Conservation and Repair of Timber with Joe Thompson

Ref: B3D13282

Location: West Dean

About this course

This course provides an intensive introduction to historic timber-framed structures. It begins by examining the original methods of framing and construction and then concentrates on defects, failures and the options for intervention. The course comprises lectures, case studies, demonstrations, practical exercises, discussions and tours of the Weald and Downland Living Museum's timber-framed buildings, with particular reference to the development of structural timber repairs undertaken at the Museum over more than fifty years. It includes lectures on fungal decay, insect attack and their conservative treatments, with current research and recent case studies on the subject.

Course Description

Learn essential skills relevant to the conservation of historic timber-framed structures.  
Day 1   
Introduction to timber- frame buildings, including the basics of timber conversion, construction and use, and regional and chronological traditions 

Day 2   
Transfer to the Weald and Downland Living Museum.
You will explore:
Fungal decay and insect attack – the structure of wood and the mechanisms of decay; recognition and effects upon timber
Treatment of rot and insect attack – dealing with the cause, environmental controls, current research and case studies
Practical session on timber decay – exploration and discussion on infestation in a variety of timber samples
Historic methods of timber framing - traditional systems of framing; the fabrication process; layout methodology; joints and marking techniques
Laying out and marking a simple frame - marking methods and cutting mortice and tenon joints; traditional pegs and fixings

Evening learning at the College: Introduction to repair techniques - radical and conservative philosophies; recording techniques; overview of repair methods using timber, steel and resin.

Day 3   
Transfer to the Weald and Downland Living Museum.
You will explore:
Examples of carpentry at the Living Museum
Repairs using timber – assessing defective timbers; the range of timber to timber repairs; the use of iron and steel in conjunction with timber repairs.
Repair demonstrations – evaluating the criteria for a repair; working methodology; tools and their uses; setting out the repair.
Fixing and finishing repairs – types of fixings; traditional pegs and fixings; tool marks and surface finishes.

Evening learning at the College: Case studies – in-situ repair considerations; temporary support systems; softwood frame repairs (including Long Crendon Courthouse, Harmondsworth Barn, Chatham Dockyard buildings, Barley Hall York.

Day 4   
Transfer to the Weald and Downland Living Museum.
Tour of Museum’s timber buildings to view repairs, including ones using epoxy resin systems  
Workshop exercise – assessment, evaluation and repair proposals for selected defective historic timbers; discussion of alternative repair options; specifications for timber repairs.
The reconstruction of the Globe Theatre – an archaeological reconstruction of a timber-framed building.   
15.30 Summary, feedback and discussion.  Issue of certificates and depart.
Transfer to College.


Arrival Day - this is the first date listed above

Courses start early evening. Residential students to arrive from 4pm, non-residential students to arrive by 6.45pm.

6.45pm: Welcome, followed by dinner (included).

8 - 9pm: First teaching session, attendance is essential.

Daily timetable

Classes 9.15 - 5pm, lunch is included.

From 6.30pm: Dinner (included for residential students).

Evening working - students may have access to workshops until 9pm, but only with their tutor's permission and provided any health and safety guidelines are observed.

Last day

Classes 9.15am - 3pm, lunch is included.

Residential students are to vacate their rooms by 10am please.

(This timetable is for courses of more than one day in length. The tutor may make slight variations)

Course Materials

What students need to bring

Please remember to bring work clothes/overalls and shoes/boots for practical sessions.   


Joe Thompson Tutor at West Dean College of Arts and Conservation

Joe Thompson

Joe Thompson - BCM Course Leader

Joe of Sussex Oak and Iron is carpenter in residence at the Weald and Downland Living Museum. He has developed a keen analytical eye and a scholar's passion for following and interpreting the evidence along with a natural skill in teaching.


Residential option available. Find out accommodation costs and how to book here.

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