Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reparing old windows

Many publications and websites have been making the case for repairing or restoring old windows, instead or buying new ones. Many agree that repairing old windows saves not only resources but also money. According to the newsletter Real Green , many homes build before the 1980's have single paned wood windows, which can be repaired to seal as tightly as new vinyl or aluminum windows. Replacement window can be $200-$1,000 dollars per window before labor, while restoration general ranges around $300-$400 dollars per window with labor. (source:
Parts of a double hung window- from The Old House Journal
Old wood windows can last another 100 years with proper maintenance. One other hand most replacement window last 15-20 year and are often made of toxic and unrecyclable materials.

So how do you do it? First, the window will need to be removed, all the paint should be stripped, all cracks and rot should be addressed with epoxy or new wood, new sash cord, lock repair, reglazing, new glass (if needed) and repainting and reinstillation. Check out Historic Homeworks (http://www.historichomeworks/.) for step by step instructions, or search the National Trust for Historic Preservation website for wood window to get a tip sheet.

Here a student in the field school is removing paint from a window.

New wood, or a Dutchmen, is glued in to replace rotted wood.

It is also recommended to weatherstrip your window. Which is basically adding strips of insulating material s to gaps in the widow to seal leaks, this should be done when the window is taken apart. Hardware stores should have everything need for weather stripping, but also try Architectural Resource Center.
Other resources for the repair of old windows:

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Making cutters for molding

Old molding, like in the picture below, can get full of old paint, gouged and ruined over time. If a piece it not salvageable, it is a possibility to remake the molding. Some special equipment is needed, but if you have access to a shop it is fairy easy to replicated molding.

The first step is to make a custom knife. Get high speed planer steel, usually ordered from a machine supply company like Belsaw.

Draw, in permanent ink, the contours of the molding on the steel .Next using a grinder, with a thin cutting wheel, make relief cuts into the steel to help make cutting away excess steel easy.
After you have removed the excess steel, use a wide grinding wheel to start moving toward the lines you drew on the steel. Make sure to keep your steel against the stop at a 45 degree angle, in order to create a sharp cutting edge. The blade will get very hot, so have a bucket of water next to you to dunk the cutter in often.

Here you see the cutter's edge bevels downwards to make a sharpen cutting surface.

Check back often with the original molding to make sure you are staying on course and not cutting too wide or deep. Once knife is done, it is set up in a molding planer , which is a planer that takes custom blades. Be sure to read and follow instructions for that specific planer, because most are different and have compacted balancing system. Next test the blade, line up a scrap board (set up some kind of guide) then test. Once you have the kinks straighten out , send your good board through the planer.

The result is custom molding identical to your old molding and made by you. After the grinding of the knife and set up of the machine, it is easy to make multiples.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

picture of the day

Barns, like this one, are prevalent through-out Humboldt County. However many are in disrepair. They are beautiful structure that hold an abundance of history and culture. Many times the heritage of the farmer, along with the purpose of the barn, dictated the style or materials used. There are many regional groups that are dedicated to saving barns, you can usually find these groups by contacting your local historic society. Also there are many companies popping up that dismantle barns and reclaim the wood. Here is one resources .

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


One of the tricks that we learned this year, while working on removing many layers of paint from molding, was custom scrapers. You can take an ordinary paint scraper found at any hardware store and draw on to it the contours of your molding. Then, using a grinder, cut away the steal, to make the profile of your molding. It comes in very handy with hard to reach places and curves, because the scraper is made to fit exactly in those places. As a result there is less gouging of the wood. In conjunction with a heat gun, this method can save a lot of time.

Using a custom scraper to get in to a concave and over a ridge at the same time.

A scraper for a wide arch.

Wide arch scraper in use my master scrapper, Kay.

Scrapers need to be sharpened and re ground when they lose there shape and effectiveness.

Two students using custom scrapers and heat guns to remove at least 5 layers of paint from historic window casings.