Beaver Brook School

“Learn Wild”

All Ages Welcome

AUG 2-10 2014


Hosted by Tom Bonamici

This workshop offers a grounding in the principles and practice of rustic timberframing. Our focus: to build a tiny sleeping cabin on top of a massive tree trunk. We’ll be drawing from the Japanese and Scandinavian traditions as we lay out, cut, and erect the cabin. By the end of the session, you’ll be able to design, lay out, and build a simple gable roofed timberframe.

Participants responsible for getting yourself to NYC. Tom will shuttle you to Beaver Brook. You'll sleep, eat and shower in the bunkhouse, a barn-turned-lodge.

Tom will invite five applicants to join. Anyone is welcome to apply, but we’ll give preference to those with some experience making anything. Tuition covers tool rental, accommodations, and three square meals a day, cooked for us by an on site chef!


A njalla is a tiny cabin about 3 meters in the air, built on top of a cut-down tree trunk. They were built across northern Scandinavia as compact food caches. Traditionally, njalla were quickly plank- or log-built and very small. We’ll be making one to serve as a sleeping loft so it’ll be bigger, and sturdily built with mortise-and-tenon joinery.

You will build a cabin in 9 days.

You’ll learn to lay out timbers with the Japanese centerline technique, how to cut a mortise and tenon with hand tools, how to wield a chisel with surgical precision, how to raise a frame with nothing more than your hands and a few lengths of rope.

Saturday Aug 2

Welcome and orientation. Background on Japanese joinery.

Sunday Aug 3

Layout tools and techniques demonstration. Cut timber sawbucks. Pick out and arrange timbers for layout.

Monday Aug 4

Layout all timbers for the frame using story poles, templates, and ink lines.

Tuesday Aug 5

Overview of tools and tool use. Review session for safety. Begin cutting the timbers!

Wednesday Aug 6

Continue cutting timbers.

Afternoon for rest, exploration, or personal projects.

Thursday Aug 7

Finish cutting timbers, and transport to the building site. Build gin pole.

Friday Aug 8

Raise the frame! Build a rude scaffold, carve pegs, make giant wooden mallets, followed by the ancient wetting tree ceremony.

Saturday Aug 9

Finishing the cabin: Install floor boards, siding, and roofing.

Sunday Aug 10

A fine farewell brunch and high fives all around.

Tom Bonamici

Tom was raised in Eugene, Oregon. He now lives, most of the time, in Brooklyn, where he is a freelance designer specializing in soft goods, woodworking, and all things related to the home kitchen. Tom has a Master's of Industrial Design from Pratt Institute and BA in Geography & Studio Art from Dartmouth College. This is his first workshop at Beaver Brook.

Beaver Brook

Beaver Brook is a 55-acre woodland preserve in Upstate NY. The land is managed by a group of friends with a mission to protect its splendor and make an inspiring place to learn new skills. The School was founded to share this opportunity, to show how to make your own home just as we’re learning to do ourselves.