Tag Archives: timber frame

The Taming of the Screw

Couplets have been rhymed and codpieces have been salted away.

The Worcester Shakespeare Company bids farewell to another great summer of outdoor theater at The New Napkin Stage in Whitinsville, Mass.

For the last several years we’ve raised up an ongoing reproduction of a Shakespearean stage (based on London’s Globe Theatre) and taken it down when the play has concluded its run.

This makes us not a little melancholic-

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But the show mustn’t go on…

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Then the hammer says to the mallet, you catch my drift?

So

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Many

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Screws

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Mel and Chris are always there to help-

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Mr. Starbuck wilt thou not chase the pumpkin spice latte?

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Chiaroscuro or gtfo

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Some of the players themselves came to lend a hand in the deconstruction-

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Bucket o’ Pins, a seasonal delicacy-

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Brace yourself-

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So much drama and yet the post is still good as newel-

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One of our crew (whose name begins with CHRIS) was once a roadie for a certain band…

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If you think that is real marble then you are in the throes of a phallicy-

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Phallicy, because, you know, phallic.

Arise, I bid thee!

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Soon to be roaming numerals-

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Inventory-

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When Broseph needs a smoke now, and then-

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So they loaded up the truck and moved to Chiltonville…

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exeunt…

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Playing many parts-

Find tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.

(Act II, Scene I, As You Like It)

That’s some dank verse, Will.

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Amy with the season’s first performance on The New Napkin Stage.

A few years ago, we cut a frame for the non-profit Worcester Shakespeare Company and their Artistic Director Mel Cobb, who helped with the building of the replica Globe Theatre in London.

Each summer WSC performs Shakespeare along the scenic Blackstone River in Whitinsville, Mass. It’s a talented and energized group from all over the world who put on the best Shakespeare locally. This year’s play is As You Like It.

For us, it’s a July tradition to truck the stage’s many parts 60-odd miles from Plymouth where they are stored for the off-season.

 Once we remember which part goeth where, that puppy is raised.

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As is tradition, Mel, Chris, and all the players help us raise the timbers.

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The “pillars of Hercules” were made out of a single piece of pine. The impossibly talented Pen Austin painted the faux marble.

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Detail of Pen’s “heavens” panels.

A little more has been added to the stage each year, bringing the experience that much closer to the ol’ scribe’s original vibe.

After we raised the main stage, we scooted back to the framing yard to cut this year’s addition: A 2-story wing off stage left consisting of chambers for Lords and Ladies, who, historically, wouldn’t be caught dead with the hurly burly down below in the cheap seats.

Michael laid the frame out via proportional geometry, which is a whole other story.

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With the help of several chisel and saw jockeys, we got busy cutting. Scene 1, Act 1 was breathing down our necks.

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Amy and Kevin cutting joints in iambic pentameter.

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Brock paring a tenon for The Bard

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MLB test-fitting braces to avoid a Shakespearean tragedy.

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As You Like It, A Space Odyssey.

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nonplussed pussy

Sweet are the uses of adversity…

(Act II, Scene I)

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Rain made an unexpected cameo in the second Act.

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You and you are sure together,
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As the winter to foul weather. 

(Act V Scene IV)

A week’s work done and the stage, of many parts, to be continued…

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Believe then, if you please, that I can do strange things.

(Act V Scene II)

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First performances are just underway and continue through August 21st.

Click below for information on the Worcester Shakespeare Company’s 2016 Season:

http://www.worcestershakespearecompany.org/2016-season/

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The tuba plays E then F, ominously

It’s the height of summer in these parts-

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Your kitty is high on cat-nip RIGHT NOW.

Great whites continue to snack on grey seals in local waters, fireworks have been going off non-stop for 47 months, the sweet, sweet smell of lighter fluid permeates your neighbor’s backyard (that sure seems like a LOT of lighter fluid, Wayne) and the gypsy moth caterpillars have been doing their part to defoliate every tree in North America.

Dive right in folks-it’s fleeting.

So it’s only natural we should be working a project on Summer Street in the heart of America’s Hometown.

The house in question is situate between the iconic Town Brooke on one side-

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Ye brooke where pilgrims once drank, bathed, and body-surfed.

and ye John Carver Inn on ye other:

And his wifi, being a weak signal, died within five or six weeks minutes check-in-

I may have died the first winter but that doesn’t mean you won’t get a clean room and cable- J.C.

It’s a busy little strip with a downtown vibe. The traffic is, shall we say, a presence. Lots of big trucks. I’m quite certain I’ve seen a few carrying pods. There’s a parade of tuned cars with subsonic bass only Australians can hear. And happy folks wearing colorful shirts and fanny packs on their way to or fro the happenin’ and must-see Plimoth Grist Mill.

The logistics of a project in this setting present us a bit of a challenge.

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It’s a wee fishbowly, as it were. We’ve taken to wearing matching socks to work.

Kevin’s been holding down the fort while I’ve been away. His spirit is indefatigable. He lives in a House of Seven Indefatigables.

He’s been replacing sill sections, laying out and cutting new post bottoms, and doing the CSI necessary to come up with a plan of action. All this while a very nice family continues to make this their home.

But as great as Kevin’s work is, this is not a one-man job. Progress has been understandably slow.

Even the most hesitant of projects often have a turning point, though, a moment when the something clicks and fires the imagination and everything begins to gather momentum. When more things go right than go wrong. When you find something so cool you need to say HEY LOOK AT THIS to the startled tourist from Albany strolling by.

So today we opened up the east end of the house. The post, decayed, needed out. It will come out in sections.

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As we cut the bottom of the old post free from its horizontal girt-

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The exposed tenon proved to be in reasonable shape and fair quality for re-use in the new post’s mortise.

Every time we uncover history like this, when we open up something that’s been housed away for years, it gets me. I have no idea who the carpenter was. Even if I knew his name, chances are it would tell me less than the remainder of his work.

And despite the centuries, that connection is strong.

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Granted it’s got a few miles on it, but you’ve gotta look past the surface. Beauty.

Check out the hewn away taper on the inside face (left as shown) of the girt down to the tenon. Efficiency trumps (did I just use that word?) beauty.

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This sort of standing-house archaeology is appealing not only to the analytical brain, but also to the part which likes a good story.

We take measurements as we go, salvaging the pieces of the old to make a template for the new. Little pieces and bits are reconstructed.

And all carpenter’s marks, from whatever century, tell a story. “Finish that girt ‘ere dinner, goodman, or I shall box thee thine ears.”

It’s both familiar and comforting. It’s as if the old pieces reinforce your own technique, your own frustrations with gnarly grain, your own workmanlike approach to getting a job done well and in a timely manner.

Here’s to rolling on this project, like the brook rolls down in the hollow, like the traffic rolls through a downtown summer.

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Also, these guys for no reason other than they are really good and we need some of that today:

 

 

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Hangham Style

Just a little side project, they told him.

Install an 11′ mantel between two posts in a new timber frame.

Shouldn’t take more than a week.

And we’ve even got the stock for you!

A barely audible alarm went off in the back of Justin’s busy head…

Over the next 2 weeks it grew louder and more insistent–like a Canadian who’s just about run out of Molson on a camping trip–until it was drowned out only by the dissonant whine of a plugged-in planer and the need for a smoke.

Oh hey, devil hemlock–dry, twisted and left-for-dead–which no human in the history of the world would ever want to touch or even burn, let alone square and build-out.

It was so awesome that the install happened to fall on the heels of all that cheerful and sublime carving at Greenwood Fest. 

I remember when we used to work happy and well-adjusted wood with idiosyncratic Swedes and dreadlocked Englishwomen.

Wood with WATER STILL IN IT.

Juxtaposition? More like Suckstaposition.

Other than being a day-long avoidance of trashing a fine house which may or may not have been hosting a party with Marky Mark within a fortnight, things ended up fair and square. The client was pleased, there were no holes in the plaster, and all the joints fit like Tupperware lids.

You had this all along, ked.

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painting by Jones River artist Marshall Joyce

Don’t you DARE put your drink on the mantel without a coaster.

We’re looking at you, Wahlberg.

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Speaking of green wood…

If you can scrape together the ducats, the upcoming Plymouth CRAFT workshop with Dave Fisher is a great way to say goodbye to July this summer.

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Dave is as amazing a craftsman as he is a nice guy.  Check out his blog for inspiration: https://davidffisherblog.wordpress.com/

We were lucky to have Dave at Greenwood Fest 2016 and to see him teach and create extraordinary bowls.  Breathtaking work, really.

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Course fee includes materials as well as incredible fare by Paula Marcoux. It’ll take place along a beautiful estuary south of Boston. Well worth it.

For info: http://www.plymouthcraft.org/?tribe_events=bowl-carving-with-dave-fisher

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American Graffiti

It was love, Jimmy.

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“Jimmy has kissed me 8 times here on this vacation Feb 20, 1955”

You, your friends and half the youth of Norwell, Mass all snuck in and climbed the ladder up to the top floor of the old water tower on Pleasant Street.

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It was a right of passage, making out and leaving your mark on the walls, no doubt.

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Knotty.

But the bloom of love fades, and so did the frame and fixings of the tower, built over a hand-dug well and one of only a handful in the area.

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Pret, always one to encourage romance, stabilized the frame from the sills on up, and replaced the upper floor where the water tank used to be.

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The beefy joists are a mix of doug fir and yellow pine.

The sheathing was put back in place and newly sawn pine made the floors.

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Peter cut in a hatch to the well. As of the last measure the water was 14′ deep.

Russ took on the challenge of shingling the works, once the frame was repaired.

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The long corners have alternating seams. They are “woven”.

And restored windows, as they are want to do, changed the entire complexion of the structure.

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Justin worked his OCD magic on the deck and railings.

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The details of construction were based on old photographs of the building.

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Our ladder was utilitarian-

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-but the original “stairs” were in remarkable condition and happily re-used.

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David (the home-owner), Peter and Pret taking it in. They left no graffiti.

With its new roof and a cheerful, if phallic, finial on top, there’s no reason this unique feature shouldn’t last for at least another 150 years.

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circa 1940-ish

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circa April-ish

And Jimmy?

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He is still loved, last we saw.

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PARTY ANIMAL

Well that joiner down by the river finally realized his dream the other day…

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With the help of several friends and neighbors, he raised a frame for his workshop.

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Farmers. office workers, artists, writers, and millers from down the street and from Canada, Australia, Maine–even Newton!–were all there to help.

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Mr Follansbee and Mr Woodburn take full responsibility for this darlin’ frame, nestled seamlessly into the hillside and made of salvaged materials laid out and cut on fair winter days this year.

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While it would have been special to see FREE BRADY carved on the beam, Peter opted instead for a date–4 digits which always ring familiar here in Plymouth County.

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And no frame ever is raised without a hitch or two.

This is how a joiner owns a mistake when he’s helping to build his own workshop:

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After a yeoman’s lunch, cooked on a fire partly fueled by discarded carved panels…

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…the frame seemed almost to finish itself-

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And Mr Follansbee applied a traditional flourish for the newly raised timbers.

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Then, when the last trenail was pounded, a sight rarely seen ambled its way down the hill…

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Look at that party animal.

And though PF doesn’t partake, he rewarded the generosity of those who came to help out in friendship.

It didn’t take long before the newly raised frame saw some of its first use…

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And as the sun set west of the river-

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-we all knew this would be a place where many wonderful things are created.

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Here is a link to Peter’s account of the frame and the process:

https://pfollansbee.wordpress.com/tag/timber-framing/

Also, here’s a video by Harry Kavouksorian of the raising:

https://vimeo.com/159696991

Lots of great things happening over at Plymouth CRAFT.

Check out the latest classes:

http://www.plymouthcraft.org/?post_type=tribe_events

 

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Structural Dust

One man’s dust is another man’s treasure…

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That’s today’s 175 yr-old dust on my cheaters.

We preserve structures–that’s what we do.

The work can be challenging and sometimes it sucks–but the concept is really friggin simple:

We save as much of the original building as we can.

This aint dropping a 7-11 on the corner; it’s not taping up yet another plywood mcmansion.

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Keegs gluing back the broken short grain of a king post-

Enter Michael Burrey, a man who is as passionate about saving every part of an historic structure as anyone now drawing breath on this mortal coil.

Really. As in, this is his calling and he can’t refuse the call.

Where most people see a derelict and lost eyesore–and developers see dollar signs–Michael’s eyes light up with the possibility of preserving not only a structure, but the rich and untold history of one little part of the world.

One building at a time.

If there were 36 hrs in the day, he’d be at your historic doorstep, knocking on it with a mallet and leaving you pamphlets asking if your house is saved.

He is as compelled to save an historic building as Noah was to build the ark. Pine and oak, two by two.

The wanton destruction of historic structures is Michael’s white whale. It galls him. He takes it personally when he hears of the thoughtless or greed-fueled razing of a building which could have been saved.

“Is he mad? Anyway there’s something on his mind, as sure as there must be something on a deck when it cracks.”

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So all this arrives with Michael when we meet up at the job site each morning.

He packs up his passion for preservation like you and I would throw a turkey sandwich into a plastic grocery bag.

Some days, there’ll be layout marks on the skeletonized dust of ancient, bug-happy sapwood.

You want me to cut this line, I ask, knowing full-well the answer.

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Purlin trench-ok band name. a capella dubstep

Yep, he’ll say, with that familiar smile all of us who’ve worked with Michael know very well.

And if you know MLB, you know there’s a LOT behind every yep:

Like, there’s the craftsman side of things–he does some stupidly good work, from the finished details of a newel post to knowing just where to hit the sledgehammer to knock apart a joint to being one of the best hewers in the western hemisphere. There’s the historian/archaeologist, who could give you the full historic narrative of a structure being preserved and the skinny on many of the artifacts in and around the grounds. There’s the, Hello this is Michael of MLB restorations, answering a call from a church on Nantucket, or a timber framed bridge in the pine hills of Plymouth, or the don’t forget about tonight’s cub scout meeting from home

The dude doesn’t even drink coffee.

So while all this is rolling around inside his head like some frenetic game of jai-alai, some well-meaning but uninformed soul might wander (wonder) by and ask,

Why don’t you just replace the whole thing? That’s what I would do. I could put up a new rafter in 20 minutes. 

He’ll pause before replying, gathering himself in a way that I simply could not.

Because…

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that’s

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not

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preservation.

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Dear reader, let us pause to take in the full meaning of that response…

If we can save a timber, a trenail, a sheathing board, we will.

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Nailed it.

It’s messy. Yep. It’s frustrating. Yep. It’s slower than replacing the whole thing with something new.

Yep.

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-and it’s the right thing to do.

Because once that original sash-sawn rafter is gone, it’s never coming back.

If you can save half of it, you do it. 

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And when you can’t save a piece of the original, the replacement tells a pretty good story–about another time and place, and about the community who cared enough to preserve something special.

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I brought my own trenail, said the collar to the rafter.

Who will carefully and skillfully wrest out the good from the gone?

Look for the men and women with structural dust on their pate and in their pockets.

That’s the dust of centuries.

That’s the dust of preservation.

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To contact Michael of MLB Restorations, text or call: 508 277-4468 

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Rafter You’ve Gone

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round here we say FRAP, not shake

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We took a side job this past Saturday, returning to ye old stomping grounds for a day–

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The earth-fast (without foundation) house was suffering from the onset of chimney lean.

This is to be expected as the oak posts and studs decay at differing rates in the ground.

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 We’d done a similar fix before. 

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 This time, the chimney was out of plumb about 2 feet.

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 Some 400 year old friends came to wish us well-

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You haven’t lived until you’ve heard a Jacobean religious dissenter say “aluminum”.

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We punched holes in clapboards and daub (a clay mortar) and ran a strap from the outside of the chimney down to the opposing tie beam.

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Then we opened up the thatch and poles between the house’s two rooms to allow half of the roof system to move.

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By design, there isn’t a lot of lateral support in the roof frame. These cottages were meant to represent the quick and dirty build of the colony’s first settlers who needed shelter, not manor houses.

Rafters leaned in concert with the chimney–

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We used a pipe shore beneath the chimney lintel to carry the load while digging out beneath the posts.

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Matteo and Dan did yeoman’s work with us all day. It was a pleasure to work alongside them.

 To bring the chimney back to plumb, we needed to cut 7.5 inches off of their bottoms.

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Once the posts were footed with flat stones, we eased off the strain above and below and slowly cranked the roof system towards plumb.

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There is a pleasant FRAP sound as all the elements of the frame move together.

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After a morning’s prep, it only took a few minutes to bring the chimney and roof frame back to plumb.

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As a bonus, nary a chink of clay mortar fell out during the process.

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And the loft floor above, which had been been affected by the chimney lean, also came back to level.

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As the day wound down, Justin and Michael gathered up spars and sways (wooden fastenings) to put back the thatch.

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Mister Burrey truly enjoys going back to his roots. The work–like the houses–is elemental and, dare I say, good for the soul.

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And the view–not to mention the indefatigable spirits of the good people on the front lines of this institution–is one thing which refuses to be dampened by listing chimneys or otherwise.

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For a pilgrim’s take on the process, check out this blog post: http://blogs.plimoth.org/pilgrim-blog/?p=3554

Rock on with your bad selves–

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photo (and thatch repair) by Michael Burrey

 

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Mortise and Tenon make a porno

A rehab in pictures…

The old sawmill had seen better days…

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A larger box mill was added to original sawmill. Both had been stabilized until work resumed.

Its restoration would include as much of the original timber and sheathing as possible-

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There’s a lot of assessing when determining which of the old timbers can be reused.

Joinery notes or a martini recipe? You decide-

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Wanted: Oak and pine timber with an early 19th-century aspect:

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Plans worked out and timbers hewn, it was time to cut.

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We are not adverse to machines-

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Though certain joints are cut in the old style:

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A pin will crash this party between mortise and tenon-

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Cutting is relatively easy, relative to layout that is…

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The beefy top of a jowled post.

The slow dance of trial fitting…

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Here, Pret replaces the forlorn end of an old tie beam.

New life for old ties-

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The beam in context with its new post:

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A sweet little brace with perfectly swept grain is still perfectly functional-

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Now that the majority of the sawmill’s frame was cut, the North Bennet Street School Preservation Carpentry Program helped us to raise it.

First the long walls–

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Then the tie beams-

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Hatch Mill volunteer and photographer Bill Powell captures the action-

 

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And good men who had been steadfast in their vision and support of this old up-and-down sawmill took a moment to enjoy the progress at day’s end-

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Dean and Roy, two of several people who refuse to let Hatch Mill die.

 Time to cover the new (old) frame-

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 The roof sheathing was also a mix of old and new:

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September’s fair weather allowed us to make hay-

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 The NBSS students returned to get their shingling technique on-

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There was good progress after a couple of days-

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Preservation student Emily made a great video of the NBSS contributions:

MLB Restorations returned after a week of dreary October weather to finish roofing and start on sidewalls-

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 And with the help of many, what once was…

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Continued a return to its former–if humble–glory.

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For more information on the restoration of The Hatch Mill, please visit:

http://hatchmill.com/ 

or The Hatchmill Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Hatch-Mill/364489727000021

 

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