An old-school art fits at Stono Ferry

As a crane lifted the cypress posts and trusses into place Thursday morning, Moyer Fountain of Fountain Timberworks experienced what he called “a moment of truth.”

Would the massive timbers that he spent four months laying out and cutting fit together like they were supposed to?

“That’s the fun part,” he said as Stono Ferry’s new open-air pavilion gradually took shape. “If that doesn’t fit, you’re behind the eight ball.”

By noon, crews had fit together all but one truss, several smaller pieces and the cupola on top.

“We’re looking good,” Fountain said. “I’m pleased with it.”

Timber framing — fitting together large pieces of wood and securing them with wooden pegs — has been done since the Stone Age, but the craft has largely faded in this modern era of inexpensive two-by-fours and do-it-yourself projects.

So Thursday’s timber-raising ceremony was a bit of a throwback. The only modern elements included a crane, a few metal pins to add additional wind resistance, and a small, remote-controlled helicopter camera that captured the work in progress.

The Stono Ferry Plantation neighborhood opted for the old-school structure in part because design chair Diane O’Brien favored it.

“It made sense to me to put in a legacy building that will be here forever, not to do something with modern materials that won’t hold up over time,” she said.

The 2,000-square-foot pavilion took shape during daylight Thursday, and the finishing touches on the almost $500,000 project are expected to be done by Oct. 31 — just before the Charleston Cup Steeplechase on Nov. 10.

The project is a collaboration between Fountain Timberworks, Archer Construction and the Building Art, LLC, a company founded by John Paul Huguley.

Huguley, who also founded the American College of the Building Arts, said the new company is designed to put the college’s graduates, such as Fountain, to work in their specialty areas.

He said traditional craftsmanship can add lasting value to a building project, and people shouldn’t get scared off because of a higher price tag.

“People assume to do it right costs more,” he said. “It costs a ... lot more to do it wrong.”

As workers carefully fitted together the trusses, timbers and pegs, a few dozen people watched quietly from a nearby swimming pool deck.

O’Brien was among the onlookers who wrote a message on a wooden peg just moments before it was hammered into place.

Asked what she wrote, she said, “God bless this building.”

Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.