Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Preservation, Making an Attempt

While I know I owe you all a followup to the plow plane article the topic of preservation has been on my mind as of late. The more I read the kind of old books I talked about in the previous post the more I realize how much is being lost in craft skill and in the built environment around us. Windows and doors that have lasted 100+ years are replaced with disposable versions that will again need replacement in 20 years.  Worse still, the style and detail of those windows and doors that were integral to the look of the structure are gone. Living in a neighborhood where most of the structures are around a hundred years I get to see a lot of structures sliding up or down the preservation/destruction continuum.

One particular house up the street is being remodeled into apartments, which I have no issue with. Unfortunately the remodel includes new windows which have just killed the overall look of the structure, especially the turret. The turret previously included curved double hung sashes that matched the curvature of the turret and were about 3 feet across the opening. These have been replaced by single white vinyl flat double hung windows and they look awful. the turret now looks all faceted and odd. I think it just looks jarring.

On the other side of the spectrum two brick and stone town houses just received new front porches after being without for probably 30 years. While I couldn't tell you if the new porches are replicas of the originals, and they certainly differ slightly due to code requirements for railing height and spindle spacing, the scale and ornamentation certainly compliment the original structures in every way possible down to small details. Some of the best work I've seen in the area, especially on a complete porch replacement.

As I've worked on remodeling my own home inside and out I attempt to take the time to compliment the structure with work suitable to the period. I'll admit some earlier attempts fell a little short but that's part of the learning process. One thing I have learned is that many times period work is sometimes simplified by period tools and period techniques and this is one of the things that drives my interest in hand tools and hand skills. I've also learned to not be afraid to try, it is only with practice and experience that I'll be able to match the work done in an era when hand skills were far more common than today.

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