A few updates and a whole lot of work!

Firstly can I apologise for the delay in the blogs as things have been so busy recently.

As you may or may not know the main contractor H&J Martin have been appointed and we the joinery team have been chasing our tails since they have arrived.

It’s a really exciting time for us and I personally can’t wait to get into work to tackle what the day will throw up. We have a new apprentice James Harper who came to us about 5 weeks ago and it is his first ever job! His father is also a joiner so joinery runs in his blood. He has been attached to Trevor and under Trevor he will learn a lot. This is a brilliant environment for a young lad to serve his time; some of the skills he will need and learn will stand him in good stead for the future.

Any how, this blog is about the removal of a top panel to a window, also the repair to drawer fronts which are in a unit placed at the bottom 1/3rd of the window opening.

By way of explanation so folks other than joiners can understand what we have been doing, a sash window has in most cases surrounding it, architrave, shutter doors and panelling. However there are always exceptions to the rule.

The picture below illustrates a window with the mentioned parts.

This is a representative window:

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As I have already said we had to remove a top panel and fix drawer fronts. The reason we were asked to remove the top panel in the pantry was because it had dropped in the centre or bellied in the middle. The window is 3.240m/10’-6”wide and 3.540m/11’-6” high! So it is rather big.

As the top panel had dropped in the middle the shutter doors when they were being closed or opened began to scratch the panel at the top and over the years it had done some considerable damage.

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Also to add concern the area of masonry above the window was showing signs of distress.

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There were several reasons why the panel had dropped, and also explaining the cracks in the plaster. The following are the possible reasons:

  • Masonry had become lose putting pressure down onto the panel
  • The panel had bellied due to its own weight
  • Dry rot had caused the timber heads holding the masonry up to give way

It was a toss up which was worse, dry rot or masonry coming loose!

As the wall showed signs of distress and the top panel was bellied I landed on the side of the masonry being loose and putting weight on the panel.

Joe our wonderful Building surveyor (that’s him happy) thought as dry rot had been in the room beside the pantry that the heads holding up the masonry had been affected by the dry rot.

I should explain: Builders in the days before concrete heads used to hold up masonry or anything for that matter with timber. If you can imagine in your minds eye an arched bridge, it’s the arch that’s doing the holding. Or alternatively you could span from two fixed points timber beams and support the weight on the timber.   In a house of this age one could almost guarantee that timber heads have been used.

However after some discussions and going through all the possible scenarios, from the dooms day end of the world stuff to the not so bad we set about removing the panel and well ……..

On removing the architrave to get a look into the area between the top of the panel and the timber heads we discovered…….

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We were both wrong!

So what was the cause?

Ok, I need you to close you eyes and imagine…..

A stone wall is in front of you, you need to plaster it. You can’t plaster straight to the wall so how do you plaster the wall as its stone?

What the joiners/ plasters of yesteryear did was, get the stone masons to build into the wall horizontal batons of wood. These batons were placed at different points from the bottom of the wall to the ceiling. The joiners then nailed vertical batons to the horizontal batons creating a fixing for the lathes.

The plasterers then had a base in which to plaster unto.

This was is a very tedious task, but it worked.

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Below is the photo of the drawer fronts I mentioned at the start. As you ca see there has been some serious damage to them!

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Well it was the family’s parrot! Yes you read right a parrot! Apparently it became bored or lonely and vented it frustration by pecking at anything that was wood!

To fix this we will have to take of the drawer front and machine a new front with reclaimed pine such as Oregon or yellow pine. I am not sure yet what wood until I get the drawer front off and inspect it.

It will be a really good opportunity for the apprentices Callum and James to see and learn how to cut dovetail joints.

I will do another blog soon, but for now I will say goodbye and you will just have to wait and see how we get on.

David