Marriage marks were used in timber frame construction as reference points, to identify pieces that fit together in the frame or for the positioning of peg holes. Most commonly used in the 18oos and earlier, marriage marks were etched into the wood using a chisel, scribe, saw, or knife. They are also referred to as carpenter’s marks.
Early timber frames were scribed together, with each joint being unique and custom fit. As a timber frame was pre-assembled and test fit, the marks were made to identify pieces that would fit together during the raising.
The marks are typically cut as straight lines, forming Roman numerals. Straight lines are the easiest to cut in timber. Usually adjacent beams would display the same numeral. Individual builders would devise their own system of marking a timber frame. Variations also exist based on time period, building types, and location.
As construction transitioned to square rule, cutting joints in a more standardized way, the use of marriage marks mostly disappeared. Timber framers may still use marriage marks however, since they can be an aid in efficient assembly during raising.
These marriage marks are in a mid-1800 barn from Ohio, that has been re-purposed into a custom home in South Carolina.
See some other barn projects from MoreSun here!