Monday, August 29, 2011

Writing Stories

As you will recall, Dear Reader, last time I began the rehabilitation of the right cap piece on the east casing by soaking it in liquid epoxy. I haven't used this term before in these pages, but restoration professionals call this "consolidating" wood, so I guess I'll call it that too. Today I'll show you the rest of the rehabilitation, the filling of the voids with epoxy putty and sanding of the piece to the desired shape.

This patching was not a simple matter of restoring its original dimensions. These pieces have shrunk considerably over the course of 126 years baking in the Pasadena sun, and if I were to restore the original dimensions of the piece, it would stick out quite glaringly compared to the other cap piece when I re-installed it, and then I'd have to take the other one off and give it the same treatment. I didn't have the time for that, so I had to be very careful when patching to ensure that the piece fits back in place more or less the way it did before, with a solid and neat appearance that matches the existing contours of the casing. 

I was eager to use my new technique of using external guides to make patching easier on this task, but the usual parallel-jawed clamps wouldn't work along the angled short sides. Fortunately, not much clamping force is needed, so I simply taped the pieces into place as tightly as I could.

This worked well enough, and of course when I worked along the top and bottom edges I was able to clamp in a conventional manner. With this method and curing each application quickly in the dryer, this task went relatively quickly. I say relatively, but even at that I had to go through several cycles of patching, curing and sanding in order to re-establish flat planes and crisp angles between them. I'll spare you the gory details and just show you the finished product.

Ta-daa! I was very fortunate in that simply filling in the voids and restoring the dimensions using the remaining wood of the piece as a guide, I found that the piece fits back in perfectly, with no further adjustments. Just for fun (as Wifey likes to say), let me show you a before-and-after of the thrashed upper end of the piece:

Now you can see what I mean about not wanting to restore the original dimensions. Originally, this piece had a rhomboidal cross-section; i.e., the top and bottom were parallel to each other, and so were the front and back. 126 years of the brutal Pasadena sun had beaten back the piece along the top front edge and cupped the bottom. Now, when I am done with this side of the house, it is true that this casing will not match precisely with the other one which will have brand new cap pieces, and for this reason it is possible that I will revisit this casing later to correct this. For the time being, however, each casing will appear as an organic whole, and a sharp eye that catches the difference between the two casings will have discovered another story the Farm House will tell about its life, a story that I am helping to write right now.

* * *

"Live long and prosper."


  1. Wow! Fantastic kitty, what stories he could about that restoration.

  2. This 'farmhouse' is sacrificing you for the good of the whole. Well done my man

    1. I never noticed this comment until now, but it is so darned FUNNY I must give it public kudos.



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