A timber frame can seem complicated, but really it’s just like a big 3 dimensional puzzle with different shaped pieces that fit together. In order to better understand the big puzzle (a timber frame), I thought it might be fun to find out more about its specific parts. The first thing I wanted to learn more about was the dovetail joint.
The dovetail joint is one of the most beautiful timber connections and is strong and secure through design. It gets its name from the shape of its mortise and tenon, which resemble the tail of a dove. Once the connection is made, it becomes very difficult to pull apart, because of its wedge shape.
Dovetail joints, in timber framing, are used to connect roof purlins to rafters, and floor joists to girts.
Just for a refresher, a principal purlin is the horizontal beam that spans the distance between the gable ends of a building, and rafters are the series of timbers that attach to purlins and are used to support roofs.
Girts are the timbers that support walls, and joists are the timbers that run between girts to support floors and ceilings.
The dovetail joint is favorable for these connections because its design is stable, long lasting, and beautiful.
The dovetail joint is also commonly used to build handmade wood boxes or cabinets.They are a fundamental traditional joinery connection, because they are simple and incredibly strong. Below, is a picture of one of our crew cutting a dovetail.
A great insight into the skill and craftsmanship involved in building a timber frame would be trying to cut a dovetail joint. It ain’t easy.
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