Last week, staff and volunteers here at Westonbirt had an opportunity to get involved with the construction of the timber frame for the machinery store element of the new Wolfson Tree Management Centre.
I spent a few days with Pete Eyles and his team, learning more about the process, getting involved in marking out timbers and even having a go at using some power tools and hand tools.
Pete is keen that staff and volunteers have a chance to learn more about timber framing, and dedicated a week of his schedule to hosting a number of us from different teams around the arboretum.
During the time we spent onsite, we worked on timber for one of the gable ends of the building. There were a number of personal highlights for me, including marking out timbers and using a plumb line to make sure the cuts that would be made worked with the natural ‘wobble’ of the timbers they would sit alongside; having a go with an electric morticer to cut a mortice in one of the roof beams of a gable end and using some lovely sharp hand tools to finish a tenon to fit into the mortice joint (no doubt Pete’s team will have cast a critical eye and expert hand over this by now to make sure the work is up to standard!)
It was great to spend time with colleagues and volunteers I don’t usually work with, working as a team to get our heads around some of the tricky concepts involved in timber framing – it’s a surprisingly accurate process which Pete, with his 28 years of experience, made look simple!
Pete’s quest for accuracy is for good reason. As well as giving the building a neat and tidy finish, the junctions of the building are made from galvanised steel – these parts are made very accurately, and the team have to ensure the wooden components will fit together with them perfectly.
Timber framing may be an ancient skill, but a structural engineer is involved the whole way through the process, specifying amongst other things the dimensions of timber and the grade, or quality, which is used. Much of the timber for the machinery store is of the highest structural grade possible and, we’re proud to say, a large proportion of this comes from Westonbirt, removed as part of the routine management of the tree collection here.
Take a look at the picture gallery below to see images from the course.
It is anticipated that the first of the gable ends will be raised into position very soon. Watch this space for an update!
Gina Mills, Marketing Support Officer