Meet our hard working sub-contractors!

Our main contractors are local firm H&J Martin. They are a family run business dating back to 1839, around the time the Stewarts were adding on to their house at Mount Stewart.

This is not the first time that H&J have done work here, they were the firm who did the work on our new reception area in 2001-2. Also they did the work on the Temple of Winds in the mid 1990s. They also did some work for the Londonderry family over the years up to the 1950s.

H&J now work in many countries – such as the UK, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Romania, Saudi Arabia – both in building and property maintenance, it’s great to see a Northern Ireland firm do so well internationally! One of the best aspects for them working on our project is that they are all presently living at home instead of having to live abroad/away from home and family as is fairly normal.

The team here is headed up by Maurice, who is the Project Manager. Maurice has been with H&J for forty years, starting as an apprentice joiner in August 1974. He has worked on many commercial projects over the years including hospitals, schools and shopping centres and was involved in the refurbishment of The Opera House after it was bombed in 1993.

Kelly-Ann is the Site Manager; she has been with H&J for about eight years and started in a more office type job as a document controller before moving into the more hands-on management side of the business. Kelly-Ann is working towards her CIOB (Chartered Institute of Builders) qualifications and takes a practical approach to training, learning on the job from her experienced colleagues.

Brian is the Assistant Site Manager, he is with H&J for one year, and his background is in a degree in Construction Engineering & Management.

They are the main three managers onsite, but there are others occasionally ‘passing through’ – such as Doreen, who is a Quantity Surveyor.

R&M Joinery are our hard working joiners.

R&M are Rab and Marty, both former H&J employees now in partnership for some three years.

This is a very busy section as there is much joinery (some temporary, some permanent) to be done on any building site. They build temporary doors, frames, platforms and barriers, as well as working on floors, skirting, windows and all the wooden parts around a house.

At Mount Stewart they employ several joiners as well as a labourer/stone mason.



A ‘quickish’ update!

Hello folks!

I am so sorry I have not been producing blogs for the past wee while, I have had so much to do which has near made me go round the bend! But as we say in Ireland, ‘sure, it will be grand’, which carries with it the connotation of a care free attitude. However I can assure one and all that around here we care greatly for this property and it shows through in the people I work with.

I must say I work with the most amazing bunch of people! Everyone loves their job despite the frustrations and problems which arise. The passion we all share for our jobs and the place we work can be so strong that I find personally I can’t switch off. My life is given over to this project and the delivery of it on time(ish)!

I am writing this over lunch time as things are quiet around here between 1:00 and 1:30pm!

So I nipped down earlier to take a few photos of a floor which is being lifted in the Drawing Room. This room was where various functions would have taken place among other rooms but this room was totally stunning with all its decorations etc. I have mentioned the room in previous blog posts and this time you will see the room with all the furniture and paintings removed and in storage, it feels like it’s having its heart ripped out.

So, just had to pop out there and sort out a delivery of timber! Why on earth does that happen?! Deliveries come either at 4:55pm or between 1-1:30pm, usually just as you’re about to sink your teeth into a sandwich!


The Drawing Room…

No wait!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am very proud to bring to you a special wee woman who was over with us for a week to gain some knowledge in heritage carpentry and joinery. I hereby present to you Miss Sarah Hudson.

Miss Sarah Hudson

Miss Sarah Hudson

Sarah took the decision she wanted to become a joiner and has proved herself very capable in the trade. She will do well as she proved to me that she has a very keen interest and wants to learn. I don’t want to uplift the trade to any height but anyone who wants to become a tradesman in any of the trades must go through 4 years of low pay and feel the weak link in any team, totally reliant on their work colleagues and needs support in most areas. There must be more inside the apprentice to really want to be a trades person to see past the early years.

Speaking of myself, I was 16 when I went out into the big bad world and had to get wise very quickly! The thing is, Sarah is mostly in a man’s world and yet she sticks at it and I must applaud her for her determination and drive to push boundaries.

Keep up the good work Sarah! The joinery team at Mount Stewart wish you well and hope in years to come to hear you having completed your apprenticeship.

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Right! The Drawing Room

In the following images one can see the floor mostly lifted with the joists being visible. See what I mean by having its heart ripped out?

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A few stories have emerged following the floor being lifted. I noticed at the commencement of the project when I lifted a few boards seeing glass scattered all over the place.

So why all the glass?

Back when I first noticed it, I picked a few pieces up and noticed it was from something that was curved. I figured that it was a broken glass table or something which had been swept into the floor void.

So when the floor was lifted I saw that the glass was all over the floor not just in one section. So the penny dropped (and in my head it has to drop a long way)! I am one of those people who wins an argument an hour after it has happened! One of the joiners said to me, ‘It’s almost like they cut all the glass for the windows in here’.


That’s it! It’s crown glass! My goodness! It’s all the remnants of the glass from the late 1840’s when the windows were being installed and the Drawing Room was used to glaze the sashes.

In the photo below you will see how glass came to site. Glass manufacturing of the day was by means of placing molten glass on a spinning table. The centrifugal force flatted out the glass into a disc.

If you’re ever around Mount Stewart look at the windows, those are the ones I have taken out. Look particularly close at the panes, they will be distorted but the key to spotting crown glass in particular is the circular rings which can be visible.

Why is this guy so excited about finding this?

Well crown glass is no longer made anywhere in the world, to find these bits of glass gives me a sense of just how big the discs where and I can also imagine all the sashes in the room and the glazers cutting and fitting the glass and glazing them. I am now going over their work approximately 144 years later! I find that amazing.

Yes yes, I need to get out more!

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Two more joiners

We have two more joiners started with us which brings the team up to 7 poor souls who have to work with me! I will post a few images and a bit of info about them in due course, I have run out of time for this session.

All the best and please keep on supporting the project here and the National Trust in general.

Bye for now. If I haven’t posted another blog post in a few weeks please come and find me, as I might have taken to the hills or rocking back and forth mumbling about sash windows and glass! I am so glad I have a beard these days it’s such a de-stressor, as I muse and think over what the dickens I have to do next!

As we have some readers who might appreciate the following:

Slán go foil! Or goodbye for now in English!


A quick update

Hi folks!

Just thought I would put together a short blog post. As I write this I am thinking it might be better if I keep them short and regular as the delay between posts might not be as long.

Well, this is a brief post to show some of the finer work we have been doing. Patrick and Callum have been working away on repairing the window sashes from Lady Londonderry’s sitting room. These are the windows which date from 1804 and they are in amazing condition. I hope I’m in as good a condition when I’m that age. Although if I am I would probably be as a man once said, ‘I don’t know where I will be then, but I sure won’t smell too good!’

Callum and Patrick have proved they are no dozers when it comes to fine joinery work, I have taught them well! Ha! They say, ‘You have taught us all you know and we still know nothing!’ Oh the cheek!

Anyway! Below are a few snaps and I will (after I stop being in a huff) write a few words of explanation! I can’t guarantee they will be flattering after that insult!

First up the work I did!

Would you guys be quiet! They’re laughing at me saying, ‘What can you show them? Sure you don’t do anything!’

Folks, what you are now about to read is how good managers deal with subordination; ‘Here guys, there’s a penny each, away and phone your friends!’

Folks, in my defence you don’t see me working as it is I who is behind the camera! Showing the world or whoever cares the work these guys do! Ungrateful lot!

Ok, here is the work I did, yes! Me! David! The boss! Yes that’s right you guys, the boss!  Ha! That shut them up!

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This section of the glazing bar had to be replaced as the window has a peculiarity in that the external face of the glazing bars is metal. The problem arose in that oak and any metal which has iron in it will react. The oak will turn black and if water is present the tannic acid will corrode the metal.


Patrick was tasked to replace the rotten meeting rail which you saw in a previous blog and it made sense that he was the best man to replace the section of glazing bar.

Now before Patrick could replace the section of glazing bar, I had to run a new section out on the spindle moulder. Any comments lads? No? That’s good! Anyhow, it was tricky one as I had to make a cutter which means matching the existing profile.

As I was the one machining, no photos could be taken, so you will have to trust me on this!

What I can show you, is Patrick fitting the piece of glazing bar.

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The next photos are the glazing bar fitted. Good job Patrick! See, I don’t hold grudges!

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Now for Callum’s job!

I would just like to point out that I trained Callum! Just pointing that out so in the future when he’s famous which he will be judging by all the attention he gets here I won’t be forgotten. I know what you’re all thinking, and no! I’m not one bit jealous!

These photos and film are of Callum and I making a Pitch Pine dowel. Now this is a secret method so don’t tell anyone!

Oh and sorry about my commentary, as you can appreciate this was extemporaneous so no script was available. I really need a manager, you know that!

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Callum needed to make a new section of a damaged meeting rail. This is tricky as the section he is replacing is bevelled and won’t be the easiest thing to secure as the timber section it is fixed to is not huge. But Callum is as good as any apprentice anywhere in the world, if not better! And was there any doubt in my mind he would not succeed? Don’t be daft! Absolutely not!

The section with masking tape and no, It’s not the method we use to fix timber; it’s just there to hold it in place until the next day or in case Oak stealing fairies are about. I don’t mind them stealing Oak, but if they even think of touching my Pitch Pine I will set traps!

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Trevor and James

James is dong great! He is making steady progress and is showing he can work on his own. He is gaining confidence in his ability and soon will be able to carry out more complicated tasks.

Currently he and Trevor are keeping Lauren happy with the packaging and protection side of things. The most famous painting we have and probably one of the finest paintings in the world, Hambletonian, will be moving soon and I will definitely be a bit greyer by the time he is shifted and safely stored. We have a running joke that if anyone damages the painting they immediately leave the building, drive to Belfast City Airport and buy tickets for Australia!

We have some banter with Lauren. We keep her going that she is never off our backs and we are glad when she is away so we get a break! But as I say we are only jesting! She’s a great girl and it’s a privilege to work with her. She had to adjust very quickly when getting here, as being English she was not tuned into our Ulster ways! Although Lauren did work with some Scottish lads before starting here and she says that that sort of trained her. So there ye go! The Scots are big softies compared to us!

But I still haven’t got that bag of Haribo Super Mix? Hint hint!

It was suggested to me that everyone has seen the team in various blogs and not much, if any, of me. So the photo below is of the finest example of an Ulster man you will ever see! Ha! Who am I kidding you all say, and you are exactly right!

I would also like to point out that when I started here I didn’t have stubble and I had no grey hairs! I’m telling you it’s the stress! One thing that has happen which could be described as good was losing weight, and that’s probably from running around after this lot!

Can I also point out the timbers behind and beside me are Irish Elm, Eastern White Pine, Pitch Pine, Irish Oak, Tulip Wood, Beech…. Oh boy I need to get out more!

photo of me 2

Bye folks, and keep reading the blog posts. I am aiming for this blog to be the most viewed in the National Trust!


My goodness! Too much work to report on, and no time in which to give it!

Well anyone who knows me will appreciate that I could relay a mountain of information very quickly as I possess the gift of the gab! As my typing skills cannot keep up with my mouth this will take a while longer!

So here goes:

We have been so busy of late with the commencement of phase three works. This means that all the contents of the rooms which fall into this phase need to be decanted. These rooms are mostly situated in the area of the house which is the oldest dating from 1804 and jam packed full of artefacts as those who come on tours will know.

Our role at this stage is packaging and protection, and boy Lauren, our new conservator has us on our toes! Just in case this sounds like a gripe, it’s not! Everyone knows Lauren is doing a tremendous job which I for one find amazing that she is able to organise so much stuff in such a short time in such a brilliant way.

Pitch pine stash!

I never was as glad to hear Joe Heaney our Senior Building Surveyor say that he had some timber at the Argory which had been there for some time and I should take a look at it to ascertain if it’s of any use. Well I did just that and when I clapped eyes on the timber a big smile came to my face when I seen this…

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I know I know, I am a sad individual getting all excited over a pile of wood but normally costing £30-60 pounds per cubic ft and this lot being all free you would be excited too!

Pitch pine simply put is the most beautiful wood I know! Yes there are other species which are stunning but pitch pine has that extra dimension that other species just don’t have. The reasons following are why I love it.

  1. Colour
  2. Density
  3. Longevity
  4. Stability
  5. Sizes available
  6. Workability

It is generally accepted that Oak is one of the most durable timber species on earth. Well I once repaired sash windows in a house which was built in 1764 and had an Oak sill with Pitch pine styles. Now here’s the thing, both species had rotted at the same rate! Both species had the same environment and the same number of coats of paint and yet the pitch pine was lasting every bit as long as Oak.

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A few photos of the joists being machined for the manufacture of a replacement window, I will keep a few photos of the window being assembled and when it’s being fitted.

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Patrick has been working away repairing a rotten meeting rail belonging to a curved sash window. Being curved it makes things that bit more complicated as the original window was made by hand which results in the curves not all being the same and not regular.

The piece of Oak Patrick is working with displays some amazing characteristics called medullary rays. This type of grain is only seen when the timber is cut in a particular way namely quarter sawn.

Stair access needed!

To anyone who is going to be at Mount Stewart any time soon they will see a funny shaped structure attached to the house on the east side. This is a stair case built to provide access to and from the phase three rooms as the contractors access is at the other end of the house.

I should point out that these stairs were built by H&J Martin’s joiners and they did a cracking job.

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One of the many tasks Lauren so graciously gives us!

The carpets which dwelt until recently in the phase three rooms have all been lifted and shifted!

As many of you know Carpets can be very heavy so we employed the use of a buggy fixed together.

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Oh just one more!

The display cabinets in the central hall have some fine china on display.  Lauren asked us to build a few shelves in the cabinets so she could store more china. Lauren has the problem of loads of stuff to store and no where to store it! It’s hard to believe that this house being so big has no storage. It truly is amazing to watch her organise and fit things into seemingly impossible places!

All this praise is bound to warrant a big bag of Haribo Super Mix?

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Window Repairs

The windows which we removed from Lady Londonderry’s sitting room have proved to be rather challenging in that they are curved and have some rather unusual sections of rot.

The area of a window which usually rots is along the bottom where it is in contact with the stone sill, but in this case it was along the inside and top of the bottom rail. This was due to the presence of sap wood which is not as durable as hard wood.

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The repairs of the above mentioned windows can be very tedious as the rot needs to be completely removed. The timber used to repair the rotten sections needs to be carefully selected. Also an adequate size of timber needs to be removed as a small section of repair will move with the seasons and cause the paint to crack thus allowing water in to the joint.

This is a window repair in another property

This is a window repair in another property

A brief explanation about this repair

You will notice that the area which is to be repaired has been painted grey. This is aluminium wood primer and is the best paint to use to prime any timber which will be used externally.

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The reason to paint the area rather than glue it is as follows:

  1. Glue won’t hold the timber securely as water from condensation can get between the glass and the timber on the inside.
  2. Painting the bare timber will ensure that if water does get behind or anywhere around the new section the timber can’t suck up the moisture.
  3. Having bedded the new timber section with linseed putty which acts as a gasket not a glue to prohibit water ingress, the paint stops the timber from sucking the linseed oil from the putty which in turn would dry it out.

You will also notice that I have used oak dowels to secure the new section in place. Why did I not use screws or nails?

Well, the reasons are:

  1. The timber is oak and full of tannic acid which destroys any steel fixings, brass is too soft to provide any pressure, and stainless steel nails and screws are very soft too. This means if the timber wanted to move the fixings could “let go” over the long term.
  2. A dowel such as I used is not going to react with itself. And the wedges used at the ends spread the dowels providing a mechanism in which to hold the section securely.
  3. The dowel joint such as I used is very strong and was the method the original builders of these windows used to secure mortise & tennon joints.

Also in the photos you will notice that I rebated or put a step in the area left. This was to provide a means to stop any chance of water penetrating under the new section and making its way around the back of it. It’s basically to cover all possibilities.

That it for now folks, I will try and get out more blog posts on a regular basis.


An update on recent works

Hi folks! I find myself yet again in front of the computer to assemble another blog.

I hope you forgive me for the absence of blogs recently as we all have been extremely busy! I never expected this job to demand so much of my time, I am not crying about it I love this job to bits! The weeks just melt into months and life just seems to be an endless rush to get out of one area in the house to the next.

Let’s get stuck in!

The Saloon fights back would be the title of this part as we have unearthed some very worrying discoveries.

Just when all was going well, the floor was brilliantly re-laid by Craig and Martin, two of H&J Martins joiners and the painters had moved into the room prepping for the first layers of paint when, on the removal of a rather ropey piece of architrave in order to replace it…. wet rot! Pheew said I to myself, at least that’s not dry rot!

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Work then began to remove the window and assess the damage when we thought we should also check the window opposite, what state would this window be in? Well, as soon as the window was removed…Nightmare! DRY ROT!

Feeling all deflated and alarmed as to what extent the dry rot had spread or what it had affected, Dennis our fantastic Project Manager calmed everything down by pointing out from experience the best method is not to worry about these things as they are what they are and we will deal with it as it comes.

So I put on my surveying hat and inspected the said window to my amazement while the mycelium (the fungus) was all over the wood it had not caused as much damage as I expected.

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Once the window was repaired, our own joiners Patrick and Steven set about rebuilding the architraves and panelling. The hood was refixed more effectively and securely whereby previously it was only held up by 2 nails and the architrave!

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Now you’re asking, what is dry rot and what’s the difference between it and wet rot?

Dry rot and wet rot both destroy wood and the destructiveness of the two funguses can be amazing, causing all sorts of problems.

Wet Rot

wet rot and dry rot

  • Local to a source of damp not wide spread nor active in non damp areas.
  • If the source of damp has not been stopped the timber is wet and spongy to touch.
  • A black fungus can appear on the wood with a white line towards the edge of the rotting section.
  • If the source of damp is stopped the wood will be cubed, dry and crumbly but crucially not active.

Dry rot

dry rot

  • White sheets (known as mycelium growth) are often present.
  • An orange coloured fruiting body may be seen on the timber.
  • The timber will be brown in colour and will crumble due to dry rot feeding on the timber.
  • More destructive than wet rot due to its ability to suck moisture from the wood.
  • Even though the timber is dry the fungus is still active.

The best combatant against any rot is ventilation! 

Callum’s Window

Callum has been tasked with removal of a rotten section of timber from a window in the Family Room as it has succumbed to wet rot along the sill line. Again what I thought may be a simple case of remove and repair has morphed into a bigger job than expected. However Callum is more than a match for this window!

I pointed him in the general direction and left him to it, now and then he would come back and seek some advice but he had no difficulty in identifying the problems, all Callum needed was assurance.

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One more section to show you just what dry rot is capable of if left unchecked.

If you look closely you will see that the floor joists have steel bolted to each side of them. This is due to the dry rot having eaten away the timber which then needed replacing. The replacement timber needs this steel to make it stronger. The wall has had to be striped of its plaster due to the dry rot eating the studs behind, what you see here is modern skim finish.

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Well folks that’s all for now, I will be back again soon as we have a specialist conservator with us who is repairing some beautiful lamp stands (if that’s the right term for them).  Now these stands are not any old stands, they are overlaid with gold leaf! Whooo you might say so take a quick peek!

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All the best


An update and request from the joinery team

Hi folks!

I know I know it’s been too long! We have been very busy working hard restoring windows and protecting various items throughout the house.

Everything is in full swing with a team of plumbers, electricians, plasterers, H&J Martin’s joiners and the fabulous, totally brilliant, not to be outdone, National Trust Project joinery team! Am I biased?

At the moment we are involved in the restoration of the French doors and their surrounding architraves all along the south facing side of the house. These rooms from a historical point of view came into existence when the house was enlarged quite considerably by the 3rd marquis of Londonderry, to the wonderful house we see today. The rooms in question, being built to serve as the suite of rooms and bedroom used by Theresa the 3rd marquises wife where of high importance and quality. They are also the rooms in which King Edward VII stayed during his visit in 1903. Sometime later around the 1950’s after the estate office in Newtownards was closed the rooms became office space to serve as the new estate office.

We first removed the shutter doors to repair them as per the instructions by the architect. The shutter doors had been reduced in size sometime in the past probably in and around the 1920’s to accommodate an opening sash fitted in the left hand door (when standing in the room) to allow ventilation.

image 1 with arrow image 1a with arrow

The task was to add new timbers to increase the shutter length bringing them back to the original height they would have been in the 1850’s

Image 2

We also removed the French doors so we could service them for two reasons:

1. By removing the many layers of paint which had basically fixed them shut since dear knows when.

2. Remove the sash introduced in the 1920’s which also had been fixed shut and return the doors back to their original appearance.


We in the National Trust are not in the business of dumping the old for new, we instead protect and conserve where possible.

The ethos in which the joinery team, in fact the whole the conservation team operate under when restoring anything is best summed up by our project curator Frances Bailey when she said, ‘we do as much as is necessary but as little as possible.’

So when we got the French doors on the bench in our workshop I began surveying them. I noticed the sash we removed looked as if it was original. The reasons being:

  1. The glass in the sash was cylinder glass, that’s the old distorted wavy glass you see in old windows, while all the glass surrounding it was plate glass. This would indicate the sash was older as plate glass was not used in the 1850’s, the time in which the doors would have been constructed.
  2. The door construction suggested it had never been altered or taken apart. It matches exactly the same profile as all the other doors on that façade including the saloon doors which we know for definite were made in the 1850’s.

In short I had a pile of unanswered questions.

So was the door originally made with an opening sash meaning we did not need to remove it, rather restore it?

If the sash was not original, why did it have glass that placed it being made in the 1850’s?

What a quandary, it was all very bamboozling. So I put my inspector Clouseau hat on and started to use what little brains I have.

Mars must have come in line with Jupiter as the answers came!

In the fine detail when I removed the paint I could see on the glazing bar (which was original) a timber section was added to beef up its size to facilitate the addition of a sash. Also the species of timber used in the construction of the sash (probably Douglas fir) was different from the door which was pitch pine.

image 3 A new section introduced to facilitate the sash

A new section introduced to facilitate the sash

Image4 this photo is showing the glazing bar tenon

The glazing bar tenon

So the door was made in the 1850’s. Later, probably around the King’s visit a lot of the original cylinder and crown glass was removed and a new invention, ‘plate glass replaced morit. At that time the sash was introduced to allow ventilation, as the only way to allow ventilation previously was by opening the door.

Could the family have decided that the king deserved a better view of the gardens rather than look through distorted glass? Or did they remove the original glass just to show off by having plate glass, the new invention which was also very expensive?

We will never know, we can only assume, and that’s the charm Mount Stewart has for me!

Mortise & tenon joints

A joint which is used on all doors or at least should be is a mortise and tenon joint. I have included a few photos of Trevor showing James how to form the joint being used in adding the new sections to the shutter doors.

Trevor instructing James how to form a mortise &tenon joint (1) Trevor instructing James how to form a mortise &tenon joint (2) Trevor instructing James how to form a mortise &tenon joint (3) Trevor instructing James how to form a mortise &tenon joint (4) Trevor instructing James how to form a mortise &tenon joint (5) Trevor instructing James how to form a mortise &tenon joint (6) New member of staff!

I would like to introduce to you our latest member of staff, Mr. Stephen King. Stephen joins us for a year as part of a CITB training scheme and is a very welcome extra pair of hands. Stephen has many years experience in the building trade and is hoping to learn new skills during this project.

Stephen King

Our new recruit, Stephen King

The upskilling of persons in the various trades employed during this project is seen as a vital part of this projects legacy. Our two apprentices will have such a start in their respective joinery lives and will no doubt be very employable wherever they may end up in years to come. I know speaking for myself the knowledge I have gained so far is priceless, Trevor I’m sure will agree.

We need your help, we need wood!

I also would like to take this opportunity to ask if anyone has or knows where we can get old reclaimed timber. One species in particular would be bog oak which we need for the inlays to doors, floors and furniture.

Any reclaimed pine I would be only too glad to receive and one can be assured it will be put to good use.

Examples of bog oak used in the house. (1)

An example of Bog Oak which is used in the house

Examples of bog oak used in the house. (2)

An example of Bog Oak which is used in the house

Examples of bog oak used in the house.

An example of Bog Oak which is used in the house

I have included a few photos on a loop showing the work being carried out to the shutter doors and one of the damage which is typical of what we are finding.

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The wood we have used is Quebec yellow or eastern white pine. It’s a very stable and easy to work with (just like myself!) It is either the same species of wood that was used originally or it’s very closely related.


The blog I should have posted ages ago!

Hi all!

Sorry for the delay in posting any blogs lately but we have just been so busy! Things are a bit mental here at the moment as H&J Martins have unleashed their work force and are marching onwards and upwards.

The project joinery team have started into the nitty-gritty joinery work which is very pleasant work and most rewarding.

The New Look Gallery

The central hall gallery has been the centre of attention for the past few weeks and if any of you have been in the house for a tour you will have seen a scaffold built in the central hall. This scaffold was built for a few reasons but the main reason being to strengthen the gallery which had been failing for some time and had been closed to the public for safety reasons.

The cause of the structural weakening was a very naive or very stupid plumber some time ago decided to notch the joists in order to run pipes through! Notching is fine and it’s done all the time, but these guys really did notching in style!

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Not only did they notch down half the depth of the joist but they did it close to the wall and as the gallery is cantilevered they could not have done it in a worse place. So our Structural Engineers were tasked to design a strengthening system and they came up trumps!

The decision was taken some time ago to remove the existing metal balustrade and restore the original timber spindles and handrails which would also assist the structural stability of the gallery.

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Richard Elphick our much loved Conservation Architect has had the time of his life drawing and redrawing plans needed for the required spindle. What made his life difficult was the fact that he only had a photo of the original balustrade which was taken some time in the 1950s. When the photo is enlarged the image gets distorted making Richards job near impossible to see fine details!

Callum has had the most interesting of times producing the spindle for the new look gallery. He was tasked to produce the mark 1 spindle, which was soon followed by mark 2 then mark 3 & 4! Now our Callum absolutely detests working a lathe, if you believe that you would also believe pigs can fly! Well nothing is further from the truth – he is very talented on a lathe as you have all seen in past blog posts.

So all was well in the workshop, the 4th spindle was finished and we all rejoiced! Richards’s superbly designed spindle and the dimensions he gave came together in one beautifully designed and crafted spindle.

Then out of nowhere Richard discovered a different photo of the gallery giving a clearer view and very soon a new revised drawing was issued. Callum on being told that another spindle had to be turned was totally distraught, virtually inconsolable! I didn’t know what to do! I thought long and hard on how I could motivate the lad, sought out all sorts of advice and finally after spending a lengthy time in deep contemplation……..the answer came to me, I bought him a bag of Maynard’s sports mix!

Callum on receipt of the bag whilst cramming his mouth with sweets, rose to the challenge and produced the best spindle I have ever seen! We all rejoiced this was it, mark 5 the final draft! Surely this was the final spindle, could we or anyone even dare to believe it was? Well….. NO!

If I could add here, Lady Rose blew us all away with her fantastic memory of the original gallery. On seeing the mark 5 spindle she agreed it was stunningly beautiful but it was not the same as the original. Richard lost yet more of the little hair he has left and with his reputation being on the line produced what we all hoped was the last drawing. I bribed Callum with yet more sweets and he commenced the ‘final’ mark 6 spindle.

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Other news

James our youngest apprentice is making steady progress learning new skills and I have included a few photos of him steadily working away.

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We removed a pair of doors in the Saloon which needed a lot of attention as they were badly warped, twisted and bent. Trevor has been fixing and patching one of the doors while I patch the other one.

I have included a few snaps of the work being carried out.

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Once again I apologise for the delay in the blogs, I will endeavour to try and keep posting as many as I can. If you read this and are about Mount Stewart and you spot us, as long as were are not operating machinery please come and see us in our workshop.