Steady wins timber framing race: Former teacher from Leverett starts business

  • Patrick Sullivan, owner of Molasses Post and Beam of Leverett, marks square lines on beams for a timber frame he is working on. Staff photo/Melina Bourdeau

  • Patrick Sullivan, a timber framer and owner of Molasses Post and Beam in Leverett, builds various structures including mailboxes, dog houses, sheds and pergolas. Contributed photo

  • Patrick Sullivan, a teacher turned timber framer, builds various structures like mailboxes, dog houses, sheds and pergolas through his business Molasses Post and Beam in Leverett. Contributed photo

  • One of the elements Patrick Sullivan, owner of Molasses Post and Beam, emphasizes with his structures is the marriage of using traditional building techniques and being environmentally conscious. Contributed photo

Staff Writer
Published: 7/21/2019 12:59:58 PM

LEVERETT — Timber framer Patrick Sullivan’s first client told him, “You’re as slow as molasses, but your work is beautiful.”

Sullivan, a Leverett resident who used to be a Greenfield Middle School science teacher, said he is slow and methodical in his work, and decided to name his new business after that sentiment: Molasses Post and Beam LLC.

He said during his 13 years at the middle school, he enjoyed teaching and even incorporated his love for woodworking into his assignments, but he wanted to do more independent work. Starting five years ago, he began considering turning his interest into a business, and he officially formed a limited liability corporation last fall.

“Sometimes I would have students build their dream homes or bridges,” Sullivan said. “I’m more introverted and it’s wonderful work I can focus on alone.”

Although the timber framing is a recent development, Sullivan said he enjoyed wood shop in school and has been learning from his father-in-law and stepfather-in-law, as well as from reading and research.

“I’ve been around woodworkers in my life,” Sullivan said. “(My wife) Ashley’s stepfather, Fred Hubbard, is a cabinetmaker and my mentor. I’ve learned form her dad as well. He’s been a carpenter his whole life and has taught me a lot.”

Ashley Winn, Sullivan’s wife, said the building process is like solving a puzzle.

“Building the structure, he pieces up the parts like a puzzle,” Winn said. “When he built a house in Rowe, the pieces were in the yard — it looked impossible to me. It’s a complex and beautiful puzzle that he puts together.”

Sullivan builds various structures such as mailboxes, pergolas, sheds and homes using timber framing techniques. He emphasizes being able to marry the traditional methods of timber framing with modern science.

“Timber framing is using traditional New England style that has a rich history, and I like joining that with responsible energy efficiency,” Sullivan said. “The envelope of the building is built on the frame, and can maintain net zero energy.”

He said he also uses trees milled in a sustainable way.

Sullivan said he wants to promote building structures using timber framing.

“It’s amazing how affordable it can be for a two-income household to have a smaller timber frame home built,” Sullivan said. “I love the slow, creative, artistic part of building a timber frame and keeping the environmental science as part of it.”

Teaching is still part of Sullivan’s job, he said.

“Every time I build a structure, I explain the building process to people and give them the options they might have for windows or potentially having solar panels on their homes,” he said.

In the consultation portion of the project, Sullivan said he pays attention to how people will be using the space.

“From the way you walk into the mud room, for example, it’s important to notice the flow of the house,” Sullivan said. “The slower the planning process, the better the outcome. I like to be methodical in the design.”

Reach Melina Bourdeau at or 413-772-0261, ext. 263.

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