Scribing tradition in French timber framing


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Inscribed in 2009 (4.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity

© 2008 - FCalame

The purpose of the scribing tradition is to master in three dimensions the design of a complex wooden building. This traditional expertise runs counter to modern standardization by emphasizing the role of the builder in the construction process and giving a creative impulse to the structures themselves. Scribing is a combination of the graphic processes used in France since the thirteenth century that make it possible to express accurately through the design the actual volumes of a building, its interlocking, and the characteristics of the wooden components. It was taught as a special subject quite distinct from the theory and practice of architecture. Through this process, the carpenter can determine all the components before they are built, however complex they are, and thus be sure that all the assemblies will fit together perfectly when the timber frame is built. Carpenters who are members of trade guilds recognize the scribing tradition as having a symbolic and initiatory meaning that remains a secret. The art plays a crucial role in the value system of the Companions of the Tour de France, for example. Special training in scribing is available in several dozen training centres, guilds and businesses.