Anchor Beam

These massive beams are unique to the Dutch barns of New York and New Jersey, forming the cross timber in the center “H” and supported on both ends by two arcade posts. The most unique feature of anchor beams is the through tenons on each end. The extending tenon ends were cut into a variety of shapes including rounded, squared and oblong.

Arcade Posts

The upright posts that support each end of an anchor beam with the high purlin plates capping them off and tying them to the other arcade posts.



A long-handled tool used to shape logs into square beams.

Bank Barn

Simply a barn built into a hillside or bank that makes use of the difference in elevation on the front and back of the barn. The uphill side can access the second floor. The downhill side accesses the ground floor. Typically, cows were kept in the ground floor and hay stored above could be easily pitchforked down to the cow mangers.

Basement Barn

A barn with a basement that is not a bank barn with a walk-out on a hillside .


Barns are made up of bents and bays. The bay is the space between two bents. A four bent barn forms three bays.



Also called a “commander,” these heavy wooden mallets have the mass to move large beams and tighten or loosen mortise and tenon joints.



This is the unit of barn timbers running from front to back. If a barn has four bents, it has three bays. Barns were easily enlarged by adding more bents on either end to lengthen the barn.



Also called a “wind brace,” these are often about 4” by 5” in girth and about 36” to 42” long that connect between post and beams to give them support against wind and keep the building square. Braces were mortised in place, nearly always at a 45 degree angle. In earlier barns they are also trunneled at each end. In later barns they are not; therefore they only help in compression, not expansion of a joint. Being the smallest members of a barn frame, they were also the first to be sawn. Hand-hewn braces are often a sign of an early barn.


A barn with a brick wall at each end.



Overhanging. Bank barns typically cantilever their second floors five to six feet on the downhill side.


This is the indigenous material used to fill the horizontal gaps between logs in a log cabin or log barn. The material is typically clay mixed with rock, straw, or wood chunks.



Collar Beam

Also known as a collar tie or stress beam.


Collar Tie

Also called a collar beam or stress beam; joins two posts together near their tops. In an English barn they join the queen posts supporting the purlin plates. The invention of the hay track very often led farmers to cut the collar ties out of their barns because they interfered with the travel of the hay hook. This is ultimately disastrous to a barn frame, allowing the purlin plates to start slipping in under the roof. This situation led to the invention of the canted queen post which did not need collar ties to spread the queen posts.


Connecting Tie

The horizontal beams that connect from post to post, across each bay from front to back in a barn. Often about 10 by 12 inches in diameter, and in wide barns, supported by a post in the middle.



A small framed and roofed box on the top of a barn that may have louvers or windows. They allow sunlight and air circulation to the barn. There may be one or more depending on the size of the barn.

Dutch Barn

These unique barns are only found in the Hudson, Mohawk and Schoharie Valleys of New York and the Northern and mid part of New Jersey where the Dutch settled their colony of New Netherlands, beginning in the 1620’s to about 1820 or 30. There are also some later examples of Dutch barns to be found in Canada, built by Dutch loyalists who took that architectural form to Canada after the American Revolution.



The overhang of the roof over the outside walls of a barn. Some barns like Dutch barns had no eaves.


English Barn

A form of barn frame that originated with English settlers to America. They are distinguished by their queen posts and purlin plates with wagon doors on the long sides and not the gable ends. They were built in New England and after the American Revolution, New England settlers heading westward took this form of barn building with them into New York and the Ohio Valley.



Prior to the Revolution, they were approximately 24’ by 36’ and their size progressively grew with improvements in harvesting brought on by the Industrial Revolution. The sizes jumped to 30’ x 40’, then to 35’ x 50’ and up to 40’ by 60’, which was about the limit a beam could span. They began as four bent barns and could easily be expanded by adding more bents and bays to the ends.


A framed room addition with a gable roof, often added onto an English or German barn off a side wall. They sometimes covered the ramp to a bank barn.



On the end wall of a barn or house, the triangle formed by the roof lines and the top edge of the wall. A gable roof has two pitches, front and back, unlike a gambrel roof that has two pitches on each side.



A shape of roof in which each side has two pitches. Barns with gambrel roofs are not Dutch barns. The reason for this confusion is that early Dutch houses from the 1700’s into the mid 1800’s in New Jersey and New York had gambrel roofs, but their barns never did. Gambrel-roofed barns were a later barn form (beginning c. 1870) that allowed for more mow space for hay storage.


Gin Pole

This is a contraption set up temporarily to raise a barn frame. They were either straight up poles, often just pine tree trunks, or sometimes they had booms attached to them to allow for more movement. And sometimes they were angled against a bent.


These are the beams that encircle or “girdle” a barn around the outside walls and are mortised and tenoned from post to post.



These are often a room in a barn or even a large chest where threshed grain was stored. They were like the bank vault of a barn, often times having locked doors and bars on the windows. They were secured like this because threshed grain was valuable.


This is a post that flares wider on the top end to form a wider platform to support a horizontal beam. They were used in both house and barn framing. Early New England capes and salt box houses often had gunstock posts, and we have found them in early English-framed barns in New York.

Hand Hewn

Hand hewing is the process of using a broad axe, an adze or a hatchet to turn a round log into a square beam or in any way to dress a raw log’s surface. Sometimes the surface of a log is only hewn on one surface in order to form a flat face on which to nail floor boards.



King Post

In a barn or house, this is a post located in the center of the building, often on the center of a tie beam and extending up to the ridge, often supporting a ridge beam. The use of a king post/ridge beam often precludes the use of queen posts and purlin plates, but we have found a barn in which both were used side by side.



The area in a barn above the first floor. It may be separated from below by a floor or poles set from tie beam to tie beam to support hay or sheaves above. It is also called the “mow.”

Marriage Mark

Most often these chiseled markings appear as Roman numerals on barn beams. They were inscribed there in scribe-ruled barns as way for the joiner, or builder, to keep track of which beams went where as he moved them around. Adjacent beams would have the same number.

They were not always Roman numerals, but often a unique system of symbols worked out by an individual builder.



A mortise is the square or rectangular hole in a beam into which a tenon is inserted to form a structural joint called a mortise and tenon joint.



This is the center area of a barn accessed through the wagon doors. It derives its name from the Latin word “navis,” meaning “ship” as in the English word “navy.” The reason for this is that when you stand in the nave and look upward at the underside of the barn roof, it looks like the interior of a wooden boat with its frames (roof rafters) and planks (roof purlin boards).




This is a small roof projecting usually above wagon doors, extending at least the width of the doors and out about three feet. They were used on Dutch barns to protect the doors and threshold from sun and weather.


A long, wooden pole with a pointed iron rod inserted in one end and used to raise a barn bent. When the bent goes over the reach of the first line of men, the pike poles come along and push the bent all the way up . . . a scary task.


The plates are the long beams extending the length of a timber-framed building. If the plate sits on top of outside wall posts, it is called a wall plate. If it sits on top of some queen posts halfway up the underside of a roof, it is called a purlin plate.

Principal Purlin or Purlin Plate

A long beam that runs the length of a barn half way up under the rafters and supported by two queen posts on each tie beam. There is usually one on each side of a barn.

Principal Rafter

These are the rafters located at each wall post. They are usually heavier rafters and have purlin beams running horizontally between them.

Queen Post

These are posts located on top of tie beams and extend upward to support the purlin plates, though sometimes they just connect to rafters to support the roof of a timber-framed building. They come in pairs and can be connected by a collar tie. They can also be canted at an angle to allow for a hay trolley hanging from the ridge to operate in a barn.


These are the pairs of beams forming the roof, extending from the outside wall plates to the ridge. If there is a ridge beam, the tips of the rafters will often, but not always, be mortised into the ridge beam. If there is no ridge beam, the rafters will join each other in either a forked, lapped, or butted joint. If they are forked or lapped, they will be trunneled. Rafters are most often tapered over their length and their tails resting on the top plates are often mortised into the plates to prevent slipping.</br>


Roof Plate

Same as wall plate and rafter plate.

Scribe Rule

This is the method of custom-cutting out the parts of a barn in which each post, beam and brace is cut and numbered to fit in one specific place. They are not interchangeable and rely on marriage marks to identify where they fit. This method was replaced by Square Ruling about 1815 as a result of the industrialization of building methods.</br>



This is a ledge formed on the lower edge of a mortise in order to allow a beam to sit and be supported. It may be as little as one inch deep.


The sills are the beams that underlie a timber-framed building around its perimeter. The wall posts stand on the sills and are mortised into them with a short, stubby tenon in order to prevent slipping, but are rarely trunneled into the sill mortises. The sills are often lapped-jointed to one another at the corners.


A handy tool that is best described as an overgrown chisel with a blade that is three to five inches wide. It is never struck with a mallet, but is rather shoved over the face of a hand-hewn beam to smooth it down and remove any rough places or to square the surfaces of a mortise or tenon.


A barn, house or mill in which the two gable end walls are made of stone, often times all the way up to the ridge. The side walls were timber-framed construction.



Also known as a wind brace.


A stud is a small post that is most often made of sawn lumber about 4” by 5” in girth and extends vertically from a sill up to a girt or from a lower girt to a higher girt or wall top plate. Barns with vertical siding tend not to have studs, whereas barns with horizontal siding, or clapboards, do, in order to have a place on which to nail the horizontal siding. Studs in barns are usually sawn timbers and are mortised into the sills, girts and plates, often on two-foot centers. In this sense they were the precursors of stick framing. Sometimes older barns were refitted with studs in order to allow for changing from vertical to horizontal siding. This seemed to happen when wide board siding was not as available for vertical board and batten siding and barns were re-sided horizontally.

Summer Beam

This beam was typically used in house and mill frames and extended from the outside gable end wall tie beam to the fireplace in the center of the house. It supports the second floor joists.

Swing Beam

Swing beams, also known as “bull beams”, are large-depth beams of which there is usually only one in an English-framed barn in a middle bent and extending from wall post to wall post. They came into use in the mid 1800’s to allow a clear span in the middle of the barn with no vertical center posts in the middle of the threshing floor. They were also tapered on the ends, with the bottom edge straight and the top edge bellied up. We have found swing beams as wide as 38” in the belly. Forming such a clear span in the middle of the barn allowed for a farmer to tether an ox in the center of the barn and walk him in a circle threshing out grain, thereby eliminating the need for flailing grain to free the grain kernels from the heads.



This is the tongue of wood found on the end of a post or beam that inserts into a mortise to form a mortise and tenon joint that would then be held together by a trunnel.


Threshing Floor

This is the central floor area in a barn where the process of threshing grain is carried out. It is made of thick floor boards that can stand the beating of a flail or treading of the ox.



This is a removable board about 5” high and extending form door post to door post and setting on the floor. When winnowing grain of its chaff, the threshold would “hold” the kernels of grain in the barn so the wind would not blow them out the door into the barnyard.


This is the wood peg that holds a mortise and tenon joint together. It is derived from the word “tree nail.” They are most often shaped to a taper from red oak or locust wood. They come in different sizes, 3/4” being the most common. Some mortise and tenon joints take one trunnel to secure them while others take two or three trunnels.



This is a method of connecting rafters and tie beams in such a way that they work together to support one another. It can also be used between just two horizontal tie beams and outside wall posts. The purpose is to allow for long, stronger clear spans than the beams could support individually. (image shown Scissor Truss)