The objectives of this study were to explore the mechanical behavior of traditional timber shear walls in Taiwan and to propose a theoretical model to predict their lateral force resistance. An extensive field investigation was conducted, and the dimensions, tectonic detail, and materials used were recorded. The data collected were used as the reference for theoretical derivation and experimental design. In the theoretical model, the moment resistance of entire shear walls was derived from the contributions of the moment-resisting capacity supplied not only by embedment and friction action between board units and beams but also the dowel action of bamboo nails. Timber shear walls with various geometric conditions and material properties are considered. The theoretical model demonstrated in this study can be used to predict the mechanical behavior of timber shear walls and will be verified by experiments in our next article.