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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

July 23, 2013

Looking Forward….and Back

Colonial Williamsburg’s Digital History Lab employs a variety of modellers and other folks whose talents enable us to recall what we’ve just accomplished, while looking forward to what’s to come. Today’s post focuses on the Armoury workshop, an unheated work building currently under construction. The time-lapse video below, put together by Mark Fluehr, shows the work as it has progressed…just in case you missed it on the webcam [The download may take a few moments.]. Cindy Decker prepared the 3D models that will help viewers to visualize  the workshop and an adjacent privy in their final forms. Enjoy!

Funded by a generous gift from Forrest E. Mars Jr., of Big Horn, Wyoming.

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  1. Garland
    I have always loved the look of 18th windows and their construction. I have great respect how your craftsmen do such difficult work with hand
    tools.My question is about window glass during that period.Is what we see in CW today pretty much as it was or were the glass more wavy with some seeding etc. The bars appear somewhat larger then than today.
    Could you share some light on their construction with us. ( sorry if I missed a segment on this in the past) Thank you for the update.

  2. Glass was not made locally in 18th century Virginia – it was shipped in from Great Britain and sold by local merchants. It arrived already cut to size and carefully crated up to prevent breakage. Joiners here would make sash to fit the available sizes of glass. Table glass was the coarser, cheaper window glass, and crown glass reserved for the best buildings. The glass we buy today for our reconstructed buildings is a variety of table or cylinder glass made in Germany. Perhaps we can get the joiners to do a blog entry about sash construction in the near future…

  3. Something on sash construction would be nice.

    It was stated that lead coated copper flashing was going to be used on the workshop roof. I’m assuming on the peak of the roof. Is that in place of the row of cap shingles? Could you share how it would be installed and the how it would help?

  4. We use flashing to extend the life of our hand-made buildings. The only rule is, it can’t be seen, or if it is exposed it is very hard to see, since in the time of the Revolutionary War, there would have been NO flashing in a building like our workshop. So we flash the peak of the roof, the corner posts, around the door and window trim, over the top of the window and door, and underneath the building in the form of a termite shield. Do you see the flashing in the Armoury? No? Then we did our job well….
    As for the cap shingles, they are in place, projecting a few inches against the prevailing bad weather. All of the roofs in Williamsburg have a cap course like this.

    • Great work, and great information. I worked on a fairly old wooden house here in Maine, probably from 1790/1810 a few years ago. Of course the construction was a bit different, pine clapboards on wooden sheathing, but the flashing under the original clapboards and trim was the best part. It was the bark from a big old white birch tree, and it was in such good shape we seriously discussed just putting it back.

      I’m a bit of a believer in staying with materials and techniques that have withstood the ages, newer isn’t always better, Williamsburg and the research you are doing attests to that. Thanks.

  5. Since period correct materials and techniques are being used to build the shop and other structures, I wonder, what tools are being used.

    When the interior of the blacksmith shop was being finished, we could see a close up of a well worn hand saw.

    Are handmade hammers being used to drive the handmade nails?

    How do you take measurements for the siding? I doubt you have ivory and brass folding rules capable of such a long measurement.

  6. Dave – the smiths have been greatly helpful in making tools for us to practice our trade. We are using period claw hammers, crow bars, framing squares, chisels, and iron braces made for us in the Armoury. For measurements we use boxwood and brass folding rules, made for us by Colonial Williamsburg’s Toolmaking Shop, and are based on originals in our Collection. We leave the ivory folding rules to the gentry…

  7. Garland
    Thanks for the info. on the window glass. My question is when you build the windows in the shop ,do you build the jam also or is it finished on site? Second, As much as I have been to CW I think most windows are held up by a forged nail and leather Is this correct? Also were there weights in 18th century windows or on a track? Would love to see
    a posting of how your windows are constructed.Last, what are the plans for the door(or doors) on the storage building?

    • Kerry – We build the window frames in the Joiner’s Shop, and fit our sashes to them. The upper sash is usually fixed, and the lower sash slides up and is held in place with a swiveling cam-like piece of wood that is nailed to the side of the jamb. There were indeed sashes installed with sash weights, in cases of exceptional quality of work, and while we have no evidence of such at our armoury, the Gun Manufactory in Fredericksburg apparently had them, as the records from 1780 show that “…There is no Lead to be bought [for proving gun barrels] and none this way belonging to the public…the Leads of our Windows and Shop Weights are already gone, and in a hurry nothing is done well.”

  8. Hi Armoury crew,
    The new building is looking very good. When will the paint be applied? Is the building already in use? Or is work continuing on the inside? Can pictures be posted? Also, I notice a fence is going up at what appears to be a right angle to the building across the Stith property. Is there evidence of a fence being there?
    It also looks like someone is going to have to look for another parking spot. I seem to always see a car parked inside the boundary of the fence.
    Have a great and safe holiday next weekend,
    Chris

    • Hi Chris – There are a couple of jobs to do to finish the workshop. The exterior will be painted in the next week or so, and a hard-packed clay floor will go in, very similar to the clay floor inside the Armoury kitchen. Finally, a couple of heavy oak workbenches will be framed into the structure, under the windows on the east and west walls. Once the floor is dry and set, the building should be ready to be used.
      There is historic evidence for the fence running east-west behind the Tin Shop. There is a small parking lot on the Mary Stith property which is used by guests staying in adjacent Colonial Homes buildings, which we have moved 50 feet or so to the south. We have also been rebuilding the historic fence that runs north-south along the Anderson-Stith property line.

      • Hi Garland,
        Thanks for response.
        Keep up the great work. It’s never boring reading my three favorite blogs. The Armoury, History is Served, and Garden blogs are a must read.

        Have a great and safe holiday,
        Chris

  9. SO…..all you armoury bloggers….we gonna plan a gathering at the GRAND OPENING!? It’s been a number of years since we’ve been following the construction. Sure would be fun to me some of you folks face to face.

    • Rick~
      I think that’s a great idea! The curiosity runs both ways….the folks on this end would like to meet all of you face to face as well! Let’s work on it.

    • Remind me again of the date for the Grand Opening.

      We have a visit planned for the weekend of October 19.

      The Surrender at Yortown is of interest this time.

      By the way, the completed buildings look so nice and neet before they are painted. It is a shame they can’t be left natural. But, I understand they wouldn’t look so nice and bright for long.

  10. Hi Dave,
    The official Armoury opening is scheduled for 3 p.m., Saturday, November 16th, so it looks as if your currently scheduled visit is about a month too early. Hope we can get you back for November 16th!

  11. It has been very quiet. Can someone give us a report on
    Eleanor?
    Thanks

    • It HAS been very quiet, Kerry (blame summer vacation, now securely in the rear-view mirror!)! And funny you should ask about Eleanor as I have just returned from a visit with her. She is looking quite well…busily preparing for the official Armoury opening in mid November. It will take months to find the perfect hiding spot! Her domain is changing rapidly. Not only are there new buildings on the landscape, but new fences as well … small details, but the fences have had a dramatic effect on the Armoury yard. It’s time for a photo gallery to catch readers up on all additions beyond the reach of the webcam! In the meantime, for anyone who might be interested(!), Eleanor seems to be on Facebook under her full name: “Eleanor Anderson.”

  12. HEY…did I miss something? What is going on over at the magazine?

    • Hi Rick~
      I assume you’re talking about the archaeological excavation. Since late May, Colonial Williamsburg’s archaeologists have been looking for traces of the 1757 (or thereabouts) Market House. Since this is the Armoury blog, we have not drawn a lot of attention to the new project, but since you asked….!

      • Interesting. Thanks, Meredith. Is there a blog or some web site info. or something on that excav.? I always like to keep up (from a distance) on C.W. going’s-on!

  13. I see the privy has been placed behind the shop as shown on the map.

    With all the smiths, cooks, bakers and workers in the amoury area, the privy seems small for so many people.

    It would seem like a larger facility would be required by so many people.

    Also, If I were to be working in the shop, I would have wanted the privy to be at the rear of the property.

    Can you comment on privys in the 18th century?


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