Around Timber Framing and Carpentry

Last weekend I found myself in département de la Creuse in the middle of France surrounded by friends, forests, carpenters, hills and enthousiasts of all kinds. Olivier Phojo and Jeremy Brodbeck organized a wonderful event Around Timber Framing and Carpentry. If you weren’t there you have missed out as it was great fun and there was a lot to be learned and shared.

Loic hewing

I am not writing a detailed poetic description of the weekend, just some pretty pictures shot by Jeremy with his Leica and captions reflecting my memories.


There were several workshops going on and one of them explained the technique of piquage where timbers are stacked and scribed in relation to centerlines set out below and in relation to each other. I have been using this technique for the past months on one of my projects and was hoping to learn some subtle tricks to tweak my technique but unfortunately that didn’t happen. And although it is a very practical and kind of foolproof way to layout complex assemblies I can only conclude that it  will never become my favorite layout method. I just find it cumbersome and too time consuming to do the lay ups and it is difficult to get accurate results without testfitting and readjusting. This is of course just personal opinion and therefore not worth much.


Note the selfmade plumb bob. Note to myself, make a plumb bob.



I always feel privileged when I can learn from a tradition-bearer. Explaining hewing techniques and regional axe shapes.


The kitchen crew did a great job feeding all the hungry carpenters. The bar was usually open until late at night.

Olivier Phojo

Olivier Phojo explained a very interesting and unique way to develop cutlines. Based on an old carpentry book we explored this method that is a bit different of the usual approach like it is described by Mazerolle for instance. It was great to work on one of the problems together with him and put it into practice. There was a lot of interest in the subject, Olivier is a good teacher. Triangles everywhere, aah I love it..



Some hewing as usual at these events.


I was blown away by the amazing timber available in France. I concluded (again) that Belgium is not the place to be as a carpenter.


Andy is great at explaining dance moves. Euuh I mean hewing techniques trying to safeguard the future of this girl her legs.

On Sunday I gave a presentation about Japanese Carpentry, the transmission of craftsmanship and an introduction in the layout methods employed. Great audience, many questions and it seems that people liked it judging on all the positive feedback I got.

frame saws

After three days of endless fun and good company it was time to hang up the tools and head home. Driving back I enjoyed the company of two friends which made the 10 hour journey much more bearable. On the way we stopped at the old abbey of Auhun which has some amazing carvings.


‘Stunning’ is the word you are looking for.



Or is it ‘vivid expression’?

Auhun carvings


Some of the things I learned over the weekend:

  • bring all your camping gear, including your inner tent
  • how to employ the niveau de devers 
  • my air mattress does not fit my car
  • carpenters are fun to hang out with, it even gets better after some homebrewn Calvados from Normandy
  • I just fit my car diagonally if I don’t mind that my feet are sticking up against the window
  • the principles of French layout practice are quite comparable to the Japanese layout tradition
  • it’s all about applied geometry
  • it’s all about triangles
  • did I mention that it is all about triangles?

Tomorrow I am leaving to France again, this time to Montpellier where I will be attending a very interesting symposium WoodSciCraft. I will be giving a talk there on Monday about Japanese Carpentry. What I look forward to most are all the interesting people I will meet there. Craftsmen and academics from Europe and Japan the line up is pretty impressive check it out here. If somehow you are able to make it down there I highly recommend you do. Once more there will be a lot to learn and discover!