SCHUYLERVILLE — Houses aren’t built like this anymore.
Workers with hand tools are carving 33-foot-long timbers into the frame of a building at Fort Hardy Park. They cut out the joists with a hand-held boring machine and a chisel. They used wooden mallets. There was even a hand saw — although a modern power saw was also in use.
The building will become the regional visitors center, which will guide tourists to historic sites, events and local activities. It has been designed to resemble a Dutch barn.
In other words, it will be unmistakable: a new historic building for tourists looking for history.
The Timber Framers Guild is building it over the course of three weeks. Members had intended to finish it in September and raise the building in a community event similar to a barn-raising. But the site on Ferry Street isn’t ready yet, so they are now going to finish the prep work in September and raise it around Nov. 2.
Locals can join in for free, but must register and join as a temporary guild member. Those who have done so already are loving it.
“It’s kind of therapeutic. It’s organic,” said Jonathan Blackburn of Cambridge. “You know, they don’t do stuff like this any more.”
He wants to buy acreage outside the village and build a timber house or barn.
“Go back to the land. You know, log my own woods, raise a couple beef cows,” he said. “I just think this is really cool.”
Project Manager Neil Godden argues that it’s also the easy way to build.
He showed Blackburn how to use a manual boring machine, which can be set for a certain depth and turned easily by hand.
“Very efficient,” Godden said, boring a hole in seconds. “It’s easy work. You do a series of holes and then square it up with a chisel.”
Companies stopped making the manual machines in about 1920, he said. The one he had was built in 1900.
His crew had a power boring machine as well, but no one was using it.
“There’s certainly some modern embellishments, but if you look around, it’s mostly hand tools. Not a lot of metal fasteners,” said Michael Cuba, from Stockton, New Jersey.
He’s a board member for the guild but had never attended a community build.
“I’ve always wanted to do one of these,” he said.
He normally restores old houses. He marveled at the new timbers — they’re all planed, rather than the hand-hewn timbers used in many historic homes.
“I’ve never worked with planed wood like this,” he said.
He prefers hand-hewn: “There’s a lot of irregularities, a lack of uniformity. There’s a little bit more creative problem-solving.”
But the planed timbers are all level, which makes the job much easier.
It’s a huge building for the guild, and a thrilling opportunity for the four apprentices working on it.
Apprentice Drew Chambers, from Atlanta, Georgia, has only built residential additions and sheds before.
“This is my first big build,” he said. “I love it. This particularly has been really fun. We’re building something with a definite purpose. And it’s in a cool style — a Dutch barn style.”
He’s hoping to eventually build his own house. But he’s also using the build to network as he considers his job options after apprenticeship.
“Building in the old tradition, that really appeals to me,” he said. “I want to learn from them how to make the ends meet.”
Volunteers can still join the September build, which will run from Sept. 5 to approximately Sept. 15. To register, email email@example.com.
Volunteers can also register to join the house-raising, a multi-day event that is tentatively scheduled to begin with prep work on Oct. 31. The raising itself would occur about two days later.