Scarf Joints in American Timber Joinery

This is the last in a series of 6 articles by Jack Sobon, author of Timber Frame Construction.

We are often amazed at the lengths of timbers found in old American structures. Plates 40 ft. long are common. Fifty-footers are encountered occasionally, and timbers 60 and 70 ft. long are not unheard of. In the great old-growth forests that once stood on this continent, trees of sufficient straightness and height were in abundance. The older structures in a given area reflectthe original forest. … However, as the original forest was replaced by second-growth forest, and sawmills, especially those with the new, faster circular saws, replaced hewers and the relatively slow up-and-down mills, it became more economical to join orscaiftimberstogether to make the necessary long sills, plates and purlin plates. Scarfing had been common practice in Europe for several hundred years, where the original forest was long gone….(found on