Sunday, June 12, 2005

Some Things Never Change

Maybe it’s better to say some things never change that much. The top piece of trim is original to 1895. The bottom piece I bought off the shelf at Ace Hardware a few weeks ago. They look very similar but the new piece is ¼ inch narrower that the old piece, and not quite as beefy. This trim is going in the kitchen to hide the gap between the bead board and plaster.

Back in the 20s when they partitioned the kitchen there was not enough of the fluted trim to cover all the new walls. When they built the new walls they used bead board but went with a flat 1X3 instead of the fluted casing. The was, of course, the popular style at the time. The same fluted trim was used in 3 rooms and the back stairwell to bridge the gap between wainscoting and plaster. I was missing short runs in all 3 rooms. Originally the plan was to have new trim milled. That gets expensive for short runs, though. If they have to grind a knife you’re looking at around $200 just for knives and set-up. I only need 20 or 30 feet, so it is tough to justify it. Now the plan is to use the store bought stuff for the kitchen, because it will be painted, and use the kitchen-salvaged 1895 redwood trim for in-fill in the other two rooms where I missing short runs. The wood in those rooms is shellacked.

It is interesting to note that the 1920s bead board, while identical to the 1895 bead board in the profile, was also ¼ narrower than the 1895 bead board. This was actually what I used to determine what was a later wall and what was original. Now that I have the kitchen opened back up to it’s original size, it looks obvious that this is the way it should be. When I first bought the house, though, it was a real mystery. All of the walls (1895 & 1920s) had layers of wallpaper and then plywood on to of that. One of the walls incorporated an 1890s cabinet in to it. After careful observation I found a point where the bead board was going in the wrong direction (bead on the left and not on the right). I couldn’t figure out why they would do this. I then noticed that the 2 pieces on either side of this seam where not quite the same size. The 1895 bead board is ¼ wider than the 1920s stuff.

This actually worked out very well. I had to remove some bead board here and there to run new wires and plumbing. I also had to in-fill some areas where they had added doors in the 20s. Let’s say that the 1895 stuff is 3 ¾ inches wide and the 1920s stuff is 3 ½ inches wide. By mixing the 2 together I could accurately fill large gaps in the continues run of bead board around the room. For instance, let’s say I have a door way that I needed to close back up and this doorway needs 32.5 inches of bead board. By taking 6 old pieces and 3 new pieces I would have 33 inches of bead board – too wide. So I swap out 2 old pieces and I now have 4 old and 5 new pieces, giving me 32.5 inches of bead board to accurately fill the gap. It worked out very well

Back to the store bought casing: A ¼ inch does not sound like much of a difference but it could be a problem. Another thing different about the 1895 bead board and the 1920s bead board is the height. The 1920s stuff is exactly 36 inches. I suspect it was a stock item in the 20s and was cut at the mill to 36 inch lengths. The 1895 stuff varies in height and some of it is on the short side. It looks like they sawed it on site from longer lengths and they did not need to be accurate because they knew the cap would cover the ends so long as they were a minimum of 34 inches. The 1895 fluted cap was wide enough to cover the gap but the modern store bought stuff might be a little short in a few places. I might have to get creative with caulk and putty.

I’ve decided to put the cap up before I paint incase there are any problems. All I have to do now is sand everything in the room once more with 100 grit and I can start applying the fluted wainscot cap.


Kristin said...

All this about 1/4 inch differences ... I spent Saturday afternoon obsessing and measuring trying to figure out my house. These minutiae fascinate me.

Greg said...

And a 1/4 is considered huge for most finish carpentry. When I planed down some rough boards to mill into 48" bead board for the bathroom the mill asked me to plane it to 13/16th of an inch. In my opinion, finish carpentry is the toughest job to do well.