Author Topic: Post and Beam Arbors  (Read 11964 times)

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Offline -woodsman-

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Post and Beam Arbors
« on: January 10, 2010, 09:44 PM »
These are two post and beam arbors I'm building in Boston (yaay boston).  The larger one is over the driveway and the smaller one is over the walkway.  His house is on a main st. with a hospital 1 block away and its very noisy.  The ideas is that once the vines have established themselves it will help deaden the sound of the road.  I'll go through the driveway one first.
I dug theses holes by hand and encountered some obstacles.

I decided to put footings in and anchor the 8x6 bottom plates to them.  I wanted to avoid burring any wood.
I set J bolts in the footings and they determined my  8x6 post placement.  The threaded rod section of the J bolt comes through the bottom plate into the mortise for the post's stub tenon.  A large washer is used to snug the plate down.  The nut and washer are mortised further down so it doesn't interfere with the tenon and the whole thing is hidden under the post.
Here you can see one of the bottom plates in the center.  The 4 vertical tenons here are the 4 posts stub tenons.

Between the posts and the head are 4x6 brackets at a 45 dirge angle.

There is horizontal bracing between the 2 bents but I don't have any good pics.  A bent is a framework composed of several structural members that defines the cross-section of a timber frame building (thanks wikipedia).

The 8x10 heads that complete the bents are around 25' long.  I had to put a joint in it somewhere. I chose smack dab in the middle.  Yup completely unsupported. Its over 5' in either direction before it rests on the brackets.  I used a Japanese joint called Kanawa Tsugi.
Each half of the joint took 10 hrs to cut.  Roughed it out with a Prazi and did the rest with a slick and chisels.
18425-8 18423-9

I was definitely worried that it wouldn't sport the weight of its self let alone the purlins, vines and snow load in the winter. My Japanese friend continually assured me that it would.  When I was ready to test fit the first pair I had to make very miner adjustments just to get them close to fitting.  This wasn't easy, putting them together and taking them apart, because each half ways over 500lbs.  But I got them together, pegged the joint  and put it on blocks approximately where the posts would be.  
Edson Sama was right, it worked.
My friend in this photo wasn't aware of me fears when he stood up on it.  I'm only 35 but ill tell ya I almost had my first heart attack.

The purlins create a arch across the top.  The first and last purlin is flush with the top of the header so the detail dies into the plane of the header.  Each purlin is beveled leaving a 2x2 square on the end of it. From the center of the head moving out in either direction the length of the bevel of each purlin is reduced by the 2 3/4" as the height is reduced by 1". This reduction brings it from a 10x2 with 2" showing from the bevel to a 2x2 with no bevel.  The math was also good for the cut list. I had 2x12s each yielded 1@10" and 1@2", 1@9" and 1@3" so on and so forth. The only waste was less than 6" off of each end.
This is only half of them.  I was in the process of finishing and did not have acsess to the other half.  Just picture it mirrored on the right hand side to complete the arch.

So that brings us to the finish.  Pine tar and linseed oil. Here is a link .  I used the light tar did two coats and the home owner wanted it darker. I personally liked it lighter but if the dark tar had been applied without two cotes of the light first it would have been black.  so its a happy medium. And the timbers are all the more protected by that third cote.

This is really funny.  The ambulance drivers who passed by many times a day and who sometimes stopped to chat (when there wasn't someone in the back) became so aware of me that some of them would turn off there siren as they drove by.  The was grate because being in a below grade driveway amplified everything. 
« Last Edit: January 10, 2010, 10:45 PM by -woodsman- »

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Offline Memphis Larry

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Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2010, 10:54 PM »
Great looking work so far!  Would love to see pictures of the finished project.
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Offline -woodsman-

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Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2010, 10:53 AM »
Great looking work so far!  Would love to see pictures of the finished project.

Thanks Larry.  It has been  grate project.  I have encountered some permitting issues so hopefully it will go up in the spring.  I don't think the volunteers I need would be to thrilled about putting it up in January anyways.  I will post pics of the other arbor soon when I get a little more organized.

Offline Eiji Fuller

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Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #3 on: January 30, 2010, 10:44 AM »
great project! what kind of wood?

Offline -woodsman-

  • Posts: 75
Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2010, 06:17 PM »
Wow, sorry, I guess I haven't logged on in a while. Its Hemloch that was milled for me in southern Vermont.  The finish is a 1 to 1 mix of organic lineseed oil and pine tar.  I have made it through 2 of the three permitting hearings with unanimous support. Last one is with the zoning board in a couple of weeks [scared].

Offline Brice Burrell

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Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #5 on: May 06, 2010, 06:31 PM »
I got to see more on your Kanawa Tsugi joint work, wow!

Offline -woodsman-

  • Posts: 75
Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #6 on: August 01, 2010, 11:59 AM »
At the third hearing the chairman actually said "I'm not sure how you you managed this unanimous love fest."  We all joked around after the hearing saying we should have given him flowers and tried to hug him.  I don't think this would have gone over very well.  Heactually made me get a 3D rendering done of the the structures placed on a picture of the site.   WTF.  I found out latter that he lives a few block from the site and drives by it every day.  I think he was jealous and wants one of his very own.





Luckily I had a friend in town who could do this for me for free.

We then had one last design review hearing.  She barley looked at the renderings that my friend made.  I was actually 3 minutes late to the meeting and she was on bored already.

There is a new disaster though.  The homeowner is a little lazy and had not been in his own garage, where the timbers are stored, in the last 6 months.  I wanted to keep them outside in the driveway(he doesn't have a car) but he insisted the garage.  well... there is standing water in the garage.  This happened before the last cote of pine tar could dry and now there is about 80% surface area coverage with mold and mildew.  My sister was in town and wanted to show her how wonderful the timbers looked.  Can you imagine my face when I turned the light on.  I cant catch a break on this one.  He will have to pay me to fix this, which I don't evan have time to do.


  • Posts: 9
Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #7 on: August 08, 2010, 01:06 PM »
Really nice timbers woodsman , even though i live in Ireland i think i recognize that main road ,is it vfw parkway?

Offline -woodsman-

  • Posts: 75
Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #8 on: August 09, 2010, 06:31 AM »
Thanks RICHDEMPSEY.  The V.F.W. Parkway is very close.  Have you lived in or visited boston before?


  • Posts: 9
Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #9 on: August 09, 2010, 05:08 PM »
Yes ,I lived in Norwell for a couple of years, my last project in the US was renovating a bar in JP called the Jeannie Johnson, not sure if you know it. Two years ago I spent a week working with an Amish crew,in up state New York building a post and beam horse barn ,so I can relate to your heavy timbers.

Offline -woodsman-

  • Posts: 75
Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #10 on: August 09, 2010, 09:36 PM »
I have been, but not in a while.  karaoke was allot of fun there.  How was it working with a Amish crew?  They must have had some nice hand tools?  To them I guess there just tools (because they don't use power tools [laughing]).  I just picked up this bad boy last month, I couldn't resist it.  Used one the first time I did timber work and was blown away how easy and effective it is to use.  I think its faster and more accurate than using a corded drill, plus you get to sit while you work [big grin].


Millers Falls morticing machine, made in Millers Falls, MA.


I need to do some research but I think this model was made at the end of the 1800's into the early 1900's


Offline Tom Bellemare

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Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #11 on: August 10, 2010, 01:49 AM »
That's pretty cool, Mr. Woodsman! It looks like something from my Grandpa's machine shed. The place was just south of Fargo and had been there since the late 1800's, I think. They weren't Menonites or anything like that but back then, those were "cutting edge" tools (pun intended).

I have some old ship auger bits like that one. I got them with my Dad's old brace and bit set. I also have an extension to "reach deep" and it all works great. I still use it sometimes, even though I've got Festool.

« Last Edit: August 10, 2010, 01:55 AM by Tom Bellemare »


  • Posts: 9
Re: Post and Beam Arbors
« Reply #12 on: August 10, 2010, 04:56 AM »
Hey woodsman , the week i spent working with the Amish was probably the most enjoyable week I've spent working in my twenty years as a carpenter. I love that miller falls drill press, I've been lookin out for one of those for a long time. I must confess , I've got the modern day version, Mafell LS103 w/ plunge base ,it's a bit like cheating but an awsome machine.I got the Mafell handheld bandsaw also, not sure if you are familiar with the Mafell brand, Same quality as festool ,but most of their tools are much larger. If I'm not mistaken ,both Festool and Mafell routers are the same just different colors.How is that miller falls to use? The Amish used nothing but handsaws and small chainsaws with a special chain.They would put most of us to shame with the quality of their mortices and tenons with a chainsaw.I'll try post some pics of Mafell gear. Oh and the Amish lunch was something else.