One of the most fascinating aspects of the Slave Quarters Restoration work is discovering the old techniques used by the original builders to construct the quarters. A previous article has been written on the interesting floor joist that was pulled out, which had mortises carved into it so that workers could use scaffolding. While inspecting this beam, Mack from Rogers Building Corp noticed vertical cuts in the side of the wood. Mack explained that these cuts are evidence of an old and very rare woodcarving technique using a tool called an Adze. The carpenter wood stand on the board and make multiple cuts into the wood using the adze. The adze blade is perpendicular to the shaft and allows the carpenter to take out large chunks of wood making it easier to mill and level large areas of wood with minimal equipment. Mack also said this is a very rare technique and shows, yet again, how skilled the builders were in the 19th century. The following video shows how an adz is used. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2o5leRq4eyk
While repairing bricks on the Slave Quarters, Wayne Thompson of Heritage Restoration found four fingerprints in one of the bricks. The prints are from the original mason’s left hand and Wayne explained that the old craftsmen would oftentimes leave their ‘signature’ on the work in some way. Wayne revealed that he finds fingerprints on almost every building he repairs.
This week is all about windows! The skilled guys from Rogers Building Corporation have been carefully reconstructing and reinforcing the walls around the windows and the windows themselves. Using craftsmanship, time and patience, they have nearly completed the upper west window that was almost falling out of the structure when they started. Utilizing unique and period accurate details like the bird’s-mouth catch and corbeled arches, the restoration is really something to see!
Reinforcing the walls around the windows on the first floor.
The upper west window, finally secure. The walls and windows have both been reinforced. The vertical piece of wood in the middle has twine wrapped around it, connected to both sides of the window arch. By winding it, the tension increases, essentially pulling the sides of the arch together, creating more support.
Reproduction and salvage glass panes looking out over the roof of the poultry shed and the carriage house.
A close up of the wall around the arched upper west window.
The traditional bird’s-mouth catch holding the window open to let in a breeze.
Detail of the bird’s-mouth catch. This type of catch would have been typical of this kind of structure and RBC has used period accurate screws, paying close attention to the details of restoration.
Detail of the type of reinforcement done to the windows. This corbeled arch provides support where the original wood had decayed over time.
The upstairs work bench with a section of corbeled wood. It takes time, patience and skill to make the wood bend, fit and support.
When looking at the Slave Quarters many recognize the skill of the workers represented in obvious ways such as: the beautiful brick work of the exterior or the masterfully constructed floors and joists. However, nails are not something that come to one’s mind when they think about the skill of the craftsmen. In 1859 the workers could not simply go to a hardware store to pick up a box of nails, instead they had to hand cut the nails to fit their specific need. This picture shows a few of the nails used to build the Slave Quarters; beautifully crafted and wonderfully preserved.
Mack, John, and Andrew from Rogers Building Corporation recently pulled out an interesting floor joist from the Slave Quarters. Not only was this piece of lumber in excellent condition, but it also has mortise joints carved into the side. Originally we believed the mortises were carved in the wrong direction and the board was just repurposed. However, through more investigating the carpenters noticed that the mortises line up perfectly with missing bricks in the wall. This has led them to hypothesize that the original artisans used the mortise joints and the missing bricks to put beams up to be used as scaffolding so they could work on the higher parts of the walls. These artisans, mostly slaves, were truly innovators.
Last week, Mack and Andrew of Rogers Building Corp worked on replacing the support beam for the fireplace, so that Francisco, owner of CGC Historic Restorations and the mason/bricklayer for the restoration, could work on the fireplaces. Check back later for more photos of the finished fireplace!