Master timber framer to peak about Polish synagogue replication

Posted Aug. 29, 2011, at 5:41 p.m.

ROCKLAND — The Apprenticeshop will welcome Edward M. Levin, master builder and founding director of The Timber Framers Guild of North America, at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 8.

Levin will share his experience of replicating the 17th century, timber-framed roof and cupola of a wooden synagogue in Gwozdziec, Poland, which was destroyed during World War I. The project, a collaboration of Handshouse Studio of Norwell, Mass., the Museum of the History of Polish Jews and the Timber Framers Guild, assembled an international team of students, conservation architects, architectural historians, master timber framers, painters and other experts to recover the knowledge of how to build this historic structure, and began it in May of this year. The synagogue is being rebuilt as a core part of the museum which is scheduled to open in Warsaw in 2013.

What does timber framing have to do with The Apprenticeshop? Since the 1960s and 1970s, there has been something of a revival of traditional handcrafts in America. Post-World War II and the boom of industry that followed, there was a resurgence of interest in what could be made using traditional methods and materials. In 1972, The Apprenticeshop came into being to provide experiential education using the traditional craft of boat building. The original boat-building shop itself was a timber-framed structure raised by the first apprentices at the Maine Maritime Museum.

Similarities in the two traditional crafts overlap in terms of craftsmanship. Boat building and timber framing use many of the same hand tools and techniques. Both crafts require a depth of knowledge of the changeability of a large variety of woods and how building and design must consider the effects of weather and exposure to the elements. Additionally, each craft requires the efforts of a community to culminate — many hands attend to building and launching a boat, and it takes many hands to raise a timber frame.

Levin, a former trustee of The Apprenticeshop (in its Atlantic Challenge days), will talk about the depth of the synagogue project, show photographs of the process and site in Poland and discuss timber framing in general.

Admission is $5 at the door. For more information, visit http://www.apprenticeshop.org/ or call 594-1800.

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