Eight-year-old Sarah Bumstead from Philomath trys out a saw to cut timber at the KidsBuild at the Timber Framers Guild WestFest at the Benton County Fairgrounds on Saturday. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

Saws were whirring. Drills were whizzing. Chisels were pinging. The smell of fresh-cut wood filled the air. These were the sounds and smells of the Timber Framers Guild busy at work at Saturday’s WestFest.

Nearly 100 enthusiasts from across the country from New England to Philomath and places in between assembled at the Benton County Fairgrounds to celebrate their love of trees, wood and the specialized craft of timber framing.

The task on Saturday was to build a 16-by-20-foot timber framed pavilion that would be auctioned off that evening to help raise money for the Timber Framers Guild. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

The mission of the Timber Framers Guild is “to advance timber framing through research, education, and industry.” Every year they have a couple of events at different locations across North America. This year, Philomath native Autumn Peterson organized the event to come to Benton County for the first time.

Autumn has been involved in timber framing for over 20 years and currently serves as the vice president of the Timber Framers Guild. Autumn is also the owner of Heritage Natural Finishes that make specialty finishing for timber frames and other hardwoods. Heritage Natural Finishes served as the primary sponsor of this weekend event.

Timber framing is a specialized, eco-friendly building technique that has existed for thousands of years. It is a process of cutting and joining the frame of a structure together with natural woods. This is done in cutting tenons and mortises that essentially connects two pieces of wood together at a 90-degree angle in what is called a “joinery.” In simpler terms this is essentially a tongue and groove system of joining wood together in a perfect fit. It takes a lot of skill and experience to get it to fit just right.  

The task on Saturday was to build a 16-by-20-foot timber framed pavilion that would be auctioned off on Saturday night to help raise money for the TFG. It was impressive to watch a group of strangers all working diligently side-by-side in one of the fairground buildings.

Autumn Peterson, vice president of the Timber Framers Guild and Philomath resident, admires a freshly milled piece of timber during Saturday’s event. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

There was no arguing. There was no screaming. Just people with mutual respect for woodcraft all quietly working toward a common goal of making all the pieces fit together — a remarkable scene on Saturday.

Autumn Peterson invited Love of Learning to share the story of the Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park with the assembled Timber Framers Guild members Saturday.  

This is representative of the frame the Timber Framers Guild plans to create for the Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park. (Image by Timbers Framers Guild)

For those who don’t know, Beverly Durham gifted Paul Cochran’s teenage home to the city of Philomath under the provision it be made into a veteran park in honor of her fallen son, Paul J. Cochran who was killed in action May 1, 1968, in Vietnam.

Autumn Peterson has been collaborating with the Timber Framers Guild to come up with a design for the new park shelter that will eventually be built in the Paul J. Cochran Veterans Memorial Park.

At the beginning of the event, Peterson shared the TGF vision with attendees which is “enriching community through craft.”

Autumn later remarked that she believes “that timber framing brings together community like nothing else.” It is a “perfect fit” for a timber town. After all, Philomath was built from generations of hard-working people in the timber industry.

Ellen Buford carefully cuts mortises in a timber beam inside a pavilion at the Benton County Fairgrounds. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

She went on to say, “We have logging trucks hauling logs in and out of town every single day. Working on this park is a way we can enjoy the natural beauty of finished timber products.” It certainly seems that it would certainly be an appropriate way to honor our fallen veteran from timber town.

Love of Learning also spoke to TFG Board President Bo Foard from New Hampshire, who shared that he thinks the idea is a “win, win, win” project for the Timber Framers Guild, the city of Philomath and the Cochran family. He went on to say “It is a great way for communities to collaborate.” 

Eric Howard serves as the executive director of the TFG and hails from the state of Massachusetts. He was also very enthusiastic that the Guild would be happy to assist in making “mom’s dream come true.”  

Philomath residents of all kinds were attracted to the event. Brian Montgomery, who is the owner of Revolution Garage Door, was busy cutting “rafter pockets” for the roof of the structure. He moved to this area from Virginia several years ago when his wife got a job in town.

He said he “loves Philomath” and was very proud to mention that his business has recently become a platinum buckle sponsor of next month’s Philomath Frolic & Rodeo. Thanks for your generous support of our community, Brian!

Philomath resident Brian Montgomery cuts a tenon on the end of a timber at the Timber Framers Guild event. (Photo by Eric Niemann)

Love of Learning also spoke briefly with Philomath-area resident Scott McClure, who owns Confluence Design & Construction, a local timber framing and construction business. He lives on Fern Road and was hired last year by the Benton County Historical Society to repair a 30-foot beam in the cupola of our old college building. Scott gave the attendees of the TFG WestFest a tour of his work in Philomath on Friday.

Last but certainly not least, 8-year-old Sarah Bumstead came with her father, Andrew, to attend the KidsBuild portion of the event. She was intensely focused on guiding a handy Husky saw along a piece of timber along with a handful of other kids. Making sawdust is a great place to start. She gives me hope that Philomath will always value the craft of timber framing and remain a timber town long into the future. 

If you are interested in learning more about the Timber Framers Guild, please visit its website to connect, sign up for the email list or perhaps even join!

(Eric Niemann is a former mayor and city councilor in Philomath. He can be reached at Lifeinphilomath@gmail.com).