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Topping Out

topping out

We had been looking forward to “topping out” the frame for a long time, but when the day finally came – October 23rd – we hardly had the time (or energy) to pause for celebration. At 3:30 pm, a small hemlock graced the rafter peak in full sunshine, in thanks to the forest for providing the material for this shelter.

topping out

Before achieving that moment, we’d put in long, exhausting sessions cutting and installing the final frame members that form the building’s rafters. The rafters are made up of twelve sets of three pieces each – a pair that join at the peak and the long section that slopes down to the back of the building. The rafters were cut from 4x6 timber with a pegged half-lap joint at the peak, a stepped section to fit the rafter seat at the top plate, and a two-foot tail to extend the roof past the edge of the building.

We spent a total of 26 hours to cut the rafters in a very efficient process that took full advantage of the many years that Marion and I have worked together. If I had taken to shaping those 36 timbers on my own I’d have been knee deep in snow before they were complete.

topping out

When it was time to install the rafters we had to clear snow from the loft floor. In the photo above, Marion works to clear the ice from the rafter seats in the top plates.

topping out

The rafters spanning the loft were assembled in place. On a larger building, however, these would have been assembled on the ground, then hoisted into position.

topping out

Once the half-lapped joints at the peak had been clamped, drilled, and pegged, I marked the rafters above the seats for the pegs that would hold them in place.

topping out

Holes were drilled ten inches deep, through each rafter and into the top plate.

topping out

Each connection received one oak peg, driven snuggly into the joint.

topping out 

The photo above shows the pegged joints at the peak.

topping out 

With the rafters in place over the loft, the building begins to show its final form.

topping out

Another lap joint forms the intersection of the gable rafter and the 14-foot timber that slopes to the rear of the building. Above, a gable rafter can be seen housed in its seat before the final rafter section is laid in place.

topping out

With the last rafter pegged, our frame is complete. We topped out on a glorious late October afternoon with blue skies and temperatures in the 50’s. When the moment finally arrived, I rushed to find a small hemlock and affix it to the peak before the sun dipped below the ridge.

topping out 

We took several shots of our completed frame. To get the images, I positioned the camera atop a step-ladder, pressed the self-timer button, then raced for the building. After each sprint I wished for an option to set the timer interval at something longer than the 10 seconds I was allowed to get myself in position, gasp, compose, then smile. (Marion’s smile came easily as she enjoyed the many outtakes that were spared from this publication.)   


I am so excited to see her rising up! We make lovely music together my dear. :)

Stunning work of art! Thanks for taking the time to document and share.

That is one heck of a good building frame. Its just so much better than nails and, from the looks of it, should last about 500 years :)

viv in nz

Very Impressive. I'm curious how you picked up your joinery skills?? It really is a lost art. You two did a great job.


I have spent some time building furniture, but timber framing is a relatively new interest. When I was considering it, my friend Jeff told me, "All you need are some bigger hand tools."

He was right. A timber frame is like a giant piece of furniture.

Thanks for your feedback.

~ Kevin

Do you sell the specs to build Gypsy Rose?


Gypsy Rose is purely a personal project that I've shared via the blog. Although I've had many requests for plans, workshops, etc., I don't have anything to offer beyond this blog. She's a one-of, but hopefully readers of the blog can gain some insights from my experience. Good luck with your own projects!

~ Kevin

That is a work of art. I really appreciate your joinery and the love built into each timber. Most excellent. Thank you for sharing this blog.

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