Souvenir Postcard Booklets

For Christmas, a few years ago, I received a wonderful collection of souvenir postcard booklets from Jen G. She found them at a neighborhood antique store in Boston and knowing how much I love United States travel, she so thoughtfully gave them to me. It’s been a while since I looked at them, but I picked them up over the weekend and once again attempted to date them. There aren’t any dates at all and so far my internet searching has not been fruitful. Some of you readers must know; please share any clues. These souvenir books are so much fun and all quite different in terms of font, captions, and layout. I’ll share them individually in the coming weeks for anyone who may be a postcard dating extraordinaire.  For now, enjoy the intriguing covers.

One method I’ve used so far is by considering surrounding facts. For instance, the Badlands were designated a National Monument in 1929, and not a National Park until 1978. (Of course, I would have given that date range as my guess anyway.) And now after looking at these again, I need to go take a western road trip … how about you?

Tiny Apartment Love

Our ca. 1900 colonial revival house is divided into three apartments; two on the first floor and one on the second floor. Other houses in Burlington are chopped into 5-6 apartments, and it’s quite obvious based on the fire escapes, extra exits, carelessly inserted windows and doors… you get the idea. Aside from the terrible replacement windows, our house looks whole from the outside. However, this colonial revival house is moderately sized compared to the elaborate Queen Anne houses further down the street.

Now, when I say this colonial revival is divided into three apartments, I really should say two and one-half. Our apartment is more like a small studio, luckily it is more than one room. It is in the range of 350 square feet for two people and three (!!) cats. Really it should be for one small person and maybe one cat. Whatever, call us crazy.  We picked this place over the summer, with few other options, but decided this one would be our best bet because of the location, the southern exposure, permission to paint inside and permission to have cats. At the time it was not the prettiest apartment; it was dirty and bland. But, we could see the potential.  As we drove up here in August it suddenly struck me that I had signed a lease without ever looking at the bathroom. I panicked.  By the time we stepped foot in the apartment on a hot August day, dropped just a few of our bags and the (then) two cats, the space seemed full! How were we supposed to live in 350 square feet with one exceptionally small closet? (At least the bathroom was fine.)

We went to work: cleaning, scrubbing, painting, organizing, selling excess furniture, and moving boxes and boxes of books. (Since one of us, ahem, Vinny, is an English teacher, we live in our own personal library. Okay, there are some preservation books in there.) And by the time school started two weeks later, we were settled nicely and everything had found a place. Granted, our couch is a loveseat, and we don’t really have space for dinner guests, but it works for now.  Beyond grad school, it probably won’t be a functional space for us anymore. It’s a cozy, charming space, if you want real estate terms.

But for right now, Vinny and I love this place, particularly because we painted it the colors we wanted and put in a lot of work to make it sort of ours for a few years.  The kitchen floor has two different styles of linoleum, some of it cracked, and the floor is noticeably on an angle, but there is a breakfast nook in at the end of the galley. I love that our living is the former porch with all windows and a southern exposure. I love that it’s so small that heating it doesn’t cost too much. I love the strange built-in cabinets in the kitchen and the drawers underneath one set of shelves. I love the door frames and the clues to the previous arrangement inside the house. I even sort of the bathroom sink that is so old and stained by the separate hot and cold water faucets. Washing my face is a sport, trying not to burn or freeze my hands. See, character? And lots of it.

From the living room we get a glimpse of Lake Champlain and have beautiful sunsets. The houses across the street are beautiful and wherever we go, we walk through a historic district. And sure, maybe we could find something better or bigger (maybe not both), but we love it for all of its quirks and we are now experts on storage  in small spaces and making tiny places desirable. Wanting to stay in 350 square feet — talk about some tiny apartment, old house love.

Preservation Photos #22

A Greek Revival inspired doorway (and a creepy dentist chair sort of visible in the foreground) at Mason Brothers Architectural salvage in Essex Junction, VT. What are your thoughts on salvage? For it? Against it?

A Life in the Trades: March 2010

Series introduction. October 2009. November 2009. December 2009. January 2010. February 2010.

By Nicholas Bogosian

In the Materials Science of Wood class at BPR this quarter, we’ve been assigned six projects: Bracket reconstruction, wood epoxy repair, dutchman repair, lathe turning, wood carving, and parquetry design. The focus of the course is to get us fully acquainted with the character of wood, the tools by which we manipulate it, its common deterioration mechanisms, and basic methods by which to conserve, preserve, and restore it. The nature of the more significant projects (bracket & parquetry) lead us into aspects of fine wood working, whereas the separate Building Carpentry class focuses on wood as a framing material in a historic context. The Building Pathology component of the program, in turn, reinforces the study of deterioration and stabilization of materials such as wood.

This month I documented the process of my bracket reconstruction. “Case by case basis” is a phrase we hear all the time in our classes. The goal of the program is to equip us with an index of options. Much like a doctor upon hearing her patient’s symptoms, she must catalogue in her brain potential causes and possible remedies. If she is a good doctor, the cause of the symptoms will be considered the first priority to solve. In the field of preservation we also have other variables dictating our actions: time, the vision of the owner of the object/property (are we restoring to mid-18th century or are we leaving “as is” and conserving what we have only?), and the budget of the owner.

In the context of my bracket reconstruction I pretty much assumed the vision of the project as a restoration of sorts. I also assumed that if any problem exists that was a direct contributor to the bracket’s complete failure/disappearance, that it has been investigated and fixed. Whereas dutchman and wood epoxy repairs are repairing a wooden object and retaining as much original fabric as possible, a reconstruction effort is dealing with recreating an object based on documentation of what used to be. Perhaps only a couple of the brackets remain. Perhaps none exist at all. If it fits the parameters of the project’s vision, the reconstruction process may begin once all proper documentation and research has been accomplished.

All documentation and research aside, I began at the drafting table rendering the bracket in detail. Generally, all profiles need to be explored. I learned very quickly in the construction process, that this time spent at the drafting table is the most difficult and most important part of the entire process. Every dentil, every depth, every component of the design must be understood in your mind and explained on the paper. If you can see its multiple layers coming together accurately, then the construction process will run much more smoothly.

A bracket’s width is determined by the height of the individual boards that compose it. A process of glue lamination will give us our bulk. Once the height of these individual boards is determined, they are planed down to the correct size. In our case we’re dealing with rough-cut Poplar. Rough-cut boards are not necessarily the dimension we need and may show signs of crooking, cupping, and bowing.

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A note on dimensional lumber…

The most cost-effective and resourceful method of dimensioning lumber in a lumber mill is the plain sawing method.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

The downside to plain sawn planks is the nature of the growth rings in relation to moisture evaporation processes. They are more prone to warping. The quarter sawn method produces a more durable cut of wood that is less prone to this warping.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

In our case, the boards are roughly plain sawn. Each face grain is planed down to the correct level in the planer which also provides a finer finish. The purpose of the planer is to give plumb dimensions on these face grains as well.

Board planer. Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

After the face grains have been planed, one edge grain per board must be joined in the joiner to remove any imperfections such as crooking. Once a single edge grain side has been joined, the other side must be trimmed off on a table saw setting the recently joined side against the fence. End grain sides may be simply trimmed on a chop saw. Now the board should be square on all sides.

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After all individual boards have their proper height, the edges are glued together with a Poly Vinyl Acetate adhesive (i.e. white glue and wood(yellow) glue). These adhesives are water based and work best on porous materials. F-clamps keep the boards in place in the drying process.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

It is best to arrange the boards in alternating end grain patterns. Should further warping occur, ideally the warpings will oppose each other and cancel themselves out.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

After the boards have dried, the process of tracing the side profile of the bracket onto these begins. I used a simple carbon paper. I needed to trace seven profiles, as seven profiles would create the width of my bracket once placed side by side.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Once the individual profiles have been cut using a scroll saw, they are aligned together and once again glued in the final lamination process.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Left to dry. Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

There might be irregular edges along this profile after the lamination process. Using a bobbin sander, the bulk of the bracket may be sanded down to a smooth and regular shape.

One component of my bracket was a turned rosette. After a block is attached to the end of the lathe, using various turning speeds and different turning chisels, my contoured shape was created. These discs were then glued to both sides of the bracket.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

In creating the decorative scrolls which flank the bracket, a 3-D carved depth illusion is given by joining two pieces: one creating the elevated portion and the other providing the backing.

Prior to cutting. Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Using a scroll saw once again, the piece is “carved out.” Once the two pieces are glued together, a simple dremel tool helped to establish even more depths in the scrolls. These too were glued to each side of the bracket.

The last decorative element of the bracket was creating the partial architrave on the top and base consisting of a simple cornice and dentil run. It is worth noting that options for replicating historic and even rare molding profiles must be indexed as well for future “case by case” assignments. Options can run the gamut from locating rare router bits, creating custom router bits, or even doing a combination of routing with existing bits in one’s collection and hand planing/shaping. All decorative trim and molding must be carefully tagged, photographed, and organized if detached from a structure in a preservation endeavor.

Once a matching router bit was found, the cornice was shaped using the router. Various miter joints must be cut with miter saws to create the corners of the cornice.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Dentil blocks can be created with a few different methods. The most time-efficient method is using a dado blade on a common table saw. The dado blade is intended to carve out the wood. The width of this uniform shape is determined by placing spacers in between two saw blades and based on the height of the saw blade. A jig is created for the assignment if not already in your jig collection. By simply passing the dentil plank inside a jig over the dado blade, the spacing in between the dentils is created accurately.

And…..I’m finished.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Courtesy of Nicholas Bogosian.

Old Sheetrock

click and then zoom for larger image to read label

In architectural conservation class, my professor showed my class some old sheetrock from a historic house in Vermont. Normally we don’t count sheetrock as anything but modern, but the label here says 1921!  Anyway, maybe you find this label as interesting as I do. Enjoy!

Preservation Photos #21

The Moran Plant in Burlington, VT is part of a waterfront revitalization project, which hinges on this old power plant being eligible for a Rehabilitation Tax Credit from the NPS. The building has been empty for about 20 years. (Read about the project here.) Photograph taken on a very cold, windy field trip in February 2010.

My Mom

Midterm week, the busiest week of the semester, calls for some preservation fun (on the blog anyway). Today I have some family photographs of my mom. The first one was taken in August 1957.  Mom, could you get any cuter?

And here is my mom at about 7 years old. She and my sister Sarah are practically twins at this age. Again, adorable.

For a wonderful post on family photographs check out Sabra’s My Own Time Machine.