Brian Persico's Timber Frame (pt 1)


Brian Persico is a designer that lives in the Catskills of NY.  His work is centered around building very fine furniture and archery bows, among many other special projects... one of which we have the privilege of sitting in on!  In the coming months we will be following the ongoing process of building Brian's new workspace.

Brian lives in a small cabin with his girlfriend Hannah and their pup, Cocoa. The tiny cabin (originally built by his father in the 1970's) is about to get a little larger, and part of that process has involved clearing a space in the properties 16 acres of woods to make room for a septic field. 

"I wanted to make use of the beautiful trees that have been felled and keep them as an integral part of the property."

A personal studio has been a goal of Brian's for some time.  He currently uses a small workshop on the Ashokan river which he shares with a cabinet maker, here he has his workbench and hand tools as well as access to machinery.  But still, his favorite place to work is outdoors in the woods around the cabin where he can currently make many of the bows and tableware as they are made with hand tools.

Hand tools are part of what makes this building process so unique.  Brian is hewing all of the timbers for his frame by hand with his collection of beautifully restored axes (circa 1800's), a felling axe for cutting to size and a broad axe for finishing.  It is based on a traditional early American timber frame - not far off of how it would have been done in the late 18th century.  This project, he reckons will take at least a year to complete.

The foundation sits a few feet away from another stone foundation that has been part of the property long before the Persico's acquired it.

"That's a ruin of a maple sugar house from the 1850's, they used to tap the trees on the property and that's where they'd condense the syrup."

Another process historic to the Catskills that Brian is hoping to resurrect on the property this Spring.

The first step is to lay a dry stone foundation with shale gathered from the woods, this he has built 18' by 20' with future plans for building additions kept in the back of his mind.

"I'd like good light, room for my bench and a bandsaw to begin with, using these I can do the majority of my work and I think it will be a good place to grow from.  Upstairs will be an office and some room for Hannah's textile studio too."

The next part is to assess the piles of timber lying around to find the strongest and straightest trunks for the frame.  Ash, Cherry and Sugar Maple make up the majority of the woods that were cleared and all three will be used in the building process. 

Once the logs have been identified, they are pulled out of the pile and worked with the axes to square them off.  These are then carefully measured and the joinery is cut using chisels and augers until they can fit together forming bents.

Next time we will watch Brian hoist the bents into a timber frame .....stay tuned!

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