Good Recommendations

by Don Friedman on February 2, 2019

Joel Moskowitz’s list of books on furniture and woodworking is great. Every one is a classic worthy of your time. Moskowitz took the words out of my mouth with regard to Eric Sloane’s A Museum of Early American Tools: I read and reread that book when I was a tween until I had it memorized. I think we got it as a gift for our family membership in the Museum of Natural History, which makes it easily the most influential free book I’ve read. And, as the excerpt above shows, Sloane’s art is astonishing.

These books, and particularly the handbooks like Nicholson’s book, filled a gap in the early nineteenth century. The apprenticeship system was dying and there was a lot of practical information that kids weren’t going to learn in school. Assuming basic literacy and a desire to master a topic, books like this were invaluable to young craftsmen.

Three Paths, All Dangerous

October 2, 2018

I was looking at fire damage in an old industrial building in Brooklyn and noticed that there were three distinct patterns. The photos below are from the top floor and the remnants of the hung plaster ceiling has been removed. (I) First, in some places the fire simply burned through – exceeded the timed rating […]

Read the full article →

Simultaneously Simple and Complex

August 13, 2018

Yesterday’s mystery picture was a shot of the interior of the Breeding Barn at Shelburne Farms in Vermont. I was recently in the building, being shown around (for the second time, actually) by Doug Porter, who was the architect for the most recent repair campaign.* The building is almost 400 feet long and, as the […]

Read the full article →

It’s A Bird…It’s A Plane…It’s A Fake

June 29, 2018

A nice little park in Ticonderoga, New York, on the edge of the Adirondack Park, and it has a pretty little covered bridge. People think of covered bridges as being a New England phenomenon, and particularly a Vermont one, but there are a fair number of covered bridges in New York as well. The problem […]

Read the full article →

A Perfect Fit

June 25, 2018

That’s a fine 18th century mortise-and-tenon ridge joint. Number roman four, based on the marks carved on both pieces.

Read the full article →

The Dog That Didn’t Bark

May 18, 2018

The most important thing in this picture isn’t in the picture. Those joists are in a 150-year-old industrial building and what’s missing is creep. Sag. Curvature. Deflection. I don’t know how heavily the floor above was loaded in the past, but it’s got some real load on it now and I have to believe that […]

Read the full article →

Vertical Stripes Are Thinning

April 8, 2018

I don’t think I’ve used this picture before. Underside of a floor showing diagonal subfloor above and white stripes where the plaster keys came through the wood lath. Nothing particularly significant, just a nice view of the details and some 130-year-old wood in excellent condition.

Read the full article →

Different Logic For Different Elements

March 27, 2018

Those are two views of the same rather boring industrial building in the Bronx, built in the first half of the twentieth century. The exterior walls are solid brick, with a reasonably nice hard-burned face brick as the outer wythe; the floors are very heavy wood joists supporting a wood plank subfloor. It’s a long, […]

Read the full article →

The Transition From Craft To Industry

March 1, 2018

That’s a late 1800s industrial building, looking up at the underside of an upper floor. The first thing that needs to be said has nothing to do with the point of this post: the joists are about twice as deep as they look like here. If you look closely, you can see the ledger strips […]

Read the full article →

The Details of a Technological System

February 20, 2018

This is an underside view of the heel connection of a heavy timber truss. The piece of wood at the top of the picture is the bottom chord, roughly 12 inches by 12 inches in section, and you can’t see the top chord above it. The bolt ties the two chords together, but the real […]

Read the full article →