Author: Susan

Bending timbers

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from Daizen News, 15 October 2011

Some clients desire the look of bent timber. To achieve this, we decide first whether the timber is structural or not.

The strength of structural timber depends at a very basic level on the fibre connections in the wood itself. If the fibres are severed by a cut-out curve, the wood can no longer act as a structural member.

Our approach to a structural curve is to start with solid timber sliced into the optimal thickness. The exact thickness depends on the radius of the curve. We then bend the timber (using a vise like the one below) and achieve the desired final thickness by laminating the slices.

For curves, we use Free of Heart Center (FOHC) timbers. The laminations are very hard to spot, since we slice from the same grain. We test this by asking our colleagues to find the individual slices in the final laminated wood. Over 95% of the people we show our solid bent lamination to think it is a natural bend. This bent timber retains the integrity of the wood’s fiber connection. Further, since the wood is sliced longitudinally, it is in fact more stable than solid timber, which can twist and warp. Note the twist in the straight timber below, where the curved timber has no twist.

Remembering this distinction in approach should help in design. If timber is non-structural, a cutout from wide timber should be free of heart center for best appearance. If the timber is to be structural, it will likely require slicing, bending, and relaminating.

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Multi-purpose windows

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from Daizen News, 15 Oct 2011

The jobs of a window are to (1) bring light in, (2) expose a view, or (3) exchange air. A classic picture window accomplishes the first two, usually becoming a focal point in a room as well; all other opening windows (such as hinged casement,  horizontal sliding, or double-hung sash) exchange air.  They may also bring light in or allow a view, but windows that open rarely accomplish all three goals equally well.

Certainly a uniquely-shaped window can be best at adding light and showing off a view. Integrating an opening mechanism is a challenge for an odd-shaped window, such as the circle in this example. My first thought was to place an electric fan in window frame that works both ways (air in and air out), but the air pressure differential is sufficient on its own to exchange the air.

I prefer a low-tech, non-mechanized solution where possible, so I simply placed ventilation holes in the window frame to fulfill the important third function of exchanging air.

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Project profile: lighthouse cabin

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from Daizen News, 1 Oct 2011

This three-story timber framed getaway, inspired by traditional Japanese carpentry, was designed by Karl Willms (, a strategic partner to Daizen.

Inward-leaning corner posts make a very strong structure, especially for a tall building.

In the Japanese model for this building—like a bell housing atop a temple—the four lengthwise planes of the corner posts are not square timbers, but instead intersect in a diamond shape. The diamond angles are carefully calculated so that once the timber ends are leveled horizontally, those ends are square. The horizontal plane is then entirely plumb and square for best connection to intersecting joinery and finish material.

There were no public roads to the site: all materials were transported by boat and raised by human power!

None of the raising team complained about the hard work of a hand raising. We all enjoyed the experience, in part because we could see the results of our work right away.

None of the raising team complained about the hard work of a hand raising. We all enjoyed the experience, in part because we could see the results of our work right away.







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Timber and steel–a robust marriage

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from Daizen News 1 Oct 2011

In look, feel, and function, steel and timber

blend very well. Steel is, after all, derived from naturally-occurring

materials. And its strength is a welcome assist to challenging loads. In the

image below, a steel tension rod adds support to a hammer-beam truss.

Where the tension occurs in a joint, steel is

often used to meet the structural load demand. Steel placed to help bear loads

also presents an opportunity to include some unique detail, if desired.

Several tools and materials further support the melding of steel and timber.

CNC technology provides laser cut capabilities to shape the steel plate, with

precise, free-curve cuts that enhance design potential.  And giving the

steel a black powder coat results in superior contrast and “finish” to the

ruddy tones of wooden posts and beams.

Incorporating structural steel is not for the faint-hearted, though. Of key importance is the actual steel to wood connection, especially when using a steel tension rod.

It’s not possible to align steel plate holes to the timber holes unless there are tolerances. If the holes don’t line up, the thread on the ready rod may scratch at the edge of the steel hole.

To avoid this, we do a dry fit of the timber to the plate  before drilling the holes on the steel plate. This is easily done with a magnet drill.

Since the timber is the more active material (shrinking, etc.), it’s best to get the timber frame fabricator to control these steel plate connections. If you separate these components, the chance of a resulting tolerance issue is very high.


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Building wisdom 15 Sep 2011

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from Daizen News, 15 Sep 2011

継 続 は 力 な り

Keizoku wa chikara nari.

Literally: Continuance is power.

Meaning: Just staying the course will generate vigor. Continuing on after a setback is its own kind of strength. Perseverance is power.

wikimedia commons

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“Help Japan” Bonsai event

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from Daizen News, 15 Sep 2011

We continue to seek out opportunities to bring aid to the people of Japan. Six months after the Fukushima disasters, children are afraid of even puddles of water. Amidst the confusion, efforts persist to move vulnerable communities to higher ground and rebuild the fishing industry.

Help us help them, at a spectacular event in Surrey, Saturday, October 1. It’s a bonsai sale, but it’s also a silent auction, multi-performance, bonsai workshop, ikebana workshop, tea service, and opportunity to see other Japan rescue items like the Daizen Joinery torii gates.

The day’s events include the opening ceremony, a Japanese Lion Dance by Rakuichi, Bonsai workshop, Taiko and Koto drum performances by Sansho-Daiko and Kozue Matsumoto, and sign language performance by Tzu-Chi of Canada. Raffles and silent auctions add to the fun, and our fund-raising gates will be there in the flesh (in the fibre?).

Japan Bonsai Garden is hosting the event; co-sponsors so far include Daizen Joinery, Vancouver Rakuichi, Raku Tei Juku, and San Sho. For more information, see

Tak Yamaura demonstrating bonsai.

Come to Japan Bonsai Garden Art, 16164 24th Ave. in Surrey, on October 1. Drink in the art of Japan and help the Japanese people recover.

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Notes from the Global Buyers Mission

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from Daizen News, 15 Sep 2011

On September 8, Dai talked to architects and engineers at BC Wood’s Global Buyers Mission on wood distortion. He explained the process of how and why timbers twist as well as how to manage and even prevent that twist.

He covered the mechanics of twist (in beam, below) and shear (in pegs, below). Finally, Dai compared the price of kiln-dried timber to that of gluelam, to inform choices for optimal size and length in timber frame design. Of course, he showed plenty of example projects.

The talk went well; by their comments afterwards, the audience seemed to enjoy this vital information.

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Why build a hybrid?

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5 reasons to think outside the box

from Daizen News, 15 Sep 2011

First, what is a hybrid?  In my world, it’s a building with a mixed structure: some heavy structural timber (say, 20-ft.-long posts and beams that are 6 x 8 in. thick) in it, but it’s not all heavy timber. The rest of the structure is built conventionally—called stud framing, stick framing, or light construction—with 2 x 4-in. lumber.

A hybrid is a challenge for the designer. To build a balanced, cost-effective hybrid, the integration of the two systems is very critical. Technically, a hybrid contains structural timber (perhaps starting with some first-floor ceiling beams that hold up the second floor and expanding ideas for heavy timber from this point); timber accents (like beams that don’t support any weight) are not structural and usually don’t constitute a hybrid.

Now, why build one?  Here are 5 reasons:

5.  A great use of our precious big-timber resource is to include some big timber in common rooms such as the kitchen or living room, and then use light framing in the rest of the house.

4. Since big timber is, well, big, buildings of all heavy timber, especially residences, may be short on space in small areas like bathrooms or closets. Space may also be tight in small houses.  In this case, heavy timber just in common areas makes the best use of space.

3.  In renovations (where we are adapting, adding on, and adding ornament to an existing house), a bit of heavy timber—for outside, porch, or entryway accents, or for a big addition wing—can add the wood lover’s touch to a house without rebuilding the whole thing.

2. In hybrid commercial buildings, a good strategy is to use timber in both structure and accents to draw people in—entryway, roof, knee braces, railings, atrium.


1. And the biggest reason: hybrid houses cost less.  If budget is a concern for you, consider a hybrid house.

To see more about these hybrids, download our color portfolio. And visit the Daizen website for  more information.



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