Read what Steve Maxwell, technical editor of Canadian Workshop Magazine has to say about the connector:

Product holds frames together gracefully

Every once in awhile, I get to visit a new timber frame building, but too often I'm disappointed. It's not that the wood or workmanship is at fault, it's a design thing. When even the best timbers are held together with visible steel plates and bolts, I can't help but feel at least a little disappointed. Majestic wood deserves better than that.

Sure, I understand that it's often an issue of economy, and there probably aren't enough traditional timber framers to go around. But in the final analysis, my emotions don't care. That's why I've always stuck to the wood-only approach in the timber work I've done myself. There's something about wood that demands exclusivity, and a new Canadian building product called Timberlinx (; 416 284-8934 or fax 416 284-5152) proves that I mustn't be the only one who feels this way.

I was introduced to this patented timber framing hardware by Neil Maclean, a builder I met at the International Home Show this past Thanksgiving. He didn't have a booth at the event, but Neil did lead me to a timber-frame home on display that used Timberlinx connectors in key areas.

The fact that all I could see was very beautiful white pine posts and beams, grabbed my curiosity immediately. I've since taken a close look at the Timberlinx system and I'm convinced that it's an excellent advancement for use in traditional timber-frame applications and beyond.

Timberlinx, invented by Didier Schvartz of Young's Point, Ont., is a completely hidden steel hardware system that allows all types of beams and posts to be joined easily at various angles, with terrific strength and apparent authenticity.

Real mortises, tenons and dovetails are still best in my book, but if you have to use metal - either for budget or technical reasons - at least make sure no one sees it.

There are three parts to a typical Timberlinx connection: a central hollow connecting tube that slips into a 1 1/8-inch diameter hole drilled across the joint line between two pieces of neighbouring wood; and a pair of expanding cross pins that fit through holes in the connecting tube.

All you see from the outside of a completed Timberlinx joint are the two holes that allow the cross pins to be installed during assembly. And when these are plugged with dowels, the results look just like a pegged mortise and tenon joint.

Engineering tests show that a typical Timberlinx connection offers about five times the strength of a traditional, all-wood equivalent, and the system complies with the National Building Code of Canada.

Another advantage is adjustability. If a Timberlinx joint ever becomes loose over time, no problem. Just pop off the dowels and tighten the Allen-head tension bolts on the ends of the cross pins. The more they're tightened, the bigger the pins swell, the tighter the joint becomes.

If you've ever done any woodworking, you're probably beginning to see how the Timberlinx system is similar to a dowel joint. That's a good way to understand the hardware, and just like any dowel joint, the ease of assembling Timberlinx equipment depends on precisely drilled holes that match perfectly across both halves of a joint. That's why a drilling jig is offered as part of the system. It guides a 1 1/8-inch diameter auger bit into exactly the same place on each side of a joint. Each Timberlinx joint package costs between $35 and $40, depending on size. The drilling jig costs $250, though you can rent one, or could probably make-do by drilling freehand with care if you only had a few joints to complete.

My natural tendency is to side with those who say that progress spoils the virtues of the past. And if so-called progress in timber framing had stopped at exposed steel plates and bolts, then this sentiment would certainly be true.

But sometimes progress continues far enough that it really does make old things better in a way that's virtually free of trade-offs. As much of a purist as I am, I've got to admit that a few well-placed Timberlinx joints really are a legitimate way to bring big, gorgeous pieces of wood together with elegance and simplicity.