Having taught traditional timber framing courses in Australia for several years now it was an immense privilege to be invited to co-teach at a timber framing workshop taking place in Normandy, France in September of 2018.
I was to be working alongside a timber framing master craftsman and one of my closest friends Alan Ritchie and his team from the Hewnwood timber framing school. As the two lead teachers, Alan and myself were set the task of coordinating, organising, teaching and entertaining 20 students from across the world and our project was to be a reconstructed Oak timber frame that would be installed within the ruined walls of an ancient barn.
Our hosts, Simon and Julie, had purchased the property a couple of years earlier when they moved from the UK, seeking the more relaxed and laid back French country lifestyle. The farm complex that they purchased had several rooms and outbuildings already, but required extensive restoration and renovation work, which Simon set out to do, converting not only into their home, but also to have a part that would serve as guest accommodation.
All of the timber for the project was sourced from a nearby sawmill and there were some terrific naturally shaped members that would play an important role in creating that traditional oak framed feel and look. The frame had been designed by Alan earlier in the year, but when we got to site, there was quite a lot of site measuring and amending required to create working drawings, that would tie in with the variable stone walls of the existing building.