Our Timber Framing History

From 1981 to 1990 Ron, and a crew of ten, worked general construction building log cabins, residential and commercial buildings. Throughout this period, he learned of and continued to explore the timber framing craft and the renowned men of the trade. In 1990, while building a timber frame home for his brother, Ron met the man who was to become his mentor, Bob Donahue, of Atlantic, PA. Due to failing health, Bob had closed his building company, Atlantic Boatworks. From those ashes, Atlantic Timberframes was born out of the knowledge, tools and skill passed from Bob to Ron.

Atlantic Timberframe HistoryIn the late 1970's, Atlantic Boatworks was established by Bob and Tony Donahue of Pittsburgh, PA. The Donahues were boat builders by trade with two custom-built sailboats in their possession. It was the 70's grass roots era of “Move to the Country and Build Us a Home” so they moved from their urban location in Pittsburgh to a much more rural setting 80 miles north in Atlantic, PA. Now that they were in the country, they set out to build their dream home.

Timber Framing Craft & Spirit

While doing research they discovered the lost, but reviving craft of timber framing. Embracing a spirit of craftsmanship, they decided to build a timber frame home in the middle of their 40 acre farm. In the early 1980s, with a new timber frame standing and their two sailboats beside the shop, a tornado set down right on top of Bob and Tony. The four main rafters of the timber frame split down the center, taking the top half of the rafters with the panel roof and leaving the bottom half attached to the posts. The two sail boats were never seen again. Fortunately, the Donahue's were. They survived while sitting in the middle of their timber frame. Rebuilding their home, the crew drove pins out of the rafter-to-post connections and installed new rafters and a roof. It was not long before Bob and Tony were Home Sweet Home again. That event made the Pittsburgh newspaper and was the catalyst for a period of booming growth within Atlantic Boatworks. Growing to become one of the founding companies of the Timber Frame Guild, the company was featured in Fine Homes Living as a timber frame company with some of the biggest tools in the industry.

Yes, Bob had some big tools for the times, one being a timber joiner built for the Bessimer Railroad in the late 1800's to straighten big timbers used in the construction of railroad cars. This tool remains today at the heartbeat of Atlantic’s wood shop and a lasting testament to Pennsylvania’s machinist heritage. The joiner allows us to remove the bow out of milled timbers, just as you would for kitchen cabinets. This is the only big tool used by the crew. The remainder of the work is all hand crafted.

Atlantic Boatworks went through big transition in the late 1980's. Due to Bob's failing health, the company went through a period of dormacy. The Atlantic torch was relit and passed onto Ron Gabany in 1992 and is now burning brightly with Ron and his son, Eric, in the Atlantic Timberframes shop of Mercer, PA.