I traveled to Durango, CO, in the Spring of 2015 and stopped by a job that we had worked on in 2002.  It was a custom home, and the owner was adamant that he wanted white oak trusses. White oak is not a material that is used very often in Colorado. It comes from a humid climate, and Colorado is a dry climate. At the time, I was starting Three Elements Timberworks, and I didn’t know any better. We sourced the timbers from a mill in Ohio. The timbers were green. When they arrived at our shop, I was surprised at how heavy they were. It took a lot of work just to move them around and flip them over as we worked. Our saving grace was that we were dogmatic about ensuring we end-sealed all of the timber with a wax-like product. We sealed them immediately when they arrived. As soon as we finished cutting a joint, we sealed the ends. Sealing the ends of the beam slows down the drying process and helps reduce stress in the wood fibers. This, in turn, helps reduce twisting and checking of the wood. Over the years, I have often pondered how well these trusses have fared. I spoke with the owner about five years after the installation, and he told me that the popping and cracking of the timbers spoke to him in the quiet of the night.

Before my trip to Durango, I contacted the owner and arranged to visit the project. I was both excited and nervous as I wasn’t sure how the green timbers had fared over the years in the dry climate. The owner was out of town, so I met with the caretaker, who let me in. He told me that they had just applied a new coat of oil finish to the beams. I had always told myself that I would never build trusses out of (green)white oak again in Colorado. Boy, was I wrong. They had some checking and shrinking, but after 13 years, I think they are some of the most beautiful trusses we have ever built. All of the joinery is traditional.  We used wooden pegs, mortises and tenons and a white oak spline where the king post and arches come together. There is no steel in these trusses. This was all hand-cut. Our CNC abilities would be about 6-8 years in the future.

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