I’ve had many people ask where I got the plans for our cabin. Truth be told, there weren’t really “plans”. There was a basic layout from a book that I read. This book is, by far, the best reference book for any mode of construction I have ever read. It’s called Timber Frame Construction: All About Post and Beam Building by Jack Sobon and Roger Schroeder.
In the book, it describes the basics of timber loads, joint design and includes the lumber list and details for a 12′ x 16′ garden shed. All I did was turn the garden shed into a tiny cabin. In the book it states that the garden shed can be sized bigger, up to 4′ wider and 8′ longer, so long as you beef up the timbers or add supports on long spans. I used this and turned the cabin from a 12′ x 16′ to a 16′ x 20′. The only place that I will need extra support is in the basement where I will place a couple jacks and a support beam to carry the load. Upstairs, I will be placing a subframe in between my timbers for electrical, plumbing, etc. This subframe will help carry the load of long spans.
Once I had the basic layout of the cabin, I used Google Sketchup and put the plans in 3D. This is where I really gained a full knowledge of the joinery. I was able to get down to the millimeter and make sure that every thing matched up like it was supposed to.
From here, I was able to create a notebook of dimensions that I keep with me on the job site. The dimensions make it simple and the pictures take away the guess work. It’s much better than looking at a cut list and hoping everything is cut on the right side of the timber.
Although it may look confusing to you, since I created it on Sketchup, it gives me a great knowledge of what I’m working on.
There are a great number of other books that you can read on timber framing that will increase your understanding of the art and I own a couple of them. However, I really feel that you could stick to this one book and build just about anything. For the fancier timber frame home, I recommend the book A Timber Framer’s Workshop: Joinery, Design & Construction of Traditional Timber Frames by Steve Chappell. This is the nerdy timber frame book that contains lots of load span charts, sheer stress formulas and all that good stuff. It gives good knowledge concerning fancier joints like hammer beam trusses and wedged dovetail joints. I plan to reference this more often once I finish building our home. That way I can maybe make a living of this one day… maybe not… or maybe.
For foundation, plumbing, windows, roofing, siding, and all other sorts of magic stuff, I reference YouTube an awful lot. Now I realize that this is like saying your reference for your college essay is Wikipedia, but YouTube can be an amazing resource. You just have to know where to look. I always take the same approach: find a video with lots of views and one that has a lot of thumbs up and hardly any thumbs down. Usually, it never steers me wrong.
Although, the greatest resource is usually people you know that do the thing you’re wanting to do. With a timber frame home, there’s not many people that do that or will ever do that, but when it comes to general construction knowledge, you usually know a guy… or gal. Don’t be afraid to ask. Building a house is really just a lot of fun and shouldn’t be limited to the people that know how to do it. Learn by asking and share the love for future generations.