Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Mantels (click to enlarge)

Ralph Lauren's flagship store: The Rhinelander Mansion at 867 Madison Avenue, N.Y.
This reproduction in mahogany was built to replace the original marble mantel which was removed and used at his newly constructed residence in Garrison.

A Georgian style in pine and basswood

All carving is done by hand. Patterns are expanded or contracted so that a "center" can be joined by a carved acanthus leaf at each miter. If you look closely you can find them.

Traditional English mantel with carved acanthus leaves in mahogany.

Carved from one piece
Below you will see the caption "older posts". Click on this and there are additional pictures of boat building and exterior work on a bungalow style home.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

What has boat building got to do with houses?

      A number of years ago I built a replica Rangeley Lakes boat for my personal use. I didn’t realize at the time that a few basic techniques I learned in the process would be invaluable in the repair and restoration of older homes.
     The average front porch of a house is exposed to more weather and neglect than almost any wooden boat I know of. In this region of the country the boating season is short and boats are hauled out and put away for the winter indoors or covered. They are inspected and repaired and refinished as is necessary. Porches with more horizontal wood surface than any other part of a house enjoy all weather conditions year round.
     Years ago, carpenters had what appeared to be an inexhaustible supply of old growth lumber. This lumber was superior to the lumber we use today in almost every way. Trees that grew in dense forest with lots of competition over many years grew slower with annual rings that formed much closer together. This produces a more dimensionally stable board. Some species additionally formed organic compounds that fought the fungi and micro organisms that cause decay. The inside of a tree after all is in fact dead. So much of the wood on older homes is superior to most of the materials we can replace it with unless cost is not a consideration.
      So what needs to change? The method that carpenters have employed in the application of lumber for exterior use. Some conscientious carpenters already do this. Have you ever seen a carpenter “back prime” a piece of wood? Essentially this is priming surfaces that will not be exposed. This reduces and slows the amount of moisture wood can absorb on unexposed sides. Wet one side of a board and it will expand producing a cupped shape. Watch deck boards and how they behave when rained on and dried under an intensely hot sun. This is a huge amount of stress to the boards surface. So back priming helps keep a board stable and helps to keep the moisture content lower.
      The carpenter of yesterday also did not have elastomeric and polyurethane caulks that we have the available to us. Please not that I have not included “painters” or acrylic latex caulk such for this is an inferior product.
      Additionally the principle and practices of boatbuilding play largely here and contribute greatly to work that will stand the test of time. 

Here she is after enjoying a long day on the Rideau Canal in Canada.