A LITTLE PROJECT FROM MY OLD SHOP IN BERRYVILLE, ARKANSAS
Tuesday, May 10, 2022
Wednesday, April 20, 2022
VARIOUS WINDOW RESTORATION DETAILS
I began my restoration career in Texas in 1985 after a number of years in new home construction and remodeling. Unless you consider my demolition of the Bremond Building on Austin's Sixth Street 'restoration.' Apparently I do, if you read a few posts back.
And though I had a lot experience in many types of building repair, I was an absolute neophyte when offered my first job doing a 'spruce up' to a 1930s house in Little Rock, Arkansas. This led to many real restoration jobs, but boy, did I suck at glazing windows when I started. Usually done from ladders, I'd chip out loose hardened putty and replace it with Dap 33, then the industry standard putty. I'd roll little cylinders that looked like long, skinny joints and press them into the unprimed putty rails, then mash them and run my finger along the putty run.
I was terrible. But I asked my brother, a stained-glass artist and glassmaster, how to do it, and he set me straight. It still took me years to master the art of restoring windows, but I finally got it down after many attempts. I continued to learn Old Window Repair as an art.
Opening my first Restoration shop in '97, I got my window legs. By the mid 2000oughts, I'd gotten pretty good at puttying (one of the hardest things to learn), and in the early 20teens I moved to Connecticut and went to work on Colonial-era windows. Colonial windows are both a curse and blessing compared to what I worked on in Arkansas. Their wood components are much thinner, and the muntins (crossbars between glass) are far spindlier. The glass, being older, was much more difficult to match and cut for replacement, and the thinner glass was harder to set properly.
But the Victorian and Craftsman styles in Arkansas feature huge panes up to 40 inches across. Beautifully figured, wavy with streaks and bubbles, it was hard to remove or reset without cracking it. The panes from New England were certainly easier to handle unless they have Crown glass.
That stuff will test you, and test you but GOOD.
More on that later in the post.
BUT READ ON!!
As my techniques and technologies advanced, I became quite proficient indeed. I've worked in several glass shops doing only antique windows and have nothing but praise for those who do the same. It's beyond craft; it's art.
Here are some pictures from a glass shop I helped to build for a large restoration company in North Stonington, Connecticut. The stripping room was already there, but it needed a lot of tweaking to make it productive, safe, and efficient.
For you not versed in restoring antique windows, there are essentially four stages: stripping, repair and wood prep, puttying, and painting. There are mini-steps between all of these steps, so don't get picky, you window freaks. You know: priming, sanding, cleaning and cutting glass, that kind of stuff.
Here are some random pics from that shop, in no particular order and missing the repair stage. That'll come later, as will many other posts about Antique Window Repair.
Wednesday, April 13, 2022
OLD HOUSE DOCTOR 7-29-01
THE CONTRACTOR’S TEN COMMANDMENTS
1. THAT’S EXTRA. I won’t raise my prices during the job if you won’t change your mind again.
2. PAINTERS WILL FIX IT. You expect carpenters to know something about joinery? Of course caulk is structural.
3. THAT’S NOT CODE. This gives
us the chance to catch up as you and the architect go crazy making changes (see
#1) to remain legal. In
4. YOU WON’T SEE THAT. We’ll fix it, or it’ll be covered with sheetrock, or some such nonsense. The further up it is, the less we have to worry about how it looks.
5. IT’LL HOLD. All we had were six penny finish nails to attach the roof, so we used superglue. Or, “liquid nails never fails!” See #2.
6. OF COURSE WE’VE DONE THIS BEFORE. If the whole crew shows up with brand new tools and spends all morning reading instruction booklets, you’re in trouble.
7. PERMIT? WHAT PERMIT? Sometimes goes “License? What license?” Often coupled with # 8,
8. WE ARE OUR INSURANCE. A very dangerous situation, especially when they show up with wooden ladders and circular saws that have the blade guards removed.
9. I AM NOT YOUR COUNSELLOR. If you and your spouse haven’t worked out your architectural differences yet, just keep #10 in mind.
10. DEER SEASON STARTS NEXT WEEK, WE’LL BE BACK IN FEBRUARY. Usually followed by, “Kin we git a ad-vay-unce?”
Monday, April 11, 2022
YOU WANT US TO RESTORE WHAT?!!!!
Sometimes, you get calls that you’d rather not answered.
“I gots a trailer out in Traskwood with a bunch o’ broken winder glass, cain yew fix it?”
I’m sure someone can, but we are a Historic Restoration Company.
At least, that’s what I have to occasionally tell people with problems like that.
Then someone calls an architect we know, and he drops a 1923
Church in our laps. Designed by the preeminent historic architect in
That church now stands proud and likely will for many years.
Then there’s the Stranger Things. I do not mean a television show.
I’ve said it before; My Magic is Strong.
But sometimes it helps to have someone else along, sorcerer or not.
While working as a Project Manager for CM Construction of Little Rock, Arkansas in the late 2000oughts, I was introduced to our new office manager Kelly. Kelly, a professional accountant, knew little of Restoration or our business, but he dove in, made things tighter, and righted a ship we thought was already pretty right.
During this time, I expanded the
I would attend these meetings to see if the townsfolk were
really interested in improving their city centers or not. We’d talk up the
It wasn’t easy to get rural towns to bite; their downtowns are often underdeveloped, many with beautiful older buildings sitting vacant for years. Building owners were understandably loath to invest in what they often considered a useless effort; times are always tough in farm country. But sometimes, just sometimes, a few would rally together and improvements would be made. Then the other building owners would invest, and what was nearly a ghost town would begin to resemble what it was in the past, with commerce bustling, money spent, businesses growing, and civic improvements made.
So it was one weekday when Kelly and I rode the two-laner to
Warren, a southern
They truly are wonderful, and if you happen to be in
As often happens, the Movers and Shakers were counting their
pennies and didn’t bite to hire
They not know.
But they were all very nice, and when the meeting began to break up, Kelly and I were approached by the Head of the Chamber of Commerce.
“So you guys do Historic Restoration?” he asked. I nodded, noting the CM color brochure in his hand. “Do you know anything about metal?” Again, I nodded. This might get interesting.
“What have you got” I smiled, seeing he held his cards very close.
“You guys meet me at the Chamber in an hour, and I’ll show you.”
The meeting broke up and Kelly and I went to the local café to get lunch and to wonder about this guy’s mysterious metal problem.
He wasn’t back in the office after lunch, so we walked around town and I described the buildings’ charms and problems to Kelly, who was just learning about restoration. There were plenty of fine, strong two-story brick storefronts with huge spaces above, but the question always is “How do you fill these spaces and make them economically viable?”
All while not only retaining their historic charm, but using that charm to the town’s advantage.
It's a challenge, all right. And the local farmers have plenty of those.
But we had a hard time keeping our minds on the town and its
“Lookit that,” I pointed sweatily, wiping my brow with a red bandana.
“Oh my God,” Kelly said, wiling his own brow with a handkerchief. “Can that really be right?”
The bank scroll-message read 117 degrees, and I believed it.
“We gotta get out of this heat,” I offered. “Let’s go wait at the Chamber.”
But the Chamber Head was already there, and he still wouldn’t tell us what he wanted us to restore, other than it was metal.
“Follow me out to the park and I’ll show you.”
A half mile later, we exited our vehicles into the July heat and marveled at the prettiest little park we’d seen in some time. A creek lined with trees was surrounded by playscapes, tables, swings and slides. And we didn’t see the Most Important Part of the Park until it was pointed out to us.
“Is that….?” I stumbled with my words as we approached the thing.
“Yep,” Mr. Chamber smiled. “A local lumber company donated it years ago. I’m not sure how long it’s been here, but even I remember playing on it.”
NOW I understood; he wanted the shock value to reflect on our faces. And I saw that this particular item needed restoration pretty badly.
“The kids still crawl all over it and play like they’re driving it, just like I did,” he said, though I couldn’t believe it had been there that long. We walked up to it, climbed in the cab, and talked about what he wanted done. The paint was failing, there were rust holes, and many parts of the engine and oil tender were getting too dangerous for the kids to crawl around. I asked how extensive he wanted the restoration to be.
“You’re not wanting it to run, are you?” I smiled.
“Not at this time,” he smiled back.
A LITTLE PROJECT FROM MY OLD SHOP IN BERRYVILLE, ARKANSAS In 2000, I moved from little Rock Arkansas to Eureka Springs, Arkansas, a t...
WARPED WINDOW RAIL, 607 SOUTH OAK, LITTLE ROCK ARKANSAS Having worked as a restoration tech for a couple of the finest Historic Restoratio...
YOU WANT US TO RESTORE WHAT?!!!! Sometimes, you get calls that you’d rather not answered. “I gots a trailer out in Traskwo...
OLD HOUSE DOCTOR 7-29-01 Actual portrait of the author I'...