Sun Jan the 19th Strawbale Studio hosted the Round Pole Framing Workshop (rescheduled from 5th due to the extreme snowfall and ice). Deanne co-presented this workshop along with local carver, Mark Angelini. They covered the principles of working with round pole, plus tools and safety, then we worked on building a small round pole project: the Fairy Forest Frame.
First, why would someone choose to build with round poles?
Well, round poles are stronger than dimensional lumber to start. When working with dimensionally cut pieces of wood, you need to ask yourself, what are weaker points in the cut wood that could affect the design? With round poles, there are no areas weaker than others because the trees rings are intact!
Besides this they are: Aesthetic. Ecological. Require less energy. Part of a craft. It is true that the process takes more time, BUT you can connect to the land and your materials verses when you buy dimensionally cut pieces.
This workshop’s participants learned that two of the main tools needed to work with round poles are a mallet and a hatchet. Therefore, the group started by learning how to use a hatchet to make a mallet out of a chunk of wood to use in their building process. After some mallet making, everyone went out to harvest some trees for the poles. Mark showed his technique of cutting down sapling with the hatchet before going back in to discuss how to read and understand more on round pole design.
Some of the highlights: It is important to learn about the dimensions of the round poles and also how pieces fit together. In the design of structures, for example, with round poles the strongest joinery is always “wood on wood” ~ two flat surfaces touching each other. If the builder is relying on nails and screws then the strength of the building is only that of the nails and screws. Further, if the builder uses wooden pegs, then the design can even be dismantled, taken somewhere, and rebuilt as a moveable structure.
Technical points covered on round pole construction were:
The curvature of the log and how it will fit into the structure naturally
Ways to hold and control the wood
Using a draw knife to debark the logs
Making different cuts, including a Kerf cut (Google it!)
Different examples of joinery, such as a lap joint, saddle joint, and birdsmouth joint
Putting joints together using the newly made mallets and chisels
Notching and tying beams
Triangulating (putting in diagonal braces between horizontal and vertical members) in order to stabilize the structure laterally.
Talk about a lot of information! One thing SBS will consider in the future in turning this into a two day workshop in order to give people more time to absorb and play with these techniques.
Deanne’s “Winterns” (interns staying for the month of Jan) had prepared for this workshop the week before. One of these awesome Winterns, Kirsten, really appreciated helping to make a small model (8” x 10” x 5”) before the workshop in order to work out kinks on a small scale- how all the pieces fit.
Overall, everyone agreed Round Role Frames could be a really “Funstrating activity” (fun+ frustrating, hah). While there’s a lot of ease with dimensional lumber compared to round poles, there’s a lot of satisfaction with wrapping your brain around the shape of the round poles.
If you’d like to experience “funstrating” and satisfying round pole construction, contact Deanne to get on the list for the next time this workshop is offered!