How to Make Timber Frame Pegs

Written by david thompson
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How to Make Timber Frame Pegs
Make timber frame pegs with traditional hand tools. (axe image by Sergey Galushko from

Sturdy pegs are vital for strengthening the joinery in a timber-frame home. If you carve your own pegs, you not only save money, you know that they're made of durable hardwood, tapered enough to drive easily, with the grain running along the peg, so they'll last as long as the home and be as strong as the timbers they join. You can make the pegs with traditional hand tools used for old-fashioned carpentry and common timber-frame joints.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Hardwood
  • Saw
  • Froe
  • Mallet
  • Vice or shave horse
  • Drawknife
  • Stump
  • Hatchet

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  1. 1

    Saw a 1-foot length from the straight-grained trunk of a hardwood tree, such as oak, locust, hickory, Osage orange, rock maple, ash or hornbeam, using a chainsaw or handsaw. Avoid a section of the trunk with knots or twisted grain.

  2. 2

    Set the trunk on end, hold a froe across the centre of the top and hit it with a mallet to split the wood in half. A froe is an L-shaped tool with a horizontal blade and a vertical handle, used for making precise splits in wood. Continue to split each half piece into 1-inch-thick slabs by positioning the froe where you want to split and hitting the handle.

  3. 3

    Split one of the slabs crosswise with the froe or a hatchet, to make blocks of wood approximately 1 inch by 1 inch by 12 inches long. Split up the rest of the slabs into square sections also.

  4. 4

    Clamp one of the pieces of wood in a vice or use a traditional shave horse to hold it. A shave horse has a seat you can sit on, with a foot lever to work a clamp. Pare off the top two edges with a drawknife, then turn the peg over and pare off the other two edges. Turn the peg around and pare off the end that was in the clamp, so you have an eight-sided peg. A drawknife has a flat blade between two handles and you use it by pulling it along the wood toward you.

  5. 5

    Hold the peg vertically on a stump. Making sure your hand is out of the way, use a hatchet to taper the bottom 2 inches to a rough point.

Tips and warnings

  • If you make the pegs from green wood, they don't need to be completely seasoned before you use them, but let them season until they're drier than the timbers you're pegging, so they won't shrink and loosen.

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