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Grindbygg: Timber Framing Norwegian-Style

June 5, 2015
by North House Folk School

Peter Henrikson has taught timber framing at North House for 17 years; in timber frame talk, he's a king post of the program! Peter has taught the basic timber framing and build-your-own timber framing courses since 1998, just one year after North House was founded. He came to North House with timber framing knowledge, but he also knows a thing or two about log building, basket making, and teaching timber skills on public land. In the North House spirit of always seeking new things to learn, Peter traveled to Norway two years ago to investigate and build an old style of timber framing called a Grindbygg.

The Grindbygg style of timber framing has been around since the days of the vikings, and it has been used for centuries as a utilitarian structure for boathouses, barns, and store houses. Like the traditional American and European timber frames, the Grindbygg uses posts and beams to hold up the rafters. Unlike the familiar frames, a Grindbygg frame does not use any mortise and tenon joinery to hold it all together. Instead, a Grindbygg uses slots or “bridle joints” cut into the posts to hold the beam and plates up. Altogether the building process is very organic. The structures are built by eye with a few basic proportions being used as a guide, the joinery is scribed due to the use of naturally curved braces and knees, the roofs are traditionally made of slate covered over with turf, and the siding made of juniper thatch.

In the course of his research in Norway, Peter visited farms, museums, living history parks, and archaeological sites, all over the southwestern part of the county. These frames are still standing after hundreds of years of use. Peter also spent a week attending a Grindbygg framing course in Voss. Peter said it was much like a North House class, with students from all different walks of life coming together to build a traditional timber frame. The class was taught in Norwegian, but the language barrier was not much of a problem due to Peter's understanding of building and teaching.

Since coming back to the states Peter has been on a mission to have more Grindbygg structures in the world, and so has been building and teaching the Grindbygg style of timber framing at North House. The Grindbygg makes a great open air structure for boathouses, patios, and carports. A Grindbygg timber framing course is currently underway on campus, and another will be scheduled in the future.

For more on how Grindbygg frames are constructed, watch this great Norwegian documentary on the build process.