Author Tags: Advice

From his 4,000 sq. ft. Gabriola Island home, James Mitchell arranges workshops on resource-efficient home construction and has written The Craft of Modular Post & Beam from Hartley & Marks, and then self-published The Master's Guide to Timber Framing (2011). He founded the Island School of Building Arts (ISBA) on Gabriola Island.

[BCBW 2011]

The Craft of Modular Post & Beam (H&M $29.95)

James Mitchell, an industrial arts teacher disillusioned with the high cost of home construction, was committed to building his family home debt-free. It wouldn’t be a cheap box, he says, ‘but rather the home of my dreams.’ Using the techniques described in The Craft of Modular Post & Beam (H&M $29.95) Mitchell pre-fabricated the exterior shell components, storing them, and a collection of recycled flooring, windows and doors, in a barn for three years until he acquired land. Now he uses his 4000-square-foot Gabriola Island home, complete with master bedroom pagoda suspended above a reflective pool, as a base for his workshops on resource-efficient, affordable home construction. 0-88179-131-8


ISBA founder publishes book on timber framing
Review (2011)

from Gabriola Sounder

By Rachelle Stein-Wotten

It may not be the next number one on the The Globe and Mail Bestsellers List, but James Mitchell's new book on timber framing is receiving high accolades from the framing industry.

The Master's Guide to Timber Framing is the latest book from James, who founded the Island School of Building Arts (ISBA) on Gabriola and evolved from his teaching at the school. It focuses on the two types of timber frame construction taught at the school – post and beam, and truss, particularly hammer bents.

James said the guide “started out from years of notes and teaching and then making up booklets ... and eventually led to the full book.”

The book is mainly a shop manual and James said the material has been perfected through “years of trial and application” at the school and tested on students. Past student Eric Clark did the illustrations, the late Tony Elston of Gabriola provided an appendix on engineering concepts and fellow Gabriolan Nina Turczyn designed the cover jacket.

James explained the building industry is split between log construction and timber framing mainly because of the different layouts.

“This book seamlessly meshes the two. It goes from the virtual layout in log building to the same exact type of layout to get the timber frame truss.” The book also covers the history of both methods.

Two previous guides James wrote were published by Hartley & Marks, but this time around he decided to self-publish. “I think it is a favourable climate now to do self-publishing,” he said. “The book is well laid out [and has] an embossed hard cover.” It was printed by Friesens in Canada and has a sturdy stitched and glued binding.

The Master's Guide to Timber Framing is available at the Gabriola Library, Page’s Marina and Bookstore and other locations on the island as well as on the ISBA website,

[Published in the Gabriola Sounder, November 2011]