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This blog follows the reconstruction of the Revolutionary War Public Armoury on the James Anderson site

Reconstruction of the Blacksmith's & Public Armoury

December 14, 2012

Tinsmith Shop Frame-Raising: December 21st.

Sills placed on the Tinsmith Shop foundation.

Webcam watchers will notice that they have a freshened perspective on the Armoury project.   The roving camera is now trained on the Tinsmith Shop where Historic Trades Carpenters, this morning, capped the foundation with sills and floor joists.  Frame-raising is scheduled for next Friday, December 21st.  Beginning around 11 a.m., and wrapping up at around 4, Garland and crew will raise the west, south, and north walls, set the plates, and place the rafters…a full day’s work. 

If you happen to tune in between now and then, you may catch the carpenters building the east wall.  To accommodate the very tight fit between the Armoury and Tinsmith Shop, and to avoid damage to the chimney, this east wall will be built in place, before the rest of the frame is raised.   

So as you find breaks in your busy holiday schedules, please  join us either in-person or via the roving webcam to admire the progress being made at the Tinsmith Shop!

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  1. We were there last week. I missed seeing how they did the ground in the frame. I know it was full of leaves. I am looking forward to seeing the wall go up.

  2. Garland,
    I can’t tell you how much I love all the joinery your crew does.Bob Shaffer ( former friend at cw) Taught me how to make a lamp post using an eighteenth method. I came home and did several joints and it set me on fire . My question is on mantles for fireplaces in CW. Did one craftsman do the work that was a specialist or a general carpenter? Second,I noticed that most benches at cw are of the Roubo style.Who would make those and do you plan to have one in the tin shop? kindest guards

    • Kerry~
      Ted Boscana provides the following in answer to your question:

      “The treaties that were established by the Guilds in England make it very easy to know who could do what. The only limitation for the artisan in Williamsburg was their skill and imagination. Mantles are commonly considered “Joiner’s” work depending on the complexity of the design. In Williamsburg they could be done by a carpenter, or the most elaborate might present the need to hire a carver. Most of our workbenches are of the English or Nicholson style. The Tinsmith Shop bench designs are still underway but will be constructed by the Joiners. They will most likely be built in the Tinsmith Shop because of the massive tops used in their design.”

  3. Hi Armoury Crew,
    I hope you video record the Tinsmith Shop frame raising so those of us that can’t be there can see some of it after the fact. I work and am unable to be near a computer at that time.

    Thanks for all the great information you provide to those that live far away from CW.

    Have a safe frame raising.

    Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all!
    Chris

  4. Chris~
    We will certainly film the tinsmith shop frame raising, and will make it available soon after the actual event (no promises the week of Christmas!). As I hope you know, it is our pleasure to be able to share our enthusiasm for this project with a wider audience. Thank you, and all faithful webcam watchers and bloggers,for your participation. Merry Christmas!

  5. Ken
    Can you tell us what is up with the Bruton Parrish weathervane project? I saw a picture of it a few days ago.
    Is it an original and perhaps made by Anderson?
    Thank you.

    • Kerry- Thanks for the question. Recently, Bruton Parish Church carried out an intensive maintenance project on the church steeple. For the first time in my 30 year career here, we had scaffolding up to the peak of the steeple, and therefore, access to the weathervane. The vane on Bruton Parish is the original vane, installed in 1769 when the steeple was built. Looking at the vane- specifically the banner which turns in the wind- I was reminded of the Courthouse weathervane which is original and was installed in 1770. I believe that both were made by the same hand. This, in turn, reminded me of the early 1980’s when we made a weathervane for the Public Hospital reconstruction. I recalled correspondence from 1771 relating to the cost of a weathervane purchased from England for the Hospital. In the correspondence, colonial officials complained about the cost, and stated that the city recently had a vane manufactured locally for a fraction of the cost of the English piece.

      Thinking logically- in 1770, the most prominent blacksmith in Williamsburg was James Anderson, then serving as Armourer to the Magazine. While I cannot at this point prove the origin of these pieces, it seems to me that Anderson is the most likely candidate as maker of the Courthouse weathervane. If the Courthouse vane and the Church vane were made by the same hand, then Anderson likely made both.

      In the 1990’s we removed the original banner from the Courthouse and replaced it with a reproduction. This assures that the original banner will be protected from lightning and other potentially damaging weather. The original is on display in the Dewitt Wallage Decorative Arts Gallery. Bruton Parish Church decided to preserve their original vane, so just before Thanksgiving, we made a copy of the original and placed it on the steeple. I am certain that the Bruton vane will be available for viewing in the near future.

  6. I must say thanks to CW for the the web cams and the ability to blog so we can ask our questions. It makes me feel closer to such a wonderful place. Now for my question and I apologize if it has been asked. The buildings that you are constructing, I know are because of the archelogical finds, but is there a worry about them being so close because of a fire hazard? Did they loose buildings in the past because of this?
    Happy Holidays, keep up your magnificent work!

    • Hi Peg – The buildings really are close together, and all of the fireplaces, chimneys and forges are intended to be used. We do worry about fire, and have installed a sprinkler system in the Armoury which also is designed to prevent the spread of fire from the Kitchen and the Tinsmith Shop. Also, every piece of wood in all three buildings has been treated to be fire resistant.
      As students of history we are very aware of the danger of fire in Williamsburg. In the 1850s, a fire on the very block where we have reconstructed the Armoury destroyed every single structure, except for the Dr. Barraud house on Francis Street. This is not a part of history we wish to reenact!
      Garland

  7. Hi Meredith,

    Looks like the frame raising went well. Why are there so few stud boards on this building. Will they be framed in later? Or are the large unstudded areas over-sized doors or something?

    Please take a look at the question I posed on the Wrapping up for Winter blog. Thanks.

    Have a great and safe Merry Christmas and Happy and Healthy New Year!

    Chris

    • Chris – There definitely are some pieces missing on the tinsmith shop frame. On Monday we will set studs over and under all of the down braces. Those “interrupted” studs are not structurally critical and are mostly used as nailers for the clapboards. We will also be installing large window frames in the front wall next week, with a short stud under each frame to help support them. Lastly, we need to cut studs to fit into the gable end rafter trusses. By the end of next week we should have all the framing finished and we will be ready to start the roofing process.
      Thanks for your interest!
      Garland

    • Chris~
      Thankfully, Garland has already answered the meaty part of your question. And I’m sorry that I missed your question earlier this month. Check back with the last post…I just answered your dog question! Merry Christmas!

  8. I am very interested in the timber frame joinery you are using to construct the Tinshop, particularly the sill and top plate corners and the rafter ridge. It is a little hard to see from the webcam. Is there an online resource under http://research.history.org/ that describes these or drawings? You have constructed so many buildings in recent years that this is probably becoming routine. Are you still learning and applying new techniques with each new building? I was also wondering about the large volume of water that will end up at the foundation between the Tinshop and the Armoury. What was done about this issue? Colonial Williamsburg is a great resource for those of us who are interested in historic trades. I think you are doing a great job at keeping these trades alive. Keep up the good work.

    • Anton – The corner posts have a mortise and tenon joint top and bottom, secured with wooden pegs. The rafters have a “bridle” joint, which is an open mortise and tenon, also secured with pegs. The feet of the rafters are secured to the plates with iron spikes about 4″ long.
      Are we learning and applying new techniques with each building? Absolutely. Each of us as carpenters and collectively as a carpentry crew are learning and maturing in the trade all the time. Every new project presents opportunities for learning, in research, examination of historic structures and the actual practice of the trade. Each new building is also a collaboration between tradespeople, archaeologists and research, and I like to think we all learn and grow from each new project.
      As for the large volume of water, we will address that by building a large wooden gutter lined with sheet lead that be installed on top of the two roofs to form a valley. The sheet lead will be tucked under courses of shingles and angled in such a way as to take the water off the roofs and to the south of the property. We will probably do a blog entry on that gutter…

  9. Greetings to all CW staffers and Armoury bloggers. I wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas, but in the midst of the “hustle & bustle”, I missed it. So…I everyone HAD a very Merry Christmas & here’s to wishing everyone a Happy & Prosperous New Year. Now on to the “rising”….I did log on quite a bit to see the tin shop take shape. Wonderful shots and information – as usual! SOOOO wish i coulda been there. I’m going to keep an eye out for the skinny guy who’s putting the siding on the East side!! ;o)

  10. We visited Williamsburg last week and were so suprise at the progress from our last visit in July. I was wondering why the buildings are so close? Also, off the subject, can anyone tell me what is going on at the courthouse? Thank you for keeping history alive!!!

    • Hi Marie~
      Glad that it appears we are making good progress! Keep watching….you’ll be surprised at how much more there is to be done!
      I will speak to the part of your question that I know something about, which is the closeness of the buildings. We are rebuilding them exactly where we found their footings, archaeologically…which matches, by the way, their placement on the Revolutionary War period Frenchman’s Map. As for why they might originally have been built so close together, the best answer we can arrive at is that they were built this way for security purposes. They certainly form a tight architectural wall to the west..an effect which was enhanced by the presence (in the 18th century) of a ravine on that side.

    • i heard when we were there the first of December that they were taking the original weather vane off the courthouse and putting it in Dewitt and replacing it with a replica to prevent further damage from weather, etc. Hopefully, this information is correct.

  11. I see from today’s work that the roof is going on, and it appears that for the most part it’s got strapping instead of boarding. I assume that’s for wooden shingles, since we’ve done that here in Maine too. Is that traditional for the time period in Williamsburg, or is that a more modern adaption to keep some ventilation behind the shingles? What great fun to keep watching.

  12. Ed – In early Virginia the simplest way to cover a roof was with split or riven clapboards, usually made of oak. A way to improve that roof was to nail clapboars across the rafters not as a finished roof but as sheathing, and then to nail shingles on top of the clapboards. You can see this on our reconstructed Armoury kitchen. A step up to a higher quality roof involves the use of 1×3 shingle lath and shingles as we are showing on the Tinsmith Shop. The best wooden roof has solid board sheathing and shingles, as we showed on the Armoury itself. Some of the outbuildings on the far southern end of the property will have clapboard roofs, so when they are done you will be able to see all four types of roofing system on the same site…

    • Thanks. Some of the old roofs I’ve worked on have horizontal “purlins” attached to the rafters and then vertical boarding going up and down the roof, with shingles nailed to that. Is there any evidence of that in Williamsburg, or Virginia, or is that only a New England trait?

      • Sounds like a New England thing… that seems to be a common way to sheathe the walls as well. The usual thing for us is horizontal siding, sheathing and lathing.

  13. Thanks again for the reply.

    One of my favorite books on old Connecticut houses, by Isham and Brown (1900) describes it this way, “The roof is original and is of a kind very much in fashion in this colony. There are no collar-beams and the boarding, which is vertical, that is, from plate to ridge, is nailed to purlins framed between the rafters. All the framing, as well as roof and floor boards, is oak.” (page 135/136 with a drawing of the framing).

    http://books.google.com/books?id=xW1NAAAAMAAJ


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