Timber Frame Homes Designer & Builder


The Designer & Builder

Leading the way…

Phil Bjork

Phil and one of the crew cinch up an entire roof assembly to be flown in with their crane.

After more than thirty years of designing and building custom timber frame homes, Phillip Bjork’s apporoach has evolved into a style that celebrates the Arts and Crafts tradition and utilizes the best of modern day technologies in building materials. His company’s homes grace locations from the northern coniferous forest throughout the Great Plains and into the Rockies.

Phillip Bjork’s timber frames have been featured on public television and HGTV, as well as in articles in American Bungalow, Fine Homebuilding, Architecture MN, Midwest Home and Garden, Timber Homes Illustrated, Better Homes and Gardens Building Ideas, and Lake and Home Magazine.

The road we travel…

Great Northern Woodworks is well known for its fine craftsmanship, distinctive home designs, commitment to service, and passion for building beautiful living spaces that are well matched to the homeowner’s needs. Phillip Bjork and his staff look forward to bringing these well established ingredients to their discriminating clients, combining the warmth, character and craftmanship of a timbered home with the classic beauty of the cottage and bungalow styles.

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The Facility

Great Northern Woodworks Shop Interior

The cutting shop utilizes overhead cranes and railroad carts on tracks to streamline material preparation. Major components like this parallel chord truss are occasionally pre-assembled before the on-site phase of construction. Portable hand tools are preferred to impersonal machines at every stage of timber preparation.

Great Northern Woodworks Shop Exterior

The shop complex is designed for linear movement both in and out of the seperate facilities. Far to the left is a wood fired boiler that provides in-floor heat to all the buildings. All scrap wood is burned to provide winter heat.

Great Northern Woodworks Staff in Finish Shop

We apply a two-coat sealer finish on all timbers and vaulted ceiling material under climate-controlled conditions in our dedicated finish shop. After finish coats are applied, the timbers are banded, wrapped, and ready for shipment.

Timber Storage

This timber storage building has held up to 180,000 board feet of material. Most of our work uses White Pine from Minnesota and Wisconsin. Seasoning the timber for two to five years is a good way to increase stability.

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The Design & Build Process

The design process starts with the unique vision of each new client. We pay close attention to individual needs and wishes, even as we provide additional creative possibilities, structural alternatives, and cost parameters gleaned from years of experience.

The first stage of this process usually begins with a one or two hour consultation with Phillip Bjork in his office/design studio and concludes with a tour of the shop facilities. Potential clients can see for themselves the hands-on approach the company takes in guiding the design and build process throughout the life of the project.

In the second stage of the design process, Phil Bjork draws on individual client preferences, site considerations, and budget constraints to provide a careful study of the expected finish cost and an agreement of the overall design. These preliminary plans are then tweaked in consultation with clients, and final working drawings are devised in accordance with building code requirements and material/subcontractor specifications.

Throughout the entire process, Phil Bjork is available to answer any question, to act as a liaison between the homeowner and subcontractors, and to focus all individuals on the intent of the design.

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Phil's Bio

Our philosophy at Great Northern Woodworks is simple: what you see is what you get. We use strong, sturdy timbers to build strong, sturdy homes. We insist on elegant rooflines that make sense and well-proportioned interiors that just feel right. At the end of the day, our timber-frame homes are timeless; they’re not about us. They’re about the wood.

Phil Bjork - Craftsman and Designer

Phil Bjork, Craftsman and Designer

That’s how it’s always been here in Minnesota. I began Great Northern Woodworks as a one-man cabinet-shop in 1976. In 1982, I raised my first timber-frame structure––by hand––with a small crew of workers. Since then, the company has completed over 250 custom homes across the Midwest, from Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Colorado, and Illinois, all the way up to Ontario, Canada .

Things have changed a lot in the past 30 years, but our combination of honest character and honest construction remains the same. Every one of our designs is unique, every timber lovingly selected, and every home carefully constructed. It’s that simple.

Phil was born in 1954 in Tokyo , Japan . He spent his childhood in Minnesota and Illinois , graduating in 1973 from Evanston Township High School near Chicago . He studied architecture, industrial design, photography, and filmmaking as an undergraduate at Bemidji State University , and experiential education as a Masters student at Mankato State University . Phil worked as a wilderness canoe camp director, college instructor, cabinetmaker, and journeyman carpenter before founding Great Northern Woodworks in 1976.

When he is not building timber-frame homes, Phil is an accomplished stonemason, Rumford fireplace builder, and boat builder.

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