment of the workshop was made very special by the warmth of the Robinson family and the beautiful setting. So, for anyone considering your coursework, I say, "Do it! It will be one of those life learning experiences you will not soon forget." Kenneth Snyder, Seattle, Washington.

This is a good opportunity to let you know that the timber framing course was excellent. I also value the information presented by Frank Andresen on clay building systems. I would definitely take another workshop with you guys, and may do it in the next year or two.
Henry Gorczycki, Johnstown, PA

How do I begin to thank you for this experience which has been life changing?…I have always been a carpenter; you have helped to awaken the master who lives within me in spirit. In this uncertain world, know that you indeed make a difference. You have brought brothers closer together and made friendships between others which will last almost as long as the frame which we created. Those who truly embrace the experience will craft with a new respect for the materials and the people whom they will serve. Although we are miles apart once more, we stand together, champagne held high in the air, a tribute to our combined efforts and experience at Fox Maple. Vive Jean-Claude. Rich Ahrens, Basking Ridge, NJ

Hello! I’m finally writing with a long overdue Thank-you, for putting on such a great workshop. It truly was a wonderful experience. I feel like a learned a great deal and it has given me more confidence in my work at school. Amy Kiessling, Wheeling, West Virginia.

A Beginner's Tool Box

Framing Square
Framing squares were developed for timber framers back in the middle ages and today remain one of the most useful layout tools available to a carpenter. To the timber framer, it's an essential tool of the trade. As with many tools, the best framing squares are the most expensive, and it is absolutely imperative that the square is square. All squares should be checked off the rack before purchasing by measuring the diagonal from 15" to 20". This should read exactly 25". Approximately 30% of all new squares on the rack will be out of square. After years of frustration dealing with out of square squares, and the confusion of having different scales on each edge— 8ths, 10ths, 12ths and 16ths—creating errors to the unwary and the endless flipping of the square to find the right scale, we have finally designed our own stainless steel framing square that we proudly declare is The Best Square in the Universe. It is really the first improvement in the framing square in 110 years. The Chappell Universal Square has too many features to describe here, so to learn more go to the Chappell Universal website by clicking here. To purchase, click here. While it is difficult to recommend any other square when the Chappell Square is designed for the task of timber framing, the best alternative is to buy the least expensive steel square (not aluminium) you can find. These low-end squares have no tables and usually have scales only in 8ths all sides, but they tend to be square more often than the aluminum squares. These cost from $10 to $15. Shinwa makes a stainless steel framing square that is more often square than not, but has the same tables and varied scales as the standard square. These are available in many tool catalogs. Stainless steel will last longer than steel or aluminum squares, take a little more abuse, and they are less flexible, which means they won't tend to bend when scoring layout lines. Lee Valley Tools sells Shinwa's for around $70.

Framing Chisels, 1-1/2 & 2"
If any tool is synonymous with timber framing, it's the framing chisel. Framing chisels come in two basic types; tang chisels and socket chisels. For timber work, the socket version is much preferred because it can take considerably more abuse, and there is less shock and vibration transferred to the hand from repeated mallet blows. Broken handles can also be replaced quickly with just about any piece of hardwood laying around. A tang chisel on the other hand will transfer more vibration to your hand which creates more fatigue. Replacing handles also proves to be a little more difficult--and their handles are always breaking. A chisel should be judged by the quality of its steel, its weight, balance, and most importantly, its feel.

The feel of a chisel may seem a somewhat nebulous term, but it can be quickly understood by chopping a few joints with one that has it, and then chopping a few joints with one that doesn't. Most mortises are either 1-1/2 or 2 inches wide, therefore, one chisel of each size is ideal.Used chisels can be found in antique stores and yard sales, but you must know what you're looking for. Chisels with a thin cross section are usually a sign of a finer grade steel, and most often worth buying. Chisels with a heavier cross section are usually older, and made by laminating high carbon steel between softer low carbon steel. If the hardened steel can clearly be distinguished along the edge of the blade, it is most likely a sign that the hardened steel is of high quality. Most of these have a slight sweep to their back, which is a design element, and not necessarily a sign of abuse. If a chisel only has the imprint "cast steel", it was most likely made by an individual craftsman prior to 1860. These vary dramatically in quality, depending on the metallurgy skills of the craftsman. This was a fine art in the days before the industrial revolution and the Bessemer process. Some of these early cast steel chisels are the best chisels ever made.

The selection of new chisels on the market is limited as well. The best chisels I've found, by far, are made by Barr Quarton, of Barr Specialty Tools, in McCall, Idaho. Barr, is an apprenticed Japanese sword maker, his side line is framing chisels because he likes timber framing. Barr hand forges a line of socket timber framing and log building tools that really have no equal in any mass produced line. He makes small batches and each have slight variations is size and weight and feel. Natural for a hand forged tool. I'd recommend his tools as a first choice to any serious timber framer, or woodworker. Henry Taylor (a corporation), of Sheffield, England, also makes a line of socket framing chisels which can be purchased through Woodcraft supply under Woodcraft's name. These look great, however, they vary in quality and can have, but often lack, the feel. This is because they are made of a lower grade steel which is over-hardened to compensate, and subsequently, can be difficult to sharpen and maintain a good edge. For tang chisels, Sorby, also of Sheffield, makes a line of quality tools, including a set of tang framing chisels. While the tang is not preferred, the quality of the steel in the Sorby chisels is superb. Coupled with the feel that they've managed to capture, they are the best alternative if a quality socket chisel cannot be found. If you buy a Sorby, only get the long blade framing chisel. The shorter version seem to have different steel.

Framing Mallet, 32 to 48 ounce
My preference in a framing mallet is a one piece, turned mallet, 16 to 18 inches long, with a head about 3 to 3-1/2 inches in diameter, handle half the length and turned fat so you can't quite touch your fingertips when you hold it. These, of course, you have to turn yourself. American Hop Hornbeam is the best wood I've found and grows throughout New England. It is best harvested from the north side of the mountain. Sugar Maple (also known as rock maple) also makes great mallets. If you live in the south or midwest, Osage Orange is your best bet. If you have it growing near you, please bring a few bolts with you to the workshop, we'll turn a mallet for you in trade. We can never get enough of this in New England. If you have the wood, but no lathe, bring a blank or two. We'll teach you how to make one. Dead blow hammers can also be used, however, they produce more fatigue, create more heat through friction, and have less feel than a solid wooden mallet. When pounding a chisel with a mallet you should be able to feel the edge of the chisel cutting the wood. I find that anything other than a turned wooden mallet (with a pounding face parallel to the grain of the wood) creates too much shock and vibration, and this feel is lost.

Combination Squares
These are used primarily for gauging the depth of mortises, length of tenons and laying out the end of tenons and repetitive layouts, such as dovetails. As such, it's not essential that they be absolutely true, however, as with all tools, one should buy the best quality available if possible. It's useful to have two combo squares which can be set to different depths for multiple layout.

Flexible Stainless Steel Center Rules
Flexible center rules are actually an indisdensible joinery layout tool, especially when making compound layout which is usally generated from the centers of the timbers. Once you begin using center rules in your work they'll become like reading glasses, you'll want to leave several spread out all around your shop so you'll always have one nearby when needed. General and Shinwa each make a 12 inch center rule that will serve the purpose well. In addition to the framing squares, Chappell Unversal Square & Rule also has two models of flexible stainless steel rules designed for timber framers. Model CR112 is 1"x12" and fits neatly in your back pocket and is great for all around work. Model CR118 is 1-1/2"x18" and is also handy for all around layout, but has greater flexibility for laying out round log joinery and compound joinery that have long knife edge shoulders, To order or to learn more about these rules click here.

Hand Saws
For timber work, both crosscut and rip saws are required. The Japanese Ryoba saws are a good choice because they have both rip and crosscut teeth. Another great all-around saw is the Stanley Shark saw. These have a tooth pattern similar to Japanese saws, but they cut on the push stroke. They also cut almost equally as well ripping and crosscutting. The Shark saw can be found in almost any hardware store for under $20. We recommend the course, 5-6 point Shark saw for the workshop.

For smoothing and flattening the faces of timbers in the immediate area around joinery prior to layout, cleaning up tenons, and removing the bumps and ridges from the edges of timbers, a block plane is one of the handiest tools. The standard #9 1/2 is good for general work, and the #60 1/2 low angle version is great for planing end grain. If only one is to be purchased, make it the low angle #60 1/2. Stanley still makes good planes, but only the professional models. Stick with Stanley's Professional line of tools and you can't go wrong. The top-of-the-line Stanleys go for about $40. In addition to the block plane, a #78 Rabbet plane (at $80± I wouldn't suggest going out and buying one just for the workshop, but do put it on your list of dream tools) is also a handy tool for shaving tight up to the shoulders of tenons. If you want to really get into the feel of woodworking, check out the Lie-Nielsen planes. They are pricey, but once you use them all others will feel like toys. The Veritas planes at Lee Valley Tools also match this quality.

Scientific Calculator
For determining compound roof angles a calculator with Trig functions is required. We prefer the least expensive Texas Instruments model TI-30, that costs about $15. Construction Master calculators, manufactured by Calculated Industries, are not recommended as they are expensive (over $100) and limited to a pre-programed approach, which limits the students understanding. If you own one of these calculators, please leave it at home and bring a regular scientific calculator.

Protractor Square
If you are taking an advanced workshop, a protractor, or compass, square is essential. The rotating protractor head is necessary for gauging compound angles for layout and checking angles after cutting. Woodcraft Supply and Lee Valley both carry two or three models at reasonable prices.

Additional Supplies

In addition to the tools listed above, all participants should bring the following: 25' tape measure, carpenters pencils, blue and red builders crayons, razor knife (common retractable blade utility knives), tool pouch, eye and ear protection, note paper and a clipboard.

The tools listed above are only the basics that you'll need to bring. You can bring more, and if you have a favorite circular saw, 1/2" drill, or any other power tools you feel comfortable working with, by all means, bring them along too.

Tool Suppliers
Barr Specialty Tools   (chisels)
Lee Valley Tools  (squares, saws, planes, general hand tools)
Lie-Nielsen Tools  (superior quality planes)
Woodcraft Supply  (squares, saws, planes, general hand tools)
Timber Wolf Tools (formerly BarnMasters)  (mortising machines, 13 & 16" saws)
Chappell Universal Square & Rule Co (framing squares and flexible rules)


There are a number of local bed & breakfasts within a 5 minute ride from our school, and some a brisk hike. Most of the lodging establishments listed below offer a reduced rate for workshop participants, so be sure to tell them you are taking a workshop at Fox Maple. Camping is available on-site to those wishing to do so. The workshop is located on a secluded 40 acre parcel, with streams, mountains, and bridle paths. Campers should bring tents and all camping supplies. Bathing facilities are available, as well as nearby ponds for soap-free bathing.

Workshops run from 9AM to 5PM, daily. Breakfast and a hearty lunch are included in the workshop tuition. All meals are vegetarian. Shopping and numerous restaurants are located within a 15 minute drive. Friends and family members are welcome to accompany workshop participants, and meals can be provided them for a nominal fee. We are located in the foothills of the White Mountains of western Maine, and many natural and commercial recreational facilities are close by which family and friends not enrolled in the class can enjoy. Children are welcome, but they must be attended by an adult not enrolled in the workshop.Following are a few local lodging facilities. For more local information contact the North Conway, NH Chamber of Commerce at: 603-356-3171

Foothills Farm B&B
Brownfield, Maine
Kevin Early, Theresa Rovere
1/2 Mile from Fox Maple
Rates: $32 single, $42 double

Purity Spring Resort
E. Madison, NH
603-367-8896, 800-373-3754
10 miles from Fox Maple
Rates: $43-123 single

Prices listed may not reflect the current rates. Please confirm when booking.

The Inn at Crystal Lake
Eaton, NH
Ken Octeau
603-447-2120, 1-800-343-7336
5 miles from Fox Maple
Rates: $50 single, $60 double

Merril Farm Resort
N. Conway, NH
Lynn McArdle
603-447-3866, 1-800-445-1017
11 miles from Fox Maple
Rates: $39 single (Canadian $ at par)

River-Run Campground
Brownfield, Maine
5 Miles from Fox Maple

For more lodging and area information click here to go to the North Conway, New Hampshire Chamber of Conference website.


All workshops at Fox Maple include light breakfast and a hearty lunch, a Fox Maple T-shirt, and a copy of A Timber Framer's Workshop by Steve Chappell. Camping is available on the grounds, and equipped campgrounds are close by. Local Bed and Breakfasts offer special rates to all students (about $30-$50 per night). A wide choice of restaurants and motels are within 10 miles. Complete info will be included in all confirmation packets sent to workshop registrants. Traveling workshops include the basic meal / T-shirt / Book package, and lodging info will be available upon registration. Return to list

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Last updated 10/22/13