Plan the work and work the plan

Steve Lawrence, principle at Macdonald & Lawrence, was the featured presenter on Sunday. Steve took 5 projects that he has been involved in and covered planning, philosophy, and practice related to logistics, hand raising lifts, scheduling and budgets, crew management, public participation, and other aspects of site work.

Macdonald and Lawrence has executed some quite large projects, in one case requiring 500 hours of pre-planning. One salient point Steve made early on was that the purpose of any planning is to increase safety and decrease cost, and wether the project is a 12×16 frame or a 30,000 sqft building, planning and its effect scale proportionally.

Steve showed how his initial timber list morphs into a powerful tool that can provide information for shipping, site planning, and a host of other phases of a project.


Excel sheet organizing the Pemberton Downtown Barn timber from mill order to cutting and raising time

Using sketchup to provide animations of raising scripts can be a powerful tool for communicating a plan to a crew, and could even help to win a bid in a competitive environment.


Site plan for the Pemberton Downtown Barn showing crane lcoation and radius, pre-assembly staging, and building foortprint.

Placement of material on site at M&L is streamlined through the same excel document that was sent to the mill, making it simple to track material through the shop, on to the truck (or helicopter), to site, and in to final placement. If the enemy is shrinkage, material handling is its henchman.


Pre-assembly organized and ready.


Raising Case Studies

The afternoon consisted of two presentations by Journeyworkers Will Denton, of Trillium Dell Timberworks, and Ryan Msiolek from Cascade Joinery.

Will presented two recent projects that TDTW erected in the Chicagoland area. One was a theatre in Glencoe designed by Studio Gang Architects, and the other was the winning design from a competition for the Chicago Architectural Biennial, erected near Soldier Field along Lake Michigan.


Chicago skyline behind Project Horizon, erected by TDTW

The logistics of working in Chicago, union requirements, highly constrained site hours, and various timeline challenges were all successfully overcome by the TDTW crew and Will did an excellent job presenting lessons learned from these high profile commercial projects. Custom bases for hydraulic jacks, high precision joinery, heavy lifts, extra long glulam timbers, and lots of communication were de rigeur for these projects.


Writers Theatre in Glencoe, IL


screw detail from Project Horizon on Lake Michigan

Ryan presented a 140,000 bdft project erected in Fremont, CA. In the spirit of the weekend, the group divided up and discussed how to raise a  27,000 lb end bent and a 6700 lb truss. There were a range of options from the groups and a good discussion of lifting gear, rigging options, and center of gravity considerations. Ryan then presented how it actually went down, including the lift planning, engineered lift design, and solutions to parts of the plan that didn’t work as intended. It was a great example of at the shop lift planning and real world solutions.


27,000lb bent flying into place


last bent with horizontal strongbacks visible


Steve Lawrence offers his take on lifting a 27,000lb bent


After dinner, Darren Watson, from New Energy Works in McMinnville, OR showed how to use CAD software to extract information about complicated assemblies using one of the pre-event exercises. The power of the computers can slash the time needed to find the weight, center of gravity, investigate hook heights, and provide a  whole library of information that can facilitate efficient lift planning.

In classic Guild form, the discussion evolved into serious shop talk, though in a reflection of the the times, youtube videos were involved. There were contrasting approaches to steel knife plate work, a look at the MyTiCon Transport Anchor and other panel lifting plates, discussion of wage rates across the country, shop culture and process.


Adhesive Concrete Anchor Training

Long time TFG member Tom Haanen, PE, who worked as an engineer with Hilti for 30 years, gave the group a good overview of concrete anchors Saturday morning, focusing on adhesive anchors in vertical down installations.

Tom has recently taken the ACI-CRSI Certified Adhesive Anchor Installer training  and presented this information to the group. After a good discussion of general practices as well as some of the nuances of installing epoxy in less than ideal conditions, the group moved outside to practice installing threaded rod in a concrete lock block.


Tom Haanen speaking to the group



Total Station

In the afternoon, Doug Brinley from Kuker Ranken introduced the group to Leica’s total station surveying equipment. The tools available to the construction and surveying trades incorporate a dizzying array of advanced technology, and Doug gave the group an introduction into their capabilities.


Doug Brinley from KR (center) 

The two tools that were demonstrated have graphical interfaces and at the higher end, the user controls the laser entirely over bluetooth from a purpose made tablet (or iPad) running Leica software on a Windows platform. The applications to complex layout were immediately apparent and we barely touched the full spectrum of possibility. It was clear that the learning curve is longer than the typical optical tools commonly found on today’s jobsites. Fully integrated with BIM and CAD, these tools are powerful 3D instruments that our industry is sure to see more of in the coming years.


John Miller, Willis Rozycki, and Craig Aument discussing the possibilities.


Evan Shike from Trillium Dell Timberworks uses a laser plummet to level the tripod base


Leica’s prism detector

2016 Training and Assessment gets under way

The 5th annual Training and Assessment began Friday morning with Journeyworkers, Apprentices, TFG Executive Director Jeff Arvin, and timber framers from as far as Vermont, and as close as the host’s shop here in Ferndale, Washington, in attendance. The Cascade Joinery is graciously hosting the event in their shop, and as with much of Guild activity, our annual gathering depends on the contributions of time and enerrgy of our members.

Curtis Milton, ATC Chair, led the group in a review of the organization and its programming. Rick Collins, Journeyworker and TFG board member, brought forth a task, which came out of the recent board of directors meeting, of creating a “charge” for the Apprenticeship Training Committee. All the committees in the Guild are going through this process of focusing their work.


Jeff Arvin speaking to the group Friday morning

The discussion ranged from curriculum review and development, journeyworker to apprentice ratio, an evaluation of the mission statement, the creation of more levels of qualification in the program, and creating goals for the year that Rick could bring back to the board.

The engagement in the discussion was encouraging. We in the Guild and in the Apprenticeship Training Program are widely spread out geographically, and though we are in contact over email and on the phone, it is important to meet face to face, eat meals together, and work through the challenges and create opportunities to fulfill our mission.


2016 Assessment and Training

This year’s annual Training and Assessment will take place February 26-28 at Cascade Joinery in Ferndale, Washington, just outside of Bellingham. The topic for this year’s event is Site Work, and will include lift planning, rigging, raising, mechanical and adhesive connections, crane specifications, as well as other topics related to all the work that needs to happen after a frame leaves the shop and before the whetting bush is nailed to the peak.

Attendance for Supervising Journeyworkers and Apprentices is sponsored by the Apprenticeship Training Program (ATP). Registered Journeyworkers current in their dues can attend for the price of food, in this case three catered meals a day. For folks not a part of the ATP, the event cost is $300 and $180 for food.

In advance of the event, the Apprenticeship Training Committee (ATC) has distributed several tests to help the apprentices get the most out of the presentations in Ferndale. A selection of test questions will be posted here over the next few weeks. Click on a question to bring up a larger image.

If you are interested in attending the event, or want answers to the pre-event test questions, email

test question 3

test question 2

test question 1

Things Octagonal

Prior to the ATC training, recently held in Fort Collins, there were a number of home work problems assigned. Tim Whitehouse, Journeyworker and owner of Arris Timberworks, has spent some time with the Compagnon du Devoir in France, working specifically on developed drawing. He offered the following solution and lesson related to the homework problem of inscribing an octagon on a circle. 

Before beginning this exercise, a couple of simple, but important geometric constructions need be explained.

Bisecting a line  Fig.1

Take any line AB. Set your compass to more than 1/2 the length Line AB. With the point of the compass on A, swing an arc above and below the Line AB. From point B do the same. Draw a line from the intersections of these arcs. This line is the perpendicular bisector of line AB

Bisecting an angle  Fig. 2

Take any angle ABC. Swing an arc from point B(the Vertex) and intersect Line BA and Line BC. From the arc intersection on each line, swing another set of arcs. Draw a line from the Vertex B to point D. This line bisects the angle ABC

The first homework problem was to inscribe an octagon in a circle using pencil, straight edge and a compass.

Inscribing an octagon in a circle Fig. 3

Draw a circle with the Center O. Draw the diameter, Line AB. Bisect Line AB, giving you Line CD. Bisect Angles AOC and BOC (red construction lines in Fig 3). Connect the intersections of these radii and the circle to complete the construction.

Octagon 3.4.15

Figure 3

What is the practical value of this? Understanding simple geometric principles can allow one to solve complex problems with very low tech tools. In regards to carpentry, the octagon is seen in posts and is probably the most common form of polygonal plan after the rectangle.

Other ways to create octagons:

The octagon scale, available on some framing squares, allows a quick layout for an octagonal post from a square timber.

For example, if you wished to make an octagonal post from a 6 x 6 timber. Set your compass to 6 on the octagon scale. (Fig. 4) 

Figure 5

Figure 4

Swing this arc (red construction lines) from the midpoints (labeled A,B,C, D) of the sides your timber,. (Fig. 5.)

Octo square.vc6

Figure 5

The math solution for the length of the arc for the above.

Arc length = width of timber * .207

6 * .207= 1.242”