Tag Archives: North Bennet Street School

Signing your name in wood…

It’s easy enough to sign your work with a Sharpie or branding iron…and I’ve done both many times in the past. But what if you are looking for something that will give your work that extra flourish? Or work on a massive scale like a timber framed barn? Or be a new sign for your shop? Often the best solution is to carve your own sign or inscription.

This past weekend I had the opportunity to take a two day workshop in letter carving with Janet Collins at the North Bennet Street School.  I had a great time. Below is a quick recap of how I spent my Superbowl Weekend.

Demonstrating how to make the first cuts
Demonstrating how to make the first cuts

Janet is a graduate of the NBSS CFM program, instructor, former workshop director and accomplished artisan. She has a passion for woodworking and loves sharing the craft with others.

Laying out your letters
Laying out your letters

After sharpening your tools the first step is laying out your text first on paper or a computer.

Transferring your pattern
Transferring your pattern

Transfer your pattern on to the workpiece.

Carving
Carving

Now for the fun part — carefully carving your letters into the piece. You want to take a light touch, always be aware of the grain direction and strive for an even depth of cut.

Carver's natural habitat
Carver’s natural habitat

Just as you can never have too many clamps, you can never really have too many carving chisels and gouges.

Completed name carving
My completed name carving

A raking light and solid platform to secure your work are requisites to success in this sort of work.

Gilding lesson
Gilding lesson

Beyond the carving exercises we were also treated to a nice demonstration on how to gild this sort of hand carved sign.

Janet Collins with completed sign
Janet Collins with completed sign

Pictured here is Janet with her carved and gilded number sign.

Chip carving samples
Chip carving samples

Beyond letter carving, these kinds of woodworking skills can be applied to may other forms of carving…

More chip carving
More chip carving

such as chip carving…

Chip and relief carving samples
Chip and relief carving samples

relief carving…

Celtic knot and floral carving
Celtic knot and floral carving

organic designs, geometric designs, anything you can imagine. The above sample boards are just a few from the large bag of samples Janet brought to show the class.

Carved and Gilded sign at NBSS
Carved and Gilded sign at NBSS

Above is a hand carved and gilded sign honoring the founder of NBSS — Pauline Agassiz Shaw. If you study it carefully you can see how it was clearly laid out by hand and shows many of the tool marks and design cues you’d expect to see in hand work. Pictured below is a nice old sign in the Cabinet and Furniture Making department at NBSS which is a combination of painting and carved details — “All Kinds Of Woodwork Done Here” which is an apt description for what goes on in the upper bench room. I am also partial to the “Please don’t feed the woodworker” sign.

"Don't feed the woodworkers" and "All Kinds of Woodwork Done Here" signs by the entrance to Cabinet and Furniture Making department at NBSS.
“Don’t feed the woodworkers” and “All Kinds of Woodwork Done Here” signs by the entrance to Cabinet and Furniture Making department at NBSS.

After taking this course I have a new sign for my workshop, and a whole new appreciation for hand carved signs. Next time you are walking around your town take a moment to look at some of the carved signs and see if you can differentiate the ones that were carved by hand versus those which were made by machine. After looking at a few of them you’ll likely see that many of the signs with the best details were carved by hand.

I’m looking to make some signs for my barn and workshop and will be sure to post them here on the blog. In the meantime you can learn more about Janet Collins and her work via her website here and here. And if you are interested in taking workshops at NBSS you can find out more here.

Building Walls and Slinging Mud

This past weekend at the North Bennet Street School I taught a new 2 day workshop that I designed on framing, drywall, mud and texture work. It was an opportunity for students to learn the techniques necessary to properly install or repair drywall around their homes, improve their finishing and texture skills and ask questions.

Bill Teaching
Bill discussing technique

It was a lot of material to cover in 2 days, but the class was enthusiastic and put in the hard work necessary to get through all the major exercises.  Below is a highlight reel from the class:

Laying out the frames
Laying out the frames

Once each student finished his/her frame they were assembled into wall sections.

Assembling the frame sections
Assembling the frame sections

Each student had their own workspace to practice in.

Students cutting and hanging sheetrock
Cutting and hanging Sheetrock

Cutting, hanging, coursing, cleaning up edges etc.

Bill Demonstrating Technique
Bill demonstrating how to blend coats of mud

Hands on demonstrations of technique

Taping and initial mud work
Taping and initial mud work

Working around obstructions like outlet boxes, taping, and initial coat of mud.

Wet and Dry Sanding
Wet and Dry Sanding

Sanding the initial coat of mud and applying subsequent coats.

Applying Texture
Applying Texture

Patching, repairs and applying various finishing and texture techniques.

It was an informative and enjoyable experience and I look forward to teaching similar workshops in the future. If you have requests for other workshop topics you’d like to see covered, please let me know.

NBSS Holiday Party 2012 + BAC Building Opening

During the holidays there is always so much to do, so many errands to run, so many people to try and catch up with, and all of the other usual holidays stresses. Even with all the running around, one of my favorite events of the season is the North Bennet Street School Holiday party. For me it always evokes images of what I imagine a party at Old Fezziwig’s warehouse would be like.

Band Playing at the NBSS Holiday Party
Band Playing at the NBSS Holiday Party

There is always lively holiday music being played on a fiddle recently made by its owner.  Lance plays a tune on his saw. Everyone brings homemade dishes. Many of us are covered in saw dust or smudges from the shop and there is a energy in the room. The annual table hockey tournament is being played to a cheering crowd.

A view of the NBSS Holiday Party
A view of the NBSS Holiday Party

The room is alive with students, faculty and alumni talking about their work, their passions and the year ahead.

Front of the new home to NBSS after 125+ years on North Bennet Street they are moving to a larger facility that will put the entire school back under one roof.
Front of the new home to NBSS after 125+ years on North Bennet Street they are moving to a larger facility that will put the entire school back under one roof. Located right off the greenway the new building has a nice street presence.

This year (Thursday 12/13/12) was the first North Bennet Street School Holiday Party at the new building which is located at 150 North Street in Boston which is now partially occupied by the school (the rest of the departments to move in this coming year).

Side view of North Street Building. This rear corner is where Preservation Carpentry will reside.
Side view of North Street Building. This rear corner is where Preservation Carpentry will reside.

The new building will start an exciting new chapter in the school’s history. While I am nostalgic for the original NBSS building which had a lot of unusual quirks and a TON of history in the walls, the new space is starting to take on a life of its own and as more tools make it up onto the walls and the old benches find their way to their new homes you can see a distinctly NBSS feel develop.

New workspace for the Bookbinding program
New workspace for the Bookbinding program

The Bookbinding program was one of the first to move into the new space. And even during the party a few dedicated folks are still toiling away at their benches as party-goers make the rounds to see what students have been up to.

DSCN7022
Massive wooden bookbinding presses waiting to be set up

Walking the halls you can see all the tools and equipment that have seen many years of use.

Violin making department -- even during the party a few students were still working at their benches
Violin making department — even during the party a few students were still working at their benches

In the violin making department there are a few more folks finishing up their bench work. The new space is larger and more spread out.

A Violin being constructed
A Violin being constructed

The school also has many of the posters from the new ‘Do What You Love Every Day’ marketing campaign you can see around the city and in related trade magazines. It really captures a core tenet of the NBSS Philosophy and how skilled hand work is a very fulfilling vocation.

'Do What You Love Every Day' NBSS Ad campaign (In this poster is a friend named Nikki from Bookbinding)
‘Do What You Love Every Day’ NBSS Ad campaign (In this poster is a friend named Nikki from Bookbinding)

You can learn more about NBSS and their efforts to bring the school ‘Under One Roof’ here on the website. There is also a powerful video clip about why this move means so much to the NBSS community and the surrounding neighborhood.

'Do What You Love Every Day'
‘Do What You Love Every Day’

Thursday was a busy night for me in the city. After the NBSS Holiday Party I had to head over to the BAC to see the public opening of the new building they’ve renovated/re-purposed at 951 Boylston Street in Boston.

Entrance to 951 Boylston Street Boston, a new building for the BAC. The desk shown here was fabricated by NBSS students
Entrance to 951 Boylston Street Boston, a new building for the BAC. The desk shown here was fabricated by NBSS students

On display in the entry way is a beautiful desk and shelving system which was fabricated by NBSS students.

Interior of 951
Interior of 951

The interior of this building is now a bright and modern space designed to celebrate student work, host school and community events, and provide more studio space for students.

Me, in front of an example of what will be preserved in the old building
Me, in front of an example of what will be preserved in the old building

Above I am standing in front of a section of this building which was a hot topic of discussion during the summer Historic Preservation (HP) classes at the BAC. Originally this historic masonry work was going to be concealed in the wall, but with some pushing from the HP students and faculty this architectural detail will be the subject of upcoming materials conservation work and will be incorporated into the design of the space and a creative example of work on display.

BAC Student work on display
BAC Student work on display

You can learn more about this new space at the BAC here.

It was a great night to be in downtown Boston and helped get me into the spirit of the holidays.
Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!

Well Done Wellington

The historic Wellington House in Waltham MA dates back to the late 1700s and has a long history which was almost lost to development. In recent years this house has seen some exterior restoration, but now things are progressing on the interior as well. This post is the tale of how the kitchen fireplace surround was documented and restored.

Front of the Wellington House
Front of the Wellington House

First some history about the house:

It was home to the Wellington Family from 1779 – 1930 when it was sold to the state and became part of the Middlesex County Hospital and was used as an office for some of the hospital administration. After the hospital closed the house stood abandon for 20+ years and the weather and neglect took a toll on the building

Interior Front Door of the Wellington House
Interior Front Door of the Wellington House

This house is an interesting specimen of Massachusetts Architecture from the time of the revolutionary war, the local militia and the large percentage of original details that remain intact in the house, though many of them are in desperate need of preservation.

Central Stair Hall, Wellington House, Waltham MA
Central Stair Hall, Wellington House, Waltham MA

In 1989 the house was put on the National Historic Register of Historic Places.  As a developer was looking to develop the acreage behind this historic property the city of Waltham had the foresight to ask that this house be donated back to the town along with funds to cover the restoration work. Since that time the roof was replaced, some structural stabilization was carried out and much of the exterior has been touched up, but the interior is another story. Once restored this building will eventually serve as the offices for the historical commission.

Now on to the interior of the main kitchen:

The 'Before' this was the kitchen fireplace surround as we found it
The ‘Before’ this was the kitchen fireplace surround as we found it

Above is what the kitchen looked like when I arrived at the house.

Steve O'Shaughnessy working with me on documenting what was left of this historic fabric
Steve O’Shaughnessy working with me on documenting what was left of this historic fabric

Steve O’Shaughnessy and I examined what was left and worked to document the fireplace surround, paneling, cabinets, hardware etc via photographs and site notes. Water had been infiltrating the chimney stack and was causing a lot of damage to this woodwork — along with various small animals. The paneling on the right side was bowed several inches off the wall. Sara Chase, NBSS adviser and paint analysis expert examined samples to determine the original color of the trim.

Carefully removing pins so we can disassemble the paneling
Carefully removing pins so we can disassemble the paneling

After initial documentation we carefully disassembled the paneling so the masonry could be examined and repaired and so the woodwork could also be restored.

Getting the large panel and surround down in one piece (Pictured Bill Rainford)
Getting the large panel and surround down in one piece (Pictured Bill Rainford)

Getting the central panel out in a single piece was an accomplishment and while exhausted at the time we were happy that everything came out without breaking anything and it even revealed a nice surprise….

Signed and dated 1904 in beautiful cursive -- likely when the panel was put back in to cover the earlier hole made when a stove was installed
Signed and dated 1904 in beautiful cursive — likely when the panel was put back in to cover the earlier hole made when a stove was installed

Behind the large panel was a large signature in fancy cursive writing that read: “Ernest S Farr January 28th 1904” I did some digging around on the internet and found that there was an Ernest S Farr (ca 1874-1920) in Middlesex who was married to Ida Farr and had a daughter named Helen N Farr in 1895.

The masonry seeing the light of day for the first time in well over 100 years (At least since 1904, possibly since 1799)
The masonry seeing the light of day for the first time in well over 100 years (At least since 1904, possibly since 1799)

With the paneling removed you could see the masonry work of the chimney mass. You could see the heavy wood lintel was sagging a bit, but otherwise the masonry was largely intact. You could also see the scars of installing a stove into the main chimney flue and also into the flue for the beehive oven.  It appears that the work of Ernest S Far was to replace the fielded panel and cover in the stovepipe hole in the primary fireplace, which leads me to think the stovepipe in the beehive oven was the later addition. I also have to comment that Ernest did a very good job getting that panel in place without disturbing the other woodworking — when we removed the rest of the surround we could see the cut nail holes and the rest of the paneling were original to the first installation.

Martin Hickman fine tuning some hardware during installation
Martin Hickman fine tuning some hardware during installation

My friend and colleague Martin Hickman (also from NBSS) restored the woodworking that was removed. This was a laborious task that took many days to complete.

Restored paneling being re-installed (Pictured Martin Hickman)
Restored paneling being re-installed (Pictured Martin Hickman)

Beyond the dissassembly, paint scraping and basic repairs , Martin also had to work to remove the large bow in the paneling caused by the water damage

Martin finishing up the final pieces of the installation
Martin finishing up the final pieces of the installation

Martin’s efforts paid off well as the final product once re-installed would likely have looked very familiar to the original Wellington’s who once inhabited this house. This room will eventually be used as a conference room for the Waltham Historical Commission.  If you notice the small patch above the fireplace that is an area deliberately preserving the long paint history of this woodwork and will be exposed as a reminder to the later inhabitants of the room.

The 'After' -- the restored surround, paneling and cabinets have been re-installed and are looking great. The off color patch in he middle will be preserved under glass as a reminder of the change this woodworking has seen and for future paint analysis if ever needed again in the future.
The ‘After’ — the restored surround, paneling and cabinets have been re-installed and are looking great. The off color patch in he middle will be preserved under glass as a reminder of the change this woodworking has seen and for future paint analysis if ever needed again in the future.

While there is a LOT of work that remains on the rest of the interior the Wellington House is off to a great start and I hope that the rest of the building will be restored to its earlier glory in the coming years.

You can learn more about the Wellington House and some of its history here.

Highlights from the 2012 Timber Framer’s Guild Conference in Leesburg VA

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 2012 Timber Framer’s Guild Conference at the National Conference Center in Leesburg VA.

From meeting a lot of the top timber framer’s in the country, to great talks, joint busting and axe throwing there was a lot to take in.  Below is a quick recap of some of the more memorable events from this year.

Conference T-Shirt, Wood Bookmark, Swag from the show
Conference T-Shirt, Wood Bookmark, Swag from the show

I was excited to meet a lot of the guys who helped to found the Timber Framer’s Guild and wrote many of the books I often reference in my work and teaching: Jack Sobon, Ted Benson, Will Beemer, and many others. It was also great to see lots of friends from the field and make new connections.

Keynote Presentation by Ted Benson
Keynote Presentation by Ted Benson
Hard, Slow Learning: We Weren't Very Good Yet, but at Least We Were Skinny -- from Ted Benson's Talk
Hard, Slow Learning: We Weren’t Very Good Yet, but at Least We Were Skinny — from Ted Benson’s Talk

Rich Friberg, my good friend and the second year instructor at the North Bennet Street School gave an interesting talk on Preservation Principles and Methods and showed off some of the great work the school is doing.

Rich Friberg Talking About Historic Preservation Topics
Rich Friberg Talking About Historic Preservation Topics

We also got the chance to meet Thomas C. Hubka author of “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England” and learn about his current research as well as the other projects he’s been involved with including the Timber Framed Synagogue in Europe.

Thomas C. Hubka author of "Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England"
Thomas C. Hubka author of “Big House, Little House, Back House, Barn: The Connected Farm Buildings of New England”

I was excited to get up on stage Friday night and talk about some of the timber framing work I did with NBSS.  Shown below I was discussing the new square rule barn and also the historic ~1791 two bay English Style Barn we restored at Brookwood Farm in Canton MA.

Bill Rainford (Me) talking about some work I did with NBSS at Brookwood Farm
Bill Rainford (Me) talking about some work I did with NBSS at Brookwood Farm
Bill Rainford (Me) talking about some work I did with NBSS at Brookwood Farm on Friday Night
Bill Rainford (Me) talking about some work I did with NBSS at Brookwood Farm on Friday Night

BANG — CRACK — SNAP — JOINT BUSTING! In a corner of  the trade show portion of the conference during the inter-session breaks we got to see a lot of the joint busting competition.  Basically you build a timber framed joint meeting some specific size specifications and it is placed into a hydraulic or pneumatic press that will apply an incredible amount of pressure to see what it would take to cause the joint to fail. This info is projected on the screen and also logged by computer sensor for research purposes. When the joint fails it often makes quite the sound.

Joint busting competition at the trade show
Joint busting competition at the trade show
Some of the many and varied joints that were busted this year
Some of the many and varied joints that were busted this year
Great looking joint with carved embellishments
Great looking joint with carved embellishments

Look out for flying axes at the AXE THROWING COMPETITION!
Outside the guild setup some targets and allowed us to practice our axe throwing before the big competition. I had never thrown an axe before, but after a quick lesson, it was a lot of fun and with a little practice we made some good shots.

Kim Catlin (NBSS Graduate) Throwing an Axe
Kim Catlin (NBSS Graduate) Throwing an Axe
Bill Rainford (NBSS) Throwing an Axe
Bill Rainford (NBSS) Throwing an Axe
Axe in flight
Axe in flight
Bill Rainford (Me) standing next to my bullseye shot
Bill Rainford (Me) standing next to my bullseye shot

I had a great time at the show, I’m all fired up to get out in the yard and start hewing and framing some more outbuildings and I can’t wait to go back next year!

What did you do for summer vacation? A Decathlon in Historic Preservation?!

Back in grade school, I enjoyed when students would get up in front of the class and talk about what they did for their summer vacation. This summer rather than taking a rest from a very recent move to New Hampshire and new job earlier in the year I decided to spend it pursuing my passion for teaching traditional craft skills.

I’ve been teaching the ‘Traditional Building’ master’s class at the Boston Architectural College (BAC) in partnership with the North Bennet Street School (NBSS). It’s a low residency master’s program in Historic Preservation wherein students come in from around the country for a very intensive hands on week in Boston and spend the rest of the semester working online.  For 8 straight days the students are with me from the early morning until dinner time, they grab a quick bite to eat and spend their evenings completing the intensive portion of their other class this semester ‘Preservation Philosophy and Practice’ with Virginia ‘Ginny’ Adams.

Some highlights of the week included:

  •  A walking tour of many historic homes and buildings in Boston including the Paul Revere House, Otis House, Gibson House and Trinity Church hosted by Steve O’Shaughnessy who is the Head of the NBSS Preservation Carpentry Department
Walking tour of historic buildings and homes in Boston
Walking tour of historic buildings and homes in Boston
  • Learning about how to mix and analyze paint with historic paint expert Sara Chase who is a PC program adviser to NBSS
Mixing paints and related analysis
Mixing paints and related analysis
  • Learning about historic hardware and fasteners with preservation expert Robert Adam (former head of PC program at NBSS) and touring the Saugus Ironworks NHP
At the Saugus Ironworks NHP
At the Saugus Ironworks NHP
  • A private tour of the Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) Boston
Group shot at the MFA
Group shot at the MFA
  • Historic plaster work with master plasterer Andy Ladygo — another adviser to the NBSS PC Program
Historic Plastering
Historic Plastering
  • Traditional woodworking (hand planes, moldings etc) and Historic Window Sash Restoration with Bill Rainford (NBSS PC Graduate and Workshop Instructor)
Sash restoration work
Sash restoration work
  • Historic Timber Framing with Rich Friberg — NBSS Preservation Carpentry instructor and master wood turner

    Timber Framing
    Timber Framing. Photo by Zachary Ingalls
  • To commemorate the experience Robert Ogle, MDS Director at the BAC had the shirts below made up for the class which will be a new tradition for this program. I’m happy to report that everyone survived the week.
"I survived the HP Intensive Week @ The BAC Fall 2012"
“I survived the HP Intensive Week @ The BAC Fall 2012”

Once the intensive was over, everyone took a quick breath, headed home and have been busy with their cameras and notebooks applying some of the skills they learned to their own work and later assignments in the class ever since.

All in all it was a great way to spend a summer vacation.

Let There Be Light — Installing New Hand Built Windows

In many posts we’ve talked about why old windows are worth saving and how to build or restore  sash for them, but not much on what it would take to build a new window complete with jamb and trim and install it.

Completed window installed in the side of the barn
Completed window installed in the side of the barn

A while back I had just such an opportunity when working on the timber framed barn workshop of my friend Rich. Much of the work for these windows took place in the shop — building traditional single hung (one moving sash) true divided light windows. A hand built window can offer a VERY long service life, be easily repaired and often look much better than anything you can buy commercially. The ability to build a new jamb to go along with your sashes will allow you to really fine tune the movement of the windows, the exact choice of hardware — if any and allow you to create a distinctive look for your home.

Bill cutting through the wall to install my window.
Bill cutting through the wall to install my window.

Once the shop work was completed, the jamb is complete, the sash are fitted, glazed and the paint has dried it was time to install the completed window unit into the barn.  When working on a timber framed barn you’ll want to make sure you’ve carefully laid out where you want the windows to go — you generally do not want your window obstructed by braces or other framing members. You’ll also want to make sure that you have added in sufficient nailers and/or studs so that your window can be firmly attached to the building.

These hand built windows, complete with jamb, sills, casing and leaded flashing install much the same way you would install an Anderson or Pella new construction drop in window. You’ll want to take the same time and effort to level the window, add insulation if needed, and flash out the window. Once installed you can trim out the interior of the window to blend with the interior surfaces.

Me posing with the newly installed window
Me posing with the newly installed window

If you’ve invested the time to learn how to build a traditional window sash, building an entire window as described here can be a very enjoyable and rewarding experience — plus with these new found skills you can go off and build a window of any size and shape.

Below is a quick slideshow of the above windows being installed into a timber framed barn.

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NBSS Graduation Revisited

It’s that time of year again for Dads and grads and I was asked what NBSS graduation was like. Since I was not able to attend this year’s ceremony in person I will have to post some pictures of what it was like when I graduated.

Like so many other activities at NBSS, graduation is another event with lots of history. The day starts out with a meet and greet at the School where students can show of some of the fruits of their labors. Then over to the adjacent Old North Church of Paul Revere fame for the graduation ceremony. You can feel the excitement in the air and sense the history as everyone packs into the church.

There are several speakers including school administration, the guest speaker, and the Distinguished Alumni Award winner, then it’s on to the diplomas and celebrations. Last year and again this year we had great weather.

Below is a gallery of some key moments from that day.

Next post, back to woodworking. 🙂

NBSS Distinguished Alumni Award Winner: Brent Hull PC ’93

One of the many traditions at the North Bennet Street School is recognizing a distinguished member of the alumni community each year at the graduation ceremony. With so many talented individuals coming out of the school it is often hard to choose just one person, and this year was no exception.  As part of the alumni council we each presented candidates from our own department(s) to the other members of the council and the school administration and at the end of the meeting took a vote.

This year I am happy to report that we have our first Distinguished Alumni Award (DAA) winner from the Preservation Carpentry Department — Brent Hull.

Brent Hull (left) and Robert Adam (right)
Brent Hull (left) and Robert Adam (right)

Brent was part of the class of 1993 and studied under Robert Adam. After graduating he returned to his native Texas and started his own company. From a modest beginning working in his brother’s garage, and a lot of hard work, Brent went on to build the Hull group of companies, which now employs over 50 artisans and related staff. He runs a successful construction and consulting firm, is the exclusive millworks provider for the Winterthur museum, has restored historic courthouses in Texas and worked on many private residences including those of Barbara Streisand. Beyond the commercial success, Brent has also been a prolific writer in the field of traditional interior designs and moldings publishing several books on these topics. Brent also enjoys educating his customers and the general public via teaching forums on the merits of traditional design and craftsmanship.

Brent Hull Speaking to both PC Classes
Brent Hull Speaking to both PC Classes

The day before graduation, Brent stopped by the Arlington shop to speak with the PC ’12 and ’13 classes. He shared his thoughts on what he enjoyed most about the program, shared some hard learned lessons, tips on how to start a business and select customers and some guidance around areas students should learn more about after graduating.

Rich Friberg, Bill Rainford, Brent Hull, Robert Adam (left to right)
Rich Friberg, Bill Rainford, Brent Hull, Robert Adam (left to right)

Above, second year instructor Rich Friberg PC’04, Bill Rainford PC’11, Brent Hull PC’93 and Robert Adam long time PC department head and founder of the program gather in the office to celebrate the day. Robert also shared some of his wisdom with the students and reminded those who are from outside of New England that it has been his experience that the further students get away from Boston the more successful they often are given the concentration of graduates in the immediate area.  This was great news for many of our students from around the country and abroad who will be going home with a great set of skills.

Johnathan Ericson handing out his Attendance Awards / Scholarship
Johnathan Ericson handing out his Attendance Awards / Scholarship. Accepting the award is Frank Di Francesco PC’12

Rounding out the afternoon, Johnathan Ericson PC’11 gave out the Attendance Awards / Scholarship that he started last year. It consists of a certificate and scholarship for those students who maintained a record of perfect attendance while a PC student. The message is clear — that hard work and dedication to show up each and every day is something that should be rewarded and will help new graduates when they get out into the field.

Congratulations to Brent and the PC Class of 2012 — you have a bright future ahead of you!

A Staircase for Very Skinny People

As a student at the North Bennet Street School, one of the many projects Preservation Carpentry students have to complete is the staircase model. The project is a great exercise for students as they each get to walk through the process of building a staircase from end to end. The only caveat is that the stair treads are only about 18″ wide since going full size in width does not add much to the learning experience and makes it feasible to have 10+ staircases in a single classroom.

Rough stringers in place
Rough stringers in place

Above we start off laying out and cutting the rough stringers and then move through each stage until we have a completed staircase. This is one of the projects wherein the students have some design freedom in how they want to trim out the staircase. Some were very modern and minimalist, some very plain vanilla with all square stock, some very traditional.

Turned walnut ballusters
Turned walnut balusters

I am an avid turner and had done a lot of finish carpentry before coming to the school so as a challenge to myself I decided I wanted to turn my own newel posts and balusters and finish off the piece as if it was installed in a house. It was a lot of extra effort, but a great experience. Once completed my staircase model was on display as part of the NBSS annual student works show and exhibit.

You can see the completed project here:

Completed staircase model
Completed staircase model

If you are interested in seeing a time lapse of how this staircase was built, please check out the slide show below:

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