`Putting 'Em Up Is the Most Fun'

`THERE'S lots of variety in what we do, but putting 'em up is the most fun," says timber-framer Dennis Marcom, one of a crew of six or seven from Benson Woodworking on hand to raise the frame of a new house on the shore of Sheepscot Pond.

Around the finished foundation of the home, huge sections of the timber frame - assemblies of posts, beams, girts, purlins - have been arranged. Crew leader Robert Polcari, known to his colleagues as "Chops," explains how he has been planning this project for a couple of months, since the job was first scheduled.

The homeowners are John and Marsulla Gleaton. Mrs. Gleaton, a doctor in nearby Augusta, Maine, first heard of timber-framing during a course on shelter alternatives. Her response, she says, was: "Wow, if I was going to build a house, I'd want a timber-frame house."

What sold her on Benson was the concept of a "timber-frame home" - other builders she consulted wanted to hide the interior timbers - and Benson Woodworking's commitment to close teamwork.

As a towering crane lifts the frame into place, the Gleatons and a number of other observers stand by, a little awestruck. Brian Smeltz, the architect from Benson Woodworking, is helping with the raising. As the crane operator hoists a section - Mr. Smeltz identifies it as a canted purlin plate - he and another framer give it a "spin" to be sure it arrives in place facing the right direction.

Workers high up in the structure guide the plate toward awaiting mortises. It doesn't just slip comfortably into place. One man throws a hammer to another, who does a bit of pounding.

"That's typical," Smeltz says. If the cutting of mortises and tenons was "a little sloppier, it would fly together easier."

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