The task of re-aligning the logs and tying them together was mostly completed in the first week of work. This also plumbed and squared the geometry of the log structure.
In the second week most of the work was focused on repairing and strengthening the very robust window frames (also known as bucks) which play a large part in the overall stability of the house. The short cut logs between window and door openings, termed “islands”, are the weakest part of the structure. The cut logs were originally fastened to the rigid frames or bucks with long steel spikes or nails. These have now mostly corroded leaving the islands loose.
These photographs give you a good idea of the extent of wood replacement in the frames or bucks. Being all handmade, none of the frames are exactly the same size. So rough-cut 2 x 8” and 2 x 10” lumber was sanded and planed on site so that each replacement piece exactly matched the existing the original hand-made buck to which it was being joined.
south elevation west elevation
This exact replication of buck pieces was done for 3 reasons:
- first the existing wood is Old Growth and better quality than anything now available, so every sound piece is retained. Where it is in sound condition it protects the original nails which are still doing their job and removing them would unduly shake and disturb the logs;
- second repair by piecing-in to match the existing follows the conservation principle of protecting as much of the original fabric as possible and its heritage value
- third complete replacement with modern standard sizes would look visually weak beside the logs; there is a big difference visually between a custom frame member of 1-7/8” x 7-7/8” and a member from standard sections 1-1/2” x 7-1/2”, and sometimes even smaller
Of particular note in the photographs is “the restoration/repair" of the log above the side door. Stuart sourced a log from the kitchen addition pile and cut it to fit where the old log was "punky". He used an adze to give it marks like the originals -amazing! The window openings have all been repaired and the door stoops are solid now.
view of side door log replacement
The work also included replacement of short lengths of structurally failed logs and infill of decayed logs. The attached photos show this plus a wonderful discovery of a dovetail tie joint in one of the huge log joists below the ground floor floorboards.
Photo #1: Cutting out the decayed part of the log over the south door where it was drenched by a roof leak for years. Notice the near perfect condition of the cut bottom face of the existing part of the log.
The replacement piece, so skilfully fitted, makes the best practice conservation repair that blends in from a distance, but is clearly new to the practised eye from close by.
Photo #2: A piece of cedar was being fashioned to fill the decayed core of this log.
Photo #4: The cavity in this log has been squared to allow an infill wood piece to fill the void. The surface was carefully cut out, about 1” thick, and will be glued and screwed back in to retain the old surface character.
Photo #5: this dovetail joint at the end of the log joist was revealed when the decayed remains of the door threshold was removed. There will be a corresponding dovetail in the log on the north side of the house to tie the 2 walls together and prevent the logs spreading or bowing. It is still tight and doing its job after 157 years.
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