The use of large hand hewed timber logs was state of the art standard material for homes and barns back over a century ago. With the innovation of the industrial revolution and the need for homes to be quickly erected, new building technologies were invented and highly productive saw mills were built to meet the demand. Nails were not used at this time, but the beams were notched and then holes drilled by hand with a peg driven into that hole to keep major beams together. Some nails were used called cut nails where a sheet or plate of steel as made in a mill of a certain thickness and the nails were literally stamped out making this nail. These nails were expensive and they were usually made of hot rolled steel and hot heat treated which caused these nails to break under a heavy hammer blow.
So with the homes using 2″ x 6″ and I mean real 2″ x 6″ studding and nails made from wire which is a lot cheaper and new construction techniques, homes and even barns were built a lot quicker, just as strong and is some cases stronger and cheaper in both labor and materials caused Timber Bans and homes to fall our of favor and no loner built except for the Amish, but they did use the saw mills to make the large timber beams for their structural strength.
One must understand with timber built barns, the spacing of structural members is less and actually uses less lumber, but it is the matter of handling these heavy beams that caused a lot of problems and also a lot of injuries and even deaths. Slowly timber barns and homes were no longer made but a few for the Amish who wanted that style of barn and they had plenty of help to make this adventure happen.
I still hear of these barns still being raised by an small army of Amish neighbors getting together for a old fashion barn building, or a frolic as it is known. The men would toil from early morning till the sun set in the evening and the wives would cook the meals feeding the hungry crew and for those not old enough to help in the barn building, they would play always under the watchful eye of everyone on the site because it was a dangerous area.
If all of the materials were purchase and on site this entire project would be done within a week at which time hay would be stored in the upper loft and the horses in their new stalls with sawdust under their feet and to serve as their bedding. I have been in many a barn and they are as magnificent as some of the great palatial homes or mansions that were built by the wealthy of this country. If I had a choice of owning the Breakers or the Singer mansion or I fine Amish barn, I would pick the mansion, sell it and purchase several barns to live in. However, I would not share my barn with the horses, they would have their own.
But that was the past, and this is the present. There is a group of Amish builders who I know that finds old barns and take them down piece by piece and gently removing the timbers for another life. Each piece is inspected including the barn shielding or outer cover for a potential new life and if it passes it is steamed cleaned to remove any critters that have made a home there for they are not welcomed in the new life of the wood. The large timbers get the same treatment and steamed, but for a longer time. They do not use any chemicals because of potential hazards and steam will kill or remove all critters and bacteria. Some of this wood is used in making new homes as décor or even structural members and the outer covering is used as décor or furniture is made of it and I have several pieces on display in my new store. Those pieces that do not pass are sent on to another group who use those pieces into distinct arts and crafts and if too bad, it is used as firewood. Nothing is wasted.
Homes are now built with these reclaimed beams and barn wood for an entire house or to make a barn on someone’s property that can afford such a building. They are not inexpensive and it takes skilled craftsmen to use these timbers in the most effective manner and to give the desire affect. They usually work with the architect of the home to create for the homeowner this special effect.
Having a home with reclaimed beams is not only a wonderful décor item, but a bit of history is within that home. I have a sister in law with such a family room and it is just wonderful to see these huge beams going across the room creating the cathedral ceiling. Now just because they have it, you can also have these beams as part of your home cottage or even an old barn right on your property. The Amish have reclaimed the wood and steamed it to remove the critters and they build your dream home.
These Amish timber home builders travel to all parts of the country and will work many weeks at a time to finish the project. I was talking with the owner, Abe and they were doing a home in West Virginia and the nearest hotel was at least an hour away. So an arrangement was made and the men brought their sleeping bags and slept on the floor of the couples very small home that they were going to move out of and into the new timber home to save that two plus hours day traveling and could get more work done and the owners wife prepared 3 meals a day for the Amish workers and can they eat. Abe told me she got up very early in the morning to make the home made biscuits, bacon, gravy and eggs for their breakfast every morning with also a healthy lunch and supper. The man had to go to work so all were tired when the evening sun was leaving the western sky.
They told me that they had no problem sleeping and enjoyed the stay and I asked about sleeping on the floor and he told me no one had a problem with that at all. The only problem they had was the rainy days where work was limited, but work was still done and of course Sunday all rested. The Amish never work on Sunday.
The home was finally finished and now they are back to Ohio and in my last discussion with Abe, they are going to do homes Amish style where ever people want them. They do not have to be an Amish Timber home but just a high quality home for those that are very fussy and work to the highest standards.
One thing that I was impressed is that for a barn owner now has a choice. The barn can be just destroyed and what a shame, or its beams and siding can removed used for other homes or barns and the siding used for furniture and I have same of this marvelous barn furniture that I will keep for myself and also one can have a barn completely restored. I am not sure of the Red Man Chewing Tobacco sign, but it can be either painted or coated to keep the rustic look to make it last for another life.
As I travel around, I look for old barns that can be torn down gently and reclaimed and would be a piece of history for a new owner to be enjoyed even more than its previous life.
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