Roundwood Timber Framing by Ben Law

This is a review I wrote for the Mother Earth News in December:

If I’d had Ben Law’s book Roundwood Timber Framing (Published by Chelsea Green) back when I was learning how to build in the ’60s, I would have been inspired to plant and tend trees suitable for house framing — I could have framed several buildings by now as a result. Filled with beautiful color photographs and detailed drawings, this one-of-a-kind, practical guide will likely evoke the same “if only” reaction in many of its readers.

One of the unique features of this book is its step-by-step description of the process for creating your own building materials. Another is that every building shown within was constructed using a modified cruck frame. This method consists of using two or more A-frames, and was used in medieval times to build houses, barns and halls. Law has adapted it structurally to triangulate, and therefore brace, rectilinear buildings. In the back of the book are sequential photos of the construction of seven different round-pole buildings.


The posts, beams and crucks of these buildings are round poles, usually harvested on or near the building site. The entire skeleton of each Roundwood building is built with wood that hasn’t been milled or transported a great distance. These buildings look good from the outside and feel good to be in, thanks to the aesthetics of natural building.

   Full disclosure: I wrote the foreword to this book, so I was already a fan. But when I saw the actual book — as opposed to the electronic files I’d viewed beforehand — I was thrilled with how it turned out. The photography is beautiful, and the book guides you through the entire roundwood timber framing process: planting and tending trees, obtaining the tools needed, learning the joining methods for this type of construction, and perfecting floor-, wall- and roof-building techniques.

   Not everyone can build like this. You need to have some land with adequate tree growth. For those who do, Roundwood Timber Framing provides a path to a more sustainable method of construction — one in which you use your own hands and local resources to create a comfortable, attractive shelter.

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

One Response to Roundwood Timber Framing by Ben Law

  1. Rima and I spent a few days at the Sustainability Centre in Petersfield last weekend, dreaming and scheming for a festival to be held there in the summer. One of Ben Law's marvellous structures is in the woods there and serves as a stage and shelter. A really stunningly beautiful space to be in (but, my, that fireplace smokes!!)

    We're loving Tiny Homes, by the way 🙂

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