An Air-Tight Joint

An Air-Tight Joint

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From Daizen News, September 2012

We see two different types of timber frame. One is a frame covered with Structural Insulated Panels (SIP) for high energy efficiency: a highly insulated, air-tight house system.

The other has an infill wall system where the frame is visible both inside and outside. In the infill wall frame, we use full-size tenons so the air cannot penetrate, but we also started using a gasket that is slotted into the joinery and then fills at the frame raising. The HannoWerk seal from Germany is a closed cell seal that expands to block any air or water that might run into the space.

Since we use a seal, the tenon does not need to be full size. We couldn’t achieve this effect with a bead of caulking because timber can shrink and, if a gap occurs, the caulk doesn’t have the ability to expand. Here you can see a groove just to the left of the tenon, where the seal will sit.

The seal in its groove. The groove is necessary so that the seal is seated and is not crushed as it expands.

The groove, with seal, is outside of the joinery. Most likely, the seal will be hidden by a framed infill wall.

Seal arrives to us compressed in a roll that will expand to almost 10 times its original size, to ensure that the gap is sealed.

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An unusual Mountain-Man house

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From Daizen News September 2012

Our designer Kevin Mattson does all our timber frame design as well as production drawings.  He lives at an off-grid site and raised his child, a son, in a 300-sq.-ft house. Living in a trailer on site, he built the house one part at a time, from 1991 to 2001. The house contains a full-size kitchen (the kitchen table is a dining table too), a living room on the opposite side, and a bathroom in the middle. Above the bathroom is the loft space that is Kevin’s bedroom; it had been a hideaway for his son for many years. Now Kevin’s young son, grown up and in Florida, is going to have a baby soon.

This is such a small house, but when I entered it, I was not able to draw the floor plan in my head for a while. Nice design.

On Kevin’s house, the posts are scribe-fit to rocks, exposed beams are protected with copper, natural light features prominently, and the walls are finished with textured drywall and good natural materials. Because it is small, Kevin can look after it very easily.

The entry is flanked by two natural posts scribed on to a rock base. The full-length wood shutters can be closed for both sunlight control and home security.

The front elevaton, with landscaping.

Interior view of the timber framed entry, enhanced with fixed picture windows. Light from the roof skylight is softened through the matchstick screens.

A driftwood ladder leads up into the loft bedroom. The bath is entered through a hidden door in the cedar paneling, to the right.

View from the bathroom looking through its [open] hidden door.

When in the glass shower in the bath, this is the view to the rear fern garden. Kevin can see the day’s temperature (posted on the tree) during his morning shower.


The kitecn, with its cherry cabinetry and black granite counters. Appliances include a propane refrigerator and stovetop, and a cast iron stove.

Kevin’s living room and home office. The triangular picture window includes an exterior awning shutter that can be operated from inside with a cable and marine hardware.

I visited a similar house in Oliver, B.C., designed by Henry Y. Mann ( It’s a 350-sq.ft. house with everything its owner needs, including a full-size kitchen.

These people chose to live in quality. They are not rich but they spend time and money with deep thought down to every detail. They compromised on size, but every moment they spend in their space is suffused with satisfaction.

This is what Daizen wants to support. If your budget is tight, narrow your house down to a smaller area but build with high quality material and craftsmanship so that you and your loved ones can feel the joy of life at home. We can help you!  Let us know.

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Daizen NextGen?

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from Daizen News August 2012


I’ve given some thought to what wood tasks work best for young kids. I try my two children out on measuring, layout, and cutting (supervised, of course).

A special moment—kids totally engrossed by measuring.

Of course, boys love cutting. This hand saw guide is a great tool—anyone can cut wood by hand to 1/16 in. It’s useful even for fine professional work. We have ten more of these in stock; if you’re interested, please tell us.

Now Taro can sleep on the top bunk without his parents worrying too much!

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Curves, Curves, Curves!

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from Daizen News August 2012


Daizen is getting a growing reputation for curved structural members. Here is one of our summer shop fabrication projects.

Bent member (a series of gluelam timbers) awaiting fabrication to support structures.

Images above and below: the grain-matched curved gluelam looks just like natural wood that happened to grow in a curve.

This small curved truss member was cut out from large-dimension high grade timber and features enhanced chamfer details.


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Staining (and protecting) timber

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from Daizen News August 2012

Why stain early?

The right finish protects timber, making it both more useful and more beautiful. The most important types of protection are from sun, from moisture, and from fungus. Also, applying an oil or other coating system will allow timber to cure very slowly. Curing slowly means fewer twists or checks: it means the timber stays stable.

It’s best to apply the coating to all timber surfaces including butt ends and “inside” (hidden) joinery such as tenons and mortises. The only chance to do this is when the individual, unassembled timbers are in our shop. We apply multiple coats of the wood finishes we use.

Wood colour and orientation (straight-grain or cross-grain) affect finished colour. End-grain surfaces, where the stain penetrates more into the fibre are darker. And flat grain timber shows a lighter colour than vertical grain because flat grain shows more of the summer growth ring (less dense than the winter grow ring). Surface texture also makes a difference: rough surfaces hold more stain and are darker than smooth surfaces.

Our choices: LandArk and BoMol

LandArk, formulated and produced in the United States, is the most natural system available to protect the wood fibre. It’s an oil finish that soaks deep into the wood.

We also use BoMol Woodcare Products, made by Bohme, a Swiss company. Besides being environmentally friendly (no volatile organic compounds), they are water-based and provide effective UV radiation protection and moisture damage protection.

We use 7 different colours in the BoMol system, ranging from transparent clear to very dark brown. Of course, final colour depends on grain orientation, denseness, and surface texture, as well as type of wood. Here’s a subset of our finishes:

LandArk Oil Finish

The most natural system available, it soaks deeply into the wood. It brings out the richness of the wood grain, a real advantage to enhance the quality of high-grade timber.

BoMol Clear

This transparent colour really is clear—it almost feels bare. It’s popular for those who want to keep the fresh look of the timber in its unadulterated beauty. It still contains the UV and fungus protection, though.

BoMol Natural

Our most common finish colour, a bit darker than Pine with more orange.

BoMol Cedar

A decidedly red colour.

Bomol Walnut

The darkest colour we use. It’s really a chocolate, but the wood grain is still visible. Stunning.

The other colours we carry are BoMol Pine, Chestnut, and Butternut. To see the full set plus more in-depth information about the staining process at Daizen, see the Downloads page on our website.

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Midyear check-in

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Generally speaking, Dazen’s production schedule is full to early October; our sales team is starting to discuss fall and winter jobs.  If you’re interested in working with us and want a reasonable production schedule, we recommend starting discussion with us soon for any upcoming projects so that you secure a place in the production schedule.

We have a few grain-matched curved beam trusses in progress as well as other interesting projects coming this summer such as using 30 x 30-in. timber in a stairway. We will feature these in our August newsletter.

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Latest test: timber drying

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From Daizen News July 2012

Timber is tricky, and to achieve predictable, consistent results, Daizen specializes in controlling it.  Many people don’t understand how wood can be so varied in its behavior: wood is wood, right?  Well, in fact, there are many, many variables. Wood fiber is a natural product. No two trees, even of the same species, are exactly the same; timbers behave differently in different drying processes (air or kiln dry, for example).

Part of our timber drying test.

To clarify how we evaluate information, we conducted a test of kiln drying behavior, comparing two species of Douglas fir (coastal and interior) that we use very frequently. We compared wood from  two locations on each tree (boxed heart: BH; free of heart center: FOHC) and, for the interior D. fir, we also compared two stages of dryness:green—live when cut—and standing dead (SD). (Coastal D. fir is not subject to as many fires, since it’s much wetter.)

Timbers are planed square, to exact size, in order to monitor the changes after drying.

The coast’s mild, rainy climate causes trees to grow larger and faster. In the interior’s climate, colder winters and hotter summers make for slow growth and very tight winter growth rings, which in turn means the fiber is denser than the coastal version.

We took samples by drilling to the core and placing the chips into sealed containers so as not to lose moisture.

We prepared six timber samples (coastal D. fir: BH and FOHC; interior D. fir: BH green and SD; FOHC green and SD) and planed them to the exact same size (7½  x 11½ in.) to measure the dimension loss—shown in this PDF chart in the “After drying” row. This chart is a comprehensive report of all our test results.

Timber Drying Test chart (PDF)

A normal moisture meter gives only an indication of moisture, not a precise reading. Moisture varies even in different spots in one timber; accuracy requires taking several readings to arrive at an average read.  The most accurate measure comes from several readings plus measuring the weight difference after drying.

This moisture meter measures the weight difference before and after drying in its built-in oven. It also calculates for moisture content. This can also be done with an accurate scale and a microwave at home.

Since BH timber often splits lengthwise, kiln drying it may result in dryer timber since more surface area is open to moisture escaping. So we tested both BH and FOHC timber, for further comparison.

Our conclusions: if kiln drying, coastal Doug fir gives better results, but interior Doug fir may perform better in air drying. We have several test sets in air drying now; the full cycle will take two to three years, and we are measuring every couple of months.

Samples resting on their timbers after kiln drying.

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Building Wisdom June 2012

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From Daizen News


Nou aru taka ha tsume wo kakusu.

Direct translation—A clever falcon hides his claws.

Deeper meaning—Still waters run deep; cats hide their claws; who knows most, speaks least.

—Japanese proverb

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