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#8402 - 03/12/03 05:36 AM carpenter as a tool and template maker
Roger Nair Offline
Member

Registered: 10/20/99
Posts: 463
Loc: Bakerton, WV, USA
I would like to raise the topic of the carpenter as a tool and template maker.

I have from time to time examined and worked on square rule pre-civil war barns. One common feature of the frames is the absence of tick marks or length measurement on the timbers. The markings of cut lines and gains are cut directly into the timber without alignment marks. The current layout practice taught at guild workshops requires numerous measured lengths and gains marked in pencil, first as ticks then as cut lines. Layout is then checked and knifed. The steel tape, framing square and chalk line are the major regulating tools of layout, and numerical measurement and referencing the guiding concept. The early to mid19th century carpenter certainly did not have a steel tape and the framing square was very likely hand-made wrought iron of non-uniform size. Measuring was accomplished thru a step and tally method using a reference rule to set dividers or trammels. The difficulty, individually measuring timbers for layout, presents many cost and control problems, especially in a step and tally system. So I have been puzzling thru the problems of a story-pole layout method as a solution to the historical problem and as a more efficient modern solution.

So if I had an 1820 tool kit and crew, I would propose that after the delivery of timber and lumber, the lead would be preparing needed layout tools, such as, story-pole stock, measuring rods, levels, plumb rules, straight edges, scratch gauges and squares. Meanwhile, the crew began the cull, grading, earmarking and correction. Layout would begin on the story-pole with the careful stepping of reference lengths. Since stepping must be to a line, a scratch gauge would be used to create a line that a trammel point could nestle into. Any sensible unit can be stepped 1, 2 or 3 feet, depending on the trammels beam, with odd inches added at the end. A good cross check method is a 12 step method, where a one twelfth scale length in inches and twelfths models feet and inches, for instance 14 and 5/12 in. stepped twelve times yields 14’ 5”. After primary references are scratched, gains and secondary references are marked. If you are laying out the plate line, each side of the story pole could represent a bay. The same referencing would apply to the sills and purlins. A single 14-foot pole could manage the referencing for a building over 50 ft. long. Again another pole to manage the bents and another for height. When needed, detailing can be laid on other poles but primary references could squared off the master template.

On to timber layout, the stock is on the horse, reference faces are verified with winding sticks and squares, and end length reference is squared around at one end. While story-pole is held by a helper along the arris aligned to the end reference, a carpenter would align a large try square to the layout and then strike out lines with an awl. The pole is moved to opposite side of the same face, aligned and lines are struck again. The timber is turned so the other reference side is up and the process repeated. A parallel and smooth pole can bridge undulations and wane and ease registration. Gains can be marked with a straight edge ripped to the dimension of the gain and registered to a reference face at primary length references or with a scratch gauge.

That is all for tonight.

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#8403 - 03/19/03 02:56 AM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
northern hewer Offline
Member

Registered: 03/17/02
Posts: 1134
Hello Roger:
Hurray for you!!
You sure covered all the bases as far as the carpenter's tool kit is concerned, but for me I would also want to have close by the Carpenter's adze to quickly remove material from the seatings, and other areas that may protrude unecessarily especially if you are using hand hewn timber, which incidently you did not identify. Another very useful and necessary tool was the crosscut saw which is very much needed to cut off excess timber lengths leaving a very smooth finish especially if used to cut in the gains on the seatings. I always used measuring poles of combination of lengths, especially the 6', 8'and 10foot lengths, adding a 16 foot, to help with accurate multiple measurements. Small 24, 30, and 36 inch brace measurement poles would be part of my kit as well. Another must would be a 36 inch wood folding rule.
Anything I hate is to attend an advertised traditional woodworking course, and end up with power tools, this happened to me a few years back, and I was not amused to say the least.
My Great grandfather who could not read or write was capable of framing barns, he in turn used only measuring poles for measurments,
Well that is all I have to say other than your post was excellent.
NH

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#8404 - 03/23/03 12:22 AM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
Karl Mulac Offline
Member

Registered: 01/27/03
Posts: 12
Loc: Chicago
Roger and N. Hewer,
Thank you for your posts. I have been planning a 16th century timber frame for a print shop of that period. I hope to build the frame during a renaissance faire in SE. Wisconsin as part of a historical demonstration. Your description of the story pole and how it is used helps greatly in visualizing the description in Joeseph Moxon's Mechanics Exercises. I am making templates, as you describe, as well as other tools that are nolonger in use. The additional tools mentioned by N.Hewer will round out my tool box nicely. Don't hesitate to post additional historical info.

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#8405 - 03/24/03 12:58 AM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
Roger Nair Offline
Member

Registered: 10/20/99
Posts: 463
Loc: Bakerton, WV, USA
Hi Hewer and Karl

Hewer, the barns of the pre-civil war era, in the eastern panhandle of what is now WV, have timber from mixed sources. The new timber of long length ie plates, ties and purlins, almost always was hewn and the shorter material 16 ft. or less was usually sawn. The layout method on sawn and hewn looks to my eye to be the same. The floor joist were rough hewn on 2 sides with the bark left on. Joined timber was finely hewn and of regular shape. I have a basic question about the finely hewn stock, was the timber rough hewn in the woods, shipped to the carpenter's yard and then finely shaped and smoothed or was the hewing and shaping a one time process? The species used most were mixed oaks and red pine, poplar and walnut was used to a lesser degree. Recycled timber was also used.

Axe work is evident in joinery along with auger, chisel and saw. I found at a local flea market a double bit joinery axe one bit is a mortise axe and the other bit is a double bevel hewer with a pole axe profile with the bit rotated out of alignment with the staight handle.

In my practice I rely on a number of templating jigs for direct cutting without extensive layout and layout fixtures. The simplest is a wooden tee square with sharpened screws set to mark mortise and tenon and another to mark gains. These scratch gauges can be set to any dimension, a slightly misaligned screw can be corrected with a file.

The modern interpretation of framing relies on the steel square and its 2" and 1 1/2" blades. The steel square became a commodity item after the civil war. The major problem with a steel square in a metal scarce world is wear. Striking lines with a hardened awl burnishes the edge, over time, wear will reduce edges and effect the scales. A carpenters try square is a more appropriate tool for striking lines. The blade is set proud of the body by a 1/2" allowing the carpenter to join the outside of the blade back into squareness.

For a while I have been using the "shoe box template system" I shoe box can hold a number of steel tapes each marked with felt pens to a typical layout of posts, plates or whatever. This will quicken layout and ease checking and keep the plans off the shop floor while work is going on. I believe a story pole system is quicker and more direct.

Karl these are more a personal view of m

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#8406 - 03/25/03 03:03 AM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
northern hewer Offline
Member

Registered: 03/17/02
Posts: 1134
Hi Karl Mulac:
Thanks for your comments, and glad to be able to add some additional info to your tool box, on top of Roger's great entry.
The description of your historical reconstruction project brings back many fond memories of reconstruction projects that I planned and executed up here at Upper Canada village. Our planning of each project included researching and locating a surviving example if at all possible, we then documented it, and had a set of plans produced and put in our archives to back up our every move from that point on. We would obtain the proper type of wood that corresponded with the original framing, hewed it on site, and then framed it, using only the old tools of the period, in this way we could nearly match the finish look of the historic building being used.
What a wonderful feeling it is to see the building slowly take shape exhibiting its new cladding which no doubt it had in the beginning. We could also say that we were preserving part of our heritage especially the particular building style used at that time.
You say that it will be a print shop, and in that regard it probably will be a fairly large structure, with many windows, verandah, and a retail front area, a work area, and also needed will be an area to dry the freshly printed papers--(how far out am I?)---
We have a early 18th century print shop up here
that is two storied, the wall framing being filled with split cedar logs and lime mortar, covered with split lath and roughly plastered, the bottom level is in two sections, and the top is used exclusively for drying and storage
GREAT PROJECT!!!
NH

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#8407 - 03/26/03 12:41 AM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
Karl Mulac Offline
Member

Registered: 01/27/03
Posts: 12
Loc: Chicago
Greetings NH and Roger,
Roger, I have been doing a lot of stomping around in Civil War era barns in Southern Wisconsin. The last three were 40' x 100' or larger. They all exhibit the same beam characteristics that you described. All the long beams were primarly pine and hand hewn. The wall plates were scarfed at 22' with the brace under the scarf. I couldn't get on top to see how the rafters were joined. It looked like bird mouth. The posts were oak. As you had mentioned, there were recycled timbers. One barn had several beams that appeared to be pit sawn because of the changing direction of the tooth marks. It is pretty cool to look at these structures and read them like a story.

NH,
Your description of my ideal space is quite close. Unfortunately, I am sandwhiched between two buildings that are 32' apart. I have to comply to local building codes and a 4 hour burn wall on each side. No windows on the sides. I admire the attention to detail that you have been able to put in to your projects. I constantly struggle to maintain the balance between accuracy and an extremely small budget. I am somewhat obsessed with the planning. This is a gigantic first project. Slightly larger than my 1550 printing press. I have confidence in my abilities it is the magnitude that is intimadating. At least I have a small army of volunteers to help. I just have to remember to tell them to take off the armor before we raise the frame.
KM

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#8408 - 03/26/03 02:37 AM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
northern hewer Offline
Member

Registered: 03/17/02
Posts: 1134
Hi Karl and Roger:
You both sound like you live and breathe Traditional Historical building structures of your area(s), I specialize in the disappearing Historic Barns and outbuildings of this areas of Ontario, which was originally Upper Canada settled in 1784 by displaced army regulars from the War of Independence. These people brought building techniques from New York and Pennsylvania that exhibit German,and English techniques of workmanship and building styles. Karl--It would be interesting to know what founding people influenced the framework that you are about to produce, and if you haven't given it any thought, I suggest not just using an example out of a book, but rather an original one, with details that appear on the early building styles in your area. This will make you and your volunteers work efforts more valuable and fullfilling for generations to come.
I am available to answer questions and help in any way I can, please keep in touch and send me updates as your project progresses,
sincerely
NH

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#8409 - 03/26/03 11:38 PM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
Karl Mulac Offline
Member

Registered: 01/27/03
Posts: 12
Loc: Chicago
Hi NH & Roger
The three barns that I mentioned built by Duch and German builders. This area was settled early 1800's. I was considering them as possible salvage. Due to my small budget.

The Print shop project will be located in Bristol Wisconsin. We are depicting approximatly 1570 Bristol England. The buildings at the Renaissance faire are built with 2x4' and plywood and are intended to have the "look " of the period. I intend to build with more authenticity in mind. There many buildings in Essex England that would work well for the space I have available and for function of the building. I am anxious to begin the fun part of this project. It's good to talk to another historical framer.

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#8410 - 05/12/03 10:00 PM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
Rudy R Christian Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/22/99
Posts: 116
Loc: Center of the Universe
Karl,

Great stuff going around here! One thing I wasn't sure if you were clear on is the original post by Roger was discussing "square rule" barns. That system of layout would seem to have originated in the Americas around 1800. 16th century frames would have been laid out using "scribe rule" and in fact still are in England today.

Rudy

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#8411 - 05/12/03 11:18 PM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
Karl Mulac Offline
Member

Registered: 01/27/03
Posts: 12
Loc: Chicago
Thanks for pointing out the time of use for the square rule and scribe methods. I originaly posted to thank Roger and Northern Hewer for information that I found helpful in planing my project. I didn't mean to imply that square rule would have been used during the 16th century. I guess I got off on a tangent.

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#8412 - 05/14/03 10:49 PM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
Roger Nair Offline
Member

Registered: 10/20/99
Posts: 463
Loc: Bakerton, WV, USA
Karl, I believe the transistion from scribe to square rule layout was accomplished without new tools, rather a different protocol. The great motive for change was the abundant work opportunities that came with rapid westward expansion, the carpenters that could adapt would complete more work and prosper. When we modern folk think of scribe rule, we tend to think more about the technique of joining piece to piece and less about the overall layout and control of the building. If we look at building control, from the step and tally method, then we may see much more similarity of method between square and scribe rule.

I would like everybody reading this thread to add something. The topic is not closed to early square rule, rather the general topic is adaptation. I hope we all do adapt.

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#8413 - 05/14/03 11:07 PM Re: carpenter as a tool and template maker
Karl Mulac Offline
Member

Registered: 01/27/03
Posts: 12
Loc: Chicago
Rudy & Roger You have given me a lot to think about concerning scribe rule vs square rule. I was planing to use square rule because I am more comfortable with it with perhaps a little scribe method for some wind bracing. I know little about scribe rule but the thought of using a historicaly correct method of layout is exciting. Square rule seems to be a efficient method with a good amount of assurance of a good fit at raising. Scribe rule seems a little intimedating for my first frame. I guess I like the feeling of the control roger mentions. Maybe it is a false sense of security but square rule worked great on my printing press. Do you have any comments or suggestions for reading.
Thanks, Karl

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