Steve Chappell’s Advanced Timber Framing: Joinery, Design & Construction of Compound Hip & Valley Timber frame Roof Systems is the most detailed and comprehensive book available on how to layout and cut mortise and tenon joinery for complex roofs. But this book is invaluable to any craftsman-builder in a number of other ways as well.

It includes an in-depth review of the history of timber framing, including insights into the evolution of joinery, building form and design from ancient times to the present. Inherent in this development was an understanding by ancient builders of proportion and geometry in both the natural and man-made environments, and Chappell carries these lessons forward to apply them to modern timber roofs. 

Whereas all of this drawing can now be done by computer, the traditional training of the craftsman includes learning to draw it by hand, thus increasing the artistic abilities and visualization skills of the craftsman. This ability to see the roof framing in one’s “mind’s eye” enables the problem-solving ability of the builder, and offers a wider variety of possible solutions to a problem, including the use of naturally curved or “free-form” materials. The author is able to successfully extend these concepts to musical analogies as well, which have been a big influence on his work over the years.

The techniques Chappell has developed and presents here are applicable to other building challenges that require three-dimensional visualization - stairs, furniture and boats, for example. Anyone faced with a problem that involves a structure being built at varying angles through space (not just square, plumb and level) will find many useful tools here.

The layout of mortised and tenoned joinery in heavy timber is especially challenging and presented here in a clear and methodic manner. The many photos alone are valuable to see potential solutions to a myriad of compound roof problems (especially valley systems) a framer might encounter in their career. There is a “vocabulary” of compound joinery that shows many of the ways roof timbers can come together, and it’s hard to imagine a junction that isn’t shown here.

Finally, the guidelines are condensed into a number of axioms that summarize the basic “rules” to follow to successfully execute one of the most difficult skills in timber framing today. 

—Will Beemer, Director, The Heartwood School for the Homebuilding Crafts