Keyed and Key-Laminated Beams

Builders have been making larger timber members from interconnected smaller timbers for thousands of years. Their goal is to simulate Mother Nature’s innate fiber connections, but with man-crafted interconnections. Glue laminating pretty much achieves our Mom’s high standard – but with some significant aesthetic and construction compromises. Key-laminated beams can be much better looking, maybe occasionally lovelier than Mom's.

The individual layers in any built-up beams want to slip by one another under applied bending loads. To the extent that we can prevent this slip with mechanical connectors (or "keys"), we can generate composite action among the various layers. The analysis, design, and detailing required to do a good job of key-laminating beams is not trivial. A good friend, Joe Miller, is pursuing his Ph.D. in the topic, for instance. But the resulting beams can support remarkable loads, while contributing all sorts of opportunities for joinery celebration. We have included these lovely beams in many of our designs. Call us, to get help with your own lovely composite, mechanically-laminated, keyed beam.


  1. We can't wait to bring you a keyed beam project! Thanks for sharing.

    Heirloom Timber Framing

  2. As a result, many construction projects use beams made of laminated wood. This is the perfect blog for anyone who wants to know about this topic. Thanks for the post.

    Molds for concrete casting