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  • Writer's pictureNorthern Timber Crafters

Joinery and Connections

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

One of the most critical factors in creating an extraordinary timber feature is the joinery and connections that are used. Simply stated, joinery is the process of joining pieces of wood to produce a more complex product. Joinery must fulfill engineering requirements while still providing a sought-after design aesthetic.


It’s important to work with a company that is experienced with the various connection options since engineering firms are rarely concerned with an aesthetic outcome. In most cases beautiful and secure joinery will come down to the willingness and ability of the manufacturer. Most joinery options will require special tools and techniques that not every shop will have. That is why General Contractors prefer to partner with us - we act as a reliable sub-contractor to help them build extraordinary homes.


Joinery Option #1 – Metal Gusset Plates


Gusset plates are common because they do not require any joinery on the ends of the timbers. Each timber can simply be cut flat to butt into the adjoining timber. Each timber will require holes drilled through to fit the pattern of the gusset plate and then all will be bolted together. This technique requires the least amount of experience and very few specialized tools. The cost of this option is similar to the other options due to the cost of the gusset plates. Since each connection requires two gusset plates (one for each side) and long thru bolts, it is common for the cost of the metal parts on each connection to cost $300-400.


Example of Custom Connecting Metal Hardware


Joinery Option #2 – Traditional Mortis and Tenon


The traditional method for joining pieces of a timber frame relies on complex joinery to allow an all wood connection. This method has been used and perfected over the last 2,000 years. Where two pieces join each other at a perpendicular angle they are joined using a mortis and tenon joint with wood dowels. In addition to a mortis and tenon joint, several other joints will be cut and used throughout the timbers. Some of the other types of joints include scarf joints, lap joints, wedges, dovetails, and splines. There are hundreds of variations of each type of joint that can used based on the specific situation. This method requires the most experience as selecting and cutting these joints and is not necessarily easy or intuitive.


Example of Haunch Joint


Example of Tapered Mortis and Tenon Joint


Example of Saddle Joint


Joinery Option #3 – Combination of Wood Joinery and Metal Components.


There are cases where an all-wood look is desired but the load forces are greater than what the wood can withstand. This requires metal components to be installed inside of the wood timbers to supplement the strength of the wood joinery. The metal components may include: GRK screws, split rings, barrel bolts, all thread, knife plates, or Timberlinx. In most cases the only hint that there are hidden metal pieces is a wood plug that covers the hole drilled for the metal insertion.


Example of Hidden Knife Plates


Example of a Split Ring


This article outlines three joinery options where in reality there are unlimited options by combining all of the variables available. We partner with homeowners and help them choose joinery that integrates into their home design to create a one-of-a-kind extraordinary feature.


Copyright (c) Northern Timber Crafters – All Rights Reserved. 2022.
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