Marriage marks  

Posted by Gabel in

Marriage marks (sometimes called carpenter's marks) are markings cut into the timbers of a timber frame to indicate where they are located in the building. Think of them as labels to show the carpenters where the piece goes when they get ready to put the frame together.

Marriage marks are mostly associated with frames that were scribed together -- each piece being custom fitted to its exact location, and therefore different than the other similar pieces. In scribe frames, it's common for each timber at a specific intersection to be labeled with it's own unique mark as you can see in many of these photos.

Here's an example from an 1850's building in Graniteville, SC.

You'll also notice that the marks are Roman numerals. That's the most commonly seen labeling system. It's faster and easier tor cut the straight lines of Roman numerals with a chisel or race knife as opposed to the curving Arabic numerals such as 8 and 5. Often times a "flag" or other modifier would indicate a specific side of a building or floor level. The use of modifiers keeps the carpenter from using numbers like LXXVIII -- Each wall might start at I and the north wall may have a flag left while the south wall has a flag right. Or perhaps the north wall is cut with a 2" chisel and the south wall a 1" chisel.

There is an incredible variation among marriage marks from one region or country to the next -- and even within the same area you can see several different systems that were used at the same time. Unfortunately, we don't have a comprehensive understanding of how many different systems were used or their distribution even in any one country. Anyone looking for a topic for their master's thesis?

I've included a few photos from buildings we've worked on, built, or studied.


Kingpost meets tie beam in a truss at the City Market in Charleston, SC.


Post and brace joint in a barn near Shepherdstown, WV.


Riven Eastern Cedar stud in the reproduction of a
1670 era indentured servant's quarters
at Charles Towne Landing State Park near Charleston, SC.


Exterior view of the Single Brother's House (1679) at Old Salem Village, Salem, NC


Top of the queen post in the attic of the Historic Massie School in Savannah, Ga.


Cutting a "VII" with a chisel on a white oak window stud for this oak timber frame.




Perhaps the coolest website ever...  

Posted by Gabel in

I have found a website that everyone who is interested in traditional carptnety should find fascinating. Here's the link.

Carpenters from Europe and Beyond...

And here's a description pulled from the site...

"A new website by France's Ministry of Culture and Communication is devoted to carpenters and their work. The site sketches portraits of about a dozen men and women who, although they came to carpentry via different routes (family tradition, compagnonnage, apprenticeship or by teaching themselves), share the same passion for traditional techniques and hand craftsmanship, as well as an interest in ancient knowledge. A rich collection of multimedia brings together historic documents and contemporary accounts, reveals some of the secrets of France's ancient trade guilds, or compagnonnage, and presents images of carpenters throughout history. This is a living laboratory, based on gestures of the woodworking trade, and one that sketches a portrait of a heritage that is both alive and changing, both physical and ethereal."

Wow. Now that's cool. What if Americans valued this part of our culture to this extent?

Pit sawing  

Posted by Gabel in

Here's a couple of videos from a few years back of Gabel sawing with a couple of different guys. These videos were shot at the Carpenter's Fellowship meeting in 2006 at Avoncroft Museum. This particular set-up, which is similar to pit sawing, but is called see-sawing.

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