Chris Pyle

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since Jan 05, 2014
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Recent posts by Chris Pyle

Since there have been so few updates, I wanted to bump this up and hear where you are in the process? What is the design of the building? Any sketches available? Any more info you can provide?

Hi Bill and Jay,

Is this still happening? There haven't been any posts in here for a while so I wanted to jumpstart the conversation.

Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Hello Beki,

I live not far from you, over in Vermont. There aren't a lot of folks out there that try to build as natural as they can but there are a few of us. It is a lost life skill to build naturally, and many are forced to rely on more modern, and often misleading modalities of building. I stay as far away from concrete as I possible can. I don't care for the environmental foot print, and as a seasoned timber wright, I have seen more problems than good in 37 years of doing this kind of work. Don't miss understand me, I still use it in certain circumstances, but I do it with a keen eye to the applicable reason, and understand all it's short comings. I would have to see a visual description to give you my two cents worth on what you are planning, but there are a number of natural solution to preserving wood, even below grade, where you could expect to achieve 100 plus year lift span. Still not as good as above grade application with good drainage and architectural overhangs.

Hi Jay,

In the pictures above, the majority of the stone plinths have a drop ledge that appears cut to mate with the timber. Why wasn't the stone cut in more of a V or W shape so the wood's gravitational force would keep it seated and resist any twisting? Would that result in the wood twisting the stone from it's resting space? or would this ultimately result in precipitation being diverted to a holding zone where it contacts the wood? I'm assuming this would cause some type of problem since it isn't current practice but I can't figure out what it would be.

John Pollard wrote:This is a pretty good book on timber framing by Jack Sobon. My local library actually has it so you might check if yours does. Another one I liked was 30 energy efficient homes you can build. The author on this one also likes cubes for their efficiency but pay no attention to his love of urea formaldehyde insulation.

Thanks John, I appreciate the suggestions. I have another of Sobon's books and it is packed with information for that type of timberframe. The idea behind bents is a good one but I wonder if I'm not more naturally drawn to the eastern Minka-type homes. I like roof structures that have great overhang for protection and beauty and that ideally have exposed rafters without sacrificing the roof's potential insulative properties. I don't know what goes into keeping some rafters exposed while building a second layer for insulation but I'm very interested in learning.

I also greatly appreciate scribed elements whether they are in the structural components or in the floors or done purely for adornment. I'm not especially interested pursuing form over function but when the two meet in the middle, I find myself captivated.

Jay, along with my question about the Korean floors I have another to ask. I believe you've spoken about a design principle that incorporates modularity/easy access when laying out electric/plumbing/etc. Since I am unable to find any discussion about such systems, I'm at an impasse. I can design the space to be partitioned into the discrete spaces we want but I'm uncertain how that design will be affected by the utilities design. Might you have any info you can share on how this would be designed? Or what spaces I should be thinking about as I build up the structure and spaces of the home? Paralysis by analysis perhaps but my personality type seeks details before beginning the iterative process of design/re-design. If you believe it's more valuable to move in chunks: building, then redesign for heat, then for plumbing, then I am happy to move forward but I wanted to hear your thoughts on the educational process you think best.

Jay C. White Cloud wrote:Chris, et al,

Please accept my sincere and deepest of apologies.

Without going into details, it has been both a challenging and busy year. No excuses, I have dropped, lost and fumbled a few balls because of it. Sometimes being a "pest" is the only way to keep my old brain jogged, as I do get lost. Some days the emails are endless and I do get lost in the maze of it.

We had been corresponding over your 10 acres in Southern Indiana I do believe, and the cost to build there for a move that may someday come. If you bought a very simple timber frame, they can be had for $15 to $25 a square foot plus shipping and raising. Or, you could cut a couple “sticks” over weekends and in about 6 to 18 months, depending on design; you will have yourself a frame. (stick being timber in our Timberwright slang)

You have also asked about “wall trusses” (what some call Larson Trusses) for inclosing the walls. These do have many advantages and are catching on more and more each year for all their many benefits.

As for learning, hands on is the best, yet if one takes time, and works on their own with guidance that can impart a great deal of experience as well. I don’t have anything going on in the Indiana area at this time, and most out there is barn deconstructions for restoration and shipping elsewhere. Let’s get you through this planning and development phase and we will see what else comes up that may give you the experience you would like.
I like “cubes” and having met “Bucky” et al, I am not found of geodesic domes for many reasons, yet agree with you that “cubes” are aesthetically pleasing, when done well, and can be very efficient. Central fireplace (or RMH or other radiant wood system) is both traditional and good practice. As for “passive gain” that is still an up in the air topic…some work incredibly well (for how long we don’t know as many systems are very “tech” dependent.) I usually recommend a detached greenhouse/conservatory with “weather lock” (think something like a ‘mud room’ or breezeway) between it and the daily living space. That way you can enjoy its positives in solar gain and negate its lesser attributes when need be by close of the “weather lock.” Much of the radiant floor/wall stuff is good…when planned well and done well, so good thinking in that area as well. I am sure you are reading my other posts here so you have read my views on foundations, and as for learning how, that will come in time and patients or from the pocket book.

So, for now, again apologies for losing touch. We can keep it all here and if I have missed summing up your emails, just post here and I will catch it as soon as I can.

Warm Regards,


Thanks Jay! I really appreciate hearing back from you. I have no doubt you are a busy man. That information greatly helps me move forward with the design process.

I had a question that is jumping a thousand steps ahead. I found one of your albums online that shows Korean Style floors (which I absolutely love. The scribed effect is beautiful in structure and flooring) but I was curious if there is a process like laying traditional wood flooring? Do you lay the largest timbers and then the "infill" boards are laid with each being scribed at it's mating ends? I would post a link but it's embedded in another forum. I don't know if you have plans to reproduce that info here. I'll wait for your reply before pulling any images in but I found the floors so beautiful I had to ask about them.

Thanks again, your input is invaluable. I don't take it for granted.
Hey Jay,

I hope all is well. I've sent some emails your way and haven't heard back. I'm guessing you are really busy or your have an overactive spam filter. Do you have any basic files I could use in sketchup to begin designing?

Also, I've looked over your green halo project many times and I'm in love with it. How do you plan to insulate the building? What sources of heat will you have? How will you run the electric? plumbing? Do you plan to have these things in your building? Amazing work all around.
Thanks Jay and Brian, invaluable information.

I always wondered if it is better to search out tulip poplar for the bark or if there is a wider number of species that can be used with the shou-sugi-ban technique. I don't know how to control the exposure to the fire, how hot it needs to burn or for how long to create a resistant, safe exterior cladding but it is very beautiful in it's own right.

I will have to bookmark this thread, as it's full of great information.
6 years ago
Thanks Jay,

Sounds like I should see if I can find it at the local library instead. I have enough books to purchase as it is.

If you were to recommend a replacement book for Asian architecture "know-how", what would you suggest? Or is there such a book in print currently (in English)?
6 years ago
Good find Rufus. This will be added to my wishlist and purchased soon. It looks like it has detailed explanations about the Japanese buildings, as opposed to many books that are simply filled with pretty pictures.

I wonder if there are any websites/books that detail raised earth foundation processes: layout, tools used, local materials that can be scavenged, etc.
6 years ago

Brian Knight wrote:Great thoughts from Jay. I think locust is one of the most desirable appalachian species for exterior exposure. Ive heard that whole logs tend to resist rot more than sawed ones. Its a serious pain to work with being so dense and will dull blades faster than just about any wood Ive worked with.

There are some things you can do to treated pine to make it last longer: tape the top edge of framing, use ledger spacers, use hidden deck fastening systems (fasten master's is my favorite). Instead of typical sized board decking, use 2x material. I think a well detailed PT deck could last longer than a poorly detailed locust one.

Here is a pic from one of our projects with a whole log post and locust carrying beam.

Brian, how did you make the large shingles? Did your team de-bark the tree? I'm very interested in shingling/shakes and the process for identifying the correct trees.
6 years ago