Timber Framing on a Budget (Part 2)

So as I said in part 1, I am not a professional. I started timber framing 3 months ago. However, I’ve made a few timbers that have connected to other timbers in a fairly proper manner. The tools that I use are much cheaper than the tools in part 1 of this post. These methods take just a little bit longer, but they have proven to be pretty accurate for my liking.

To start where I did before, let me mention how I saw the timbers. I use a Skil Mag 77 lt circular saw for a bulk of the cutting. This particular saw is a 7 1/4″ worm drive saw that offers a max cutting depth of 2 3/8″ at 90 degrees. It is remarkably powerful and rarely bogs down when I’m making a cut even at full depth in green oak.

I am a large advocate for hand tools, but since I have access to power where I am working on the timbers and because my tenons require the ultimate accuracy, I felt it best not to leave the task to my hand tool abilities. The circular saw was 200 dollars.

When attempting to make a clean cut through and 8″x8″ timber, I cut on all four sides of the timber and then finish the rest off with a handsaw. The handsaw that I use is a simple one, a cobalt 8 teeth per inch aggressive tooth pattern from Lowes. This saw comes in around 25 bucks and is incredibly sharp. The teeth are heat treated so it takes longer before it needs sharpened… Which is good because the pattern on the teeth of this saw make it impossible to resharpen.

So yes, they are throw-away saws and yes it does slightly depress me that I’m not using an antique Disston handsaw that has been sharpened to a master woodworker’s standard, but I just don’t have the time for that right now. From the feel of it, this saw will serve me well beyond the timber frame project.

The next portion of my budget based tool collection is the tools needed for making mortises. I, once again, opted for a power tool to assist in the process. I purchased a Bosch 1034 VSR high torque, low rpm drill from Home Depot. It came in at 200 dollars as well.

I tried the traditional method of hogging out 2″ holes with an auger bit attached to a T-handle. Here is a pic of one, not mine in particular:

The process seemed to work decently, but it took me 5 minutes to complete 1 hole at 5″ deep. I didn’t feel I wanted to spend that much time on a single hole, so I went with the power drill and a 2″ self-feeding forstner bit from Irwin. I equipped it with a quick-lock extension and now have a serious power drilling machine on my hands.

The only problem is that I have to hang on to this thing for dear life. If it catches in the wood, I jamb my wrist pretty darn hard. Drilling is a stressful process, to say the least, but it works.

Once I’ve hogged out a majority of the material with the forstner bit, I clean up the mortise with my chisels. All of the chisels were given to me from Faith’s grandfather and I repurposed them for the job. The previous handles were split, mushroomed, or non-existent. In the end, I use 3 chisels that give me the versatility I need.

The chisel on the left is a 3/4″ corner chisel. I always start with this chisel on the mortise to estabilsh clean corners. I then usually jump straight to the 2″ chisel on the right. I have it sharpened to 4000 grit and it cuts like a razor. Most of the time, I can just put my weight on in and it slides down the wall of the mortise leaving a clean shaving. It’s a delight to use.

The 1 inch chisel in the middle is my workhorse. It has a thicker stock and is meant for 1″ mortise holes but does a great job when I need to torque on some of the shavings to get them out. Another chisel that would be beneficial but that I don’t have is called a slick. This is a supersized chisel that is used by your hands only. It’s so large and sharp that it works much like a hand plane without the housing. Just put weight on it and it cleans up large areas at a time. Good luck finding a quality used one, though.

Of course all good chisels need a good mallet and I didn’t skimp on one. I got mine from Woodcraft. It’s a Wood Is Good brand 30 oz mallet. It comes with a great handle and the head is pretty much indestructible. I’ve given some pretty good licks with it too.

There are other tools that I use every once in a while that are necessary to the finishng details. One is a No. 5 jack plane. You could most certainly get away with a No. 4 which is much more common but a No. 5 seems to suit me better on these large timbers. I have it sharpened to 4000 grit as well and it cuts like a dream.

This is just a cheap plane from India but that’s really all you need for a project like this. When it comes to fine cabinetmaking, you should probably consider something a little more reliable, like a Stanley or Record.

I also have peg holes to consider once the joints are completed. The pegs are 1″ tapered pegs, so I need a 1″ auger bit for the job.

I have a smaller one to get the hole started that doesn’t tear out as bad (it’s the one in the drill chuck), and a super long one to get through the whole timber (far right).

Last but certainly not least, I have my marking tools. In retrospect, I should have started with these but I wanted to get the expensive things out of the way.

These don’t have to be anything fancy. All I use (from left to right) is a combination square, 25′ tape measure, and a square. At times the job calls for a 2′ square but it’s rare. I find myself using the combination square more than any of them.

So there you have it. It’s the budget way to get into timber framing. For all my tools, I spent about 700 bucks, which is cheaper than just one of the saws in the previous blog… Not bad.


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