During a Midcoast Conservancy Timber Frame course at Hidden Valley Nature Center, more than post-and-beam frames are built: partnerships, friendships and new skill sets are regular features of the four-day workshops. When local businessman Davies Allan learned of the courses, he was inspired to make the experience affordable for anyone eager to learn the craft. So he made Midcoast Conservancy an extremely generous offer: let prospective students know that he’ll pay half of the course fee for them. All he asks in return is that each person write him a brief statement, explaining why they want to take the course. No Shakespearean prose is required, just a genuine explanation of why acquiring timber framing skills is of interest.
As the chairman and founder of the marine construction and engineering firm Chesterfield Associates, a resident of Westport Island, and builder of many beautiful covered bridges, Allan comes by his appreciation of woodworking honestly. A 2018 local project involved moving the historic Boston & Maine Railroad Moose Brook Bridge into place over Trout Brook near Head Tide Village. The bridge, originally constructed in 1918, is a historically-significant example of a Howe Boxed Pony Truss bridge, one of only six remaining in North America.
Allan says, “My interest in Timber Framing increased tenfold when my firm, Chesterfield Associates, which I started in 1968, was awarded a $4.5M contract to rebuild the Cornish Windsor covered bridge, by the state of New Hampshire in 1987. We had the pleasure of working with Jan Lewandowski, a fantastic craftsman of great intellect and ability. Three years later we built a new 140’ covered bridge near Dover-Foxcroft for the state of Maine. That bridge we moved two miles down a state highway, and placed it where the Low’s Covered Bridge once was.” A long-time benefactor of builders, Allan added, “We have been financial supporters of the Timber Framers Guild throughout the years.”
Timber framing, sometimes referred to as post and beam building, is a historic way of building that uses specific joinery to erect a building made from large beams. The buildings are both rugged and beautiful. Timber frame construction can be a satisfying way to make use of harvested trees from personal woodlots to build a shed, barn, or even a house.
Each course is a four-day, hands-on experience, where eight students have the opportunity to build a complete timber frame and participate in every step of the process from harvesting trees to raising the finished structure, working with two expert instructors to learn the basics of sustainable forestry and saw mill operation, building design principles, and hands-on building techniques for constructing a simple frame.
Two more courses are scheduled for 2021 (the spring class is full): July 8-11, and October 8-11. Full tuition is $450 for Midcoast Conservancy and MOFGA members, and $500 for all others and includes use of all necessary tools and a Midcoast Conservancy membership. Complete information and registration is available online at https://www.midcoastconservancy.org/explore/events/
These workshops are sponsored and supported by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Assoc., Hancock Lumber, and Woodmizer Sawmills.