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.