The Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts

Timber Framing Intensive:
Design, Engineering and Construction

June 4 – 29  

This course is currently full but there could be cancellations as the date approaches.
If you'd like to get on the waiting list please contact our office.


This new course combines the core of our previous timber framing, homebuilding and apprenticeship curriculums into one package for those seeking a career in the building trades or a deeper understanding of the skills needed to build their own timber frame. FramingThis will be provided through morning classroom exercises, shop demonstrations and practice and afternoon hands-on projects culminating with the erection of a 16' x 20' timber frame. It's ideal for those who seek more opportunities for development than provided in our one-week courses.

After 40 years presenting a wide variety of homebuilding and timber framing related courses, this Intensive program includes the most essential elements for the modern carpenter to possess. We have eliminated much of the theoretical classroom information that is now readily obtainable from other sources (online, video, etc.) and focused instead on the hands-on exercises and experience that are best obtained under the personal guidance of an expert instructor.

The first week introduces the Basics of Building, including carpentry, woodworking and general housebuilding principles. Morning sessions will cover hand and portable power tool use, tool sharpening, joinery, conventional "stick" framing, and shop tools including table saw joinery such as dadoes, rabbets and mortise and tenons for cabinets and finish carpentry work. See complete course description and syllabus here.

Week two covers Design, Engineering and Joinery Decisions, focusing on timber frames but also the relevant building codes for conventional residential design. It is geared towards timber framers who want to know where to place timbers, how to size them, what wooden joints to select, and why. See complete course description and syllabus here.

The third week focuses on Scribing and using natural forms such as tree shapes in your project. It involves laying out and transferring joinery intersections from one timber to another using plumb bobs, levels and marking devices instead of tape measures and math. This traditional method is useful for incorporating out of square, curved or oddly shaped pieces into a timber frame as well as for complex roofs. See complete course description and syllabus here.

The fourth week concentrates on Roof Framing and compound joinery for both stick-framed and timber framed construction. The combination of drawing and basic roof math empowers the builder with a far wider variety of building shapes. The skills learned in this course are applicable to conventional framing as well as timber work, furniture with splayed legs, stairs, finish carpentry and any project where angled planes and pieces meet at a combination of angles. See complete course description and syllabus here.

The four-week Intensive includes the curriculum from our one-week Timber Framing course (see course description here) plus the additional content described above. All joinery typically found in house and barn construction can be experienced in the four-week Intensive course or the one-week Timber Framing courses.

Morning sessions will include introductions to and practice with tools and techniques through classroom and shop presentations and exercises. Afternoons will be spent applying these skills to a timber frame project that will be completed over the four-week period; other demonstration projects will be included as appropriate to support the morning sessions.

While no experience is required to take the four-week Timber Framing Intensive program, it is recommended that those taking any of weeks 2—4 without taking the first week have some previous carpentry, building or timber framing experience. Our hands-on one-week Timber Framing (in July and August) and Cruck (in April—May) courses each build a complete timber frame and require no previous experience but don't present the supporting material from our Intensive courses.

Crotch Registrations will be accepted for individual or multiple one-week sessions (course discounts apply). Those wishing to get into the entire four week program should register by March 1st to be sure of a spot, since some one-week portions may fill early. A Certificate listing the course/hours will be awarded to those who successfully complete the four-week curriculum.

"What a wonderful time we had at the school. When I came I wanted to be a lead carpenter on a framing crew. Since then all I've done is carpentry, working for many contractors and finally owning my own business. I recommend your school to young apprentice types; it will build character as well as skills."


Each student is required to bring the following to all courses in the Timber Framing curriculum:

  • comfortable work clothes, including gloves and work boots or sturdy sneakers
  • water bottle (for on-site)
  • sun hat
  • 3-ring binder and paper
  • calculator (scientific or Construction Master)
  • 12" combination square
  • chalk line with blue or white chalk
  • crosscut saw (sharp, 8-point or finer)
  • carpenters pencils
  • 1½" timber framing chisel
  • block plane
  • 2-3 lb mallet
  • framing square
  • tool box or tool bag
  • 16'or 25' tape measure
  • Safety glasses or goggles

    Some courses require a few extra tools, such as a bevel gauge, protractor square, and 24" or torpedo levels. A complete list of tools and where to get them will be sent upon receipt of your registration. We have a few loaner tools available for those on a tight budget, and our tool store stocks most of the tools required.

"To anyone planning to build a house, the Heartwood course is invaluable, in the end saving thousands of dollars in contractor's fees, errors, and needlessly limited possibilities. There is much to learn, but each part of the process is broken down and presented in a clear, harmonious way. Why can't all learning be like this?" — Meg, writer, Massachusetts

"I had very little building experience and wanted to build my own house. You gave me the knowledge and confidence that it could be done. I have since built five other houses and made my money back many times over. I can't thank you enough for what you did for me and the impact it has had on my life." — Richard, Illinois

Tuition for four-week course: $2900 per person, $5400 per couple; includes lunch. For single week tuitions see individual course listings; discounts apply for multiple courses. Those taking more than one week but less than four weeks may take $50 per person off of the 2nd week tuition and $100 per person off of the 3rd week tuitions.

Lunch and coffee breaks are included with the course fee but no lodging or other meals. Accommodation info can be found on our website, and vacancies in June are more available than at other times during the summer.
Heartwood classes run from 8:30 AM to 5:00 PM Monday through Friday (except Concrete Countertops which is Friday and Saturday); there are occasional informal evening sessions.

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Heartwood School

Johnson Hill Road

Washington, MA 01223

Phone: 413 623-6677


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Heartwood, Inc. All rights reserved.