Greasy hands, always.
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Laurie Smith, researcher of early building design in England, par excellence

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Laurie Smith knows the geometric design systems used in medieval England.
He writes and teaches about geometry.

Here - as a quick introduction to his websites - is the last page of 4 of his diagram showing how to draw a square using a straight edge and a compass.
It is a beautiful drawing, easy to read on his website, hard to reproduce here.
His explanation at the bottom is also beautifully clear.

The websites are here:

http://www.thegeometricaldesignworks.com/

http://historicbuildinggeometry.uk

The masonic guilds of medieval Europe passed down the methods of construction and the geometry used with diagrams and hands-on explanation. They did not use paper - it was barely available - and thus left notations on the buildings as decorative carvings and casual sketches, information we often don't recognize as the language of construction.
Laurie can read and translate the notes. He is one of the people in Europe researching, documenting, and teaching about medieval framing.
I suggest all those who dismiss the idea of Practical Geometry read his websites.
Those who wish to learn how to use Practical Geometry can be inspired by the diagrams as they follow his instructions.

I have attended his lectures. and was fortunate to be able to take a workshop with him at Trillium Dell Timber Frames in Knoxville, Illinois.

We built a timber frame pavilion  from scratch using geometry.

Here is Laurie consulting - in the blue shirt in the middle - as we work around him. Laurie drew, taught and advised.

I wrote about this here:
http://www.jgrarchitect.com/2014/07/geometric-design-intensive-june-2014.html




The photograph shows Laurie's diagrams for the frame posted on the wall as one of us begins the fashioning of joints.

The frame, composed of overlapping squares  was also laid out on the floor with chalk and a compass.

The whole process is described with diagrams and pictures on Laurie's website.*




A view of the mortise I helped cut as part of a 2 woman team. It fit into the frame on the first try.

We finished erecting the frame one evening at dusk.
Of course we all climbed into it to sit for a formal portrait.




* To see the whole project and the finished pavilion look for  "Appleton Octagon Pavilion, Illinois, USA" in Laurie Smith's  Historic Building Geometry website listed above.
    
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brico
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Brooklyn, NY
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Talking of Beauty

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An abandoned wardrobe lay bereft of its doors on a burn pile and I tugged on it to lift one end from the pallets below as if the pallets deserved to be there but the massive wardrobe didn’t. It was pine, only pine! I remember hearing the man say. But I tugged on it anyway, …

Read the full post Talking of Beauty on Paul Sellers' Blog.

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brico
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Traces of process
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In Favour of a Bigger Hammer

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My recent production of Windsor chairs prompted a reader – himself, a Windsor chair-maker – to contact me concerning the moisture content of various chair parts. We exchanged several emails, the content of which I have précised and edited together … Continue reading





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brico
7 days ago
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East Hoosuck Quaker Meeting House, 1786

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This Meeting House for the East Hoosuck Society of Friends (Quakers), built in 1786, is now a museum in Adams, Massachusetts. It sits high on  a hill in its cemetery, looking east over the Hoosic River to the Berkshire mountains. This is its west side.



As I was creating a handout for the guides about the scribe rule markings visible on the frame, I wondered what the geometry might be. Quaker communities existed nearby in New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. We knew Quakers migrated up the Hudson River watershed from Rhode Island and Nantucket after the  Revolution. Would I see similarities to other frames I had measured?
I did see similar ways of laying out a frame. However, without more research I cannot say these layouts were particular to Quakers.



The Friends Meeting would have told the master carpenter how large the building should be,  that windows were needed for light and ventilation, fireplaces for warmth. These Friends knew that the door should face south,  that the wind here came around the mountain from the northwest, that a chimney is best supported by bringing it through the roof at its peak.

The framer would have began with the floor plan; so I did too.  He made the meeting house 28' wide on the west end; the posts set in the corners.

 He laid out a square from the inside of the posts and marked locations for  posts on the corners.*

Why would he have begun his layout on the inside edge of the posts?

Perhaps because the trench in which to place the footings for the posts would be outside the line. The ground under the frame would not need to be excavated.

The plan could also be trued from the interior edge of the posts much more easily than from the exterior when the posts were in place: the diagonals would be made equal across the rectangle. Contractors today still 'true' foundations by pulling lines.



His center line located the middle posts on the north and south walls as well as the 8 sided posts that are located between the pews.

Using the Rule of Thirds, he laid out the eastern end. The location of the eastern wall posts is 1/3 the width of the main square beyond the square.
  I have marked the 1/3 of the square and the extension with arrows in red.

The center line running east west determined the post on the east wall.






His post locations set, the framer laid out the 4 bents. This is the eastern exterior bent.

It uses crossed squares with the side of the square the height of the wall from floor to plate.
Even the braces follow the geometry.






The height of ridge of the roof, and thus the pitch  of the roof, was set by the intersection of the arcs of the height of the wall.


This way of finding a ridge was also used in the Hartford, NY, barn I measured in  2014.    http://www.jgrarchitect.com/2014/12/a-hartford-new-york-barn-was-carefully.html












The window placement was determined by the same crossed squares geometry.
The 4 sides of the windows are determined by the geometry.
I have drawn the lower window only. The upper window requires more lines which are hard to read at this scale.









The south facade of the meeting house is 2 squares wide.







Quakers worshiped together, men and women, and children.

Their  Meetings for Business were held separately: women on the left, men on the right, with a wall between them which could be raised or lowered as needed. Thus the two doors which sit neatly within one quarter of the square.

The window sizes on the south side do not fit the geometry. They were probably enlarged  when the men's stair was added.
Both scribe and square rule framing details as well as joist pockets without joists indicate renovations.

For me it's fun to see how the first floor windows are located at the bottom of the stairs, where light would be needed for safety.




*The hybrid barns  in New Jersey which I looked at earlier were also laid out based on dimensions measured between the posts: http://www.jgrarchitect.com/2017/06/practical-geometry-for-hybrid-dutch.html

For more information about the Meeting House and the Quaker community in Adams please see:

www.adamshistorical.us/collections/quaker_house/index.html






















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brico
7 days ago
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Sawing a kerf between two boards butted side by side. #nyckez

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Sawing a kerf between two boards butted side by side. #nyckez

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brico
9 days ago
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How did I miss this event :(
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The Lost Cause Rides Again

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HBO’s prospective series Confederate will offer an alternative history of post-Civil War America. It will ask the question, according to co-creator David Benioff,  “What would the world have looked like … if the South had won?” A swirl of virtual protests and op-eds have greeted this proposed premise. In response, HBO has expressed “great respect” for its critics but also said it hopes that they will “reserve judgment until there is something to see.”

This request sounds sensible at first pass. Should one not “reserve judgment” of a thing until after it has been seen? But HBO does not actually want the public to reserve judgment so much as it wants the public to make a positive judgment. A major entertainment company does not announce a big new show in hopes of garnering dispassionate nods of acknowledgement. HBO executives themselves judged Confederate before they’d seen it—they had to, as no television script actually exists. HBO hoped to communicate that approval to its audience through the announcement. And had that communication been successful, had Confederate been greeted with rapturous anticipation, it is hard to imagine the network asking its audience to tamp down and wait.

HBO’s motives aside, the plea to wait supposes that a problem of conception can be fixed in execution. We do not need to wait to observe that this supposition is, at best, dicey. For over a century, Hollywood has churned out well-executed, slickly produced epics which advanced the Lost Cause myth of the Civil War. These are true “alternative histories,” built on “alternative facts,” assembled to depict the Confederacy as a wonderland of virtuous damsels and gallant knights, instead of the sprawling kleptocratic police state it actually was. From last century’s The Birth of a Nation to this century’s Gods and Generals, Hollywood has likely done more than any other American institution to obstruct a truthful apprehension of the Civil War, and thus modern America’s very origins. So one need not wait to observe that any foray by HBO into the Civil War must be met with a spirit of pointed inquiry and a withholding of all benefit of the doubt.

Skepticism must be the order of the day. So that when Benioff asks “what would the world have looked like … if the South had won,” we should not hesitate to ask what Benioff means by “the South.” He obviously does not mean the minority of  white Southern unionists, who did win. And he does not mean those four million enslaved blacks, whom the Civil War ultimately emancipated, yet whose victory was tainted. Comprising 40 percent of the Confederacy’s population, this was the South’s indispensable laboring class, its chief resource, its chief source of wealth, and the sole reason why a Confederacy existed in the first place. But they are not the subject of Benioff’s inquiry, because he is not so much asking about “the South” winning, so much as he is asking about “the white South” winning.

The distinction matters. For while the Confederacy, as a political entity, was certainly defeated, and chattel slavery outlawed, the racist hierarchy which Lee and Davis sought to erect, lives on. It had to. The terms of the white South’s defeat were gentle. Having inaugurated a war which killed more Americans than all other American wars combined, the Confederacy’s leaders were back in the country’s political leadership within a decade. Within two, they had effectively retaken control of the South.

Knowing this, we do not have to wait to point out that comparisons between Confederate and The Man in the High Castle are fatuous. Nazi Germany was also defeated. But while its surviving leadership was put on trial before the world, not one author of the Confederacy was convicted of treason. Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop was hanged at Nuremberg. Confederate General John B. Gordon became a senator. Germany has spent the decades since World War II in national penance for Nazi crimes. America spent the decades after the Civil War transforming Confederate crimes into virtues. It is illegal to fly the Nazi flag in Germany. The Confederate flag is enmeshed in the state flag of Mississippi.

The symbols point to something Confederate’s creators don’t seem to understand—the war is over for them, not for us. At this very hour, black people all across the South are still fighting the battle which they joined during Reconstruction—securing equal access to the ballot—and resisting a president whose resemblance to Andrew Johnson is uncanny. Confederate is the kind of provocative thought experiment that can be engaged in when someone else’s lived reality really is fantasy to you, when your grandmother is not in danger of losing her vote, when the terrorist attack on Charleston evokes honest sympathy, but inspires no direct fear. And so we need not wait to note that Confederate’s interest in Civil War history is biased, that it is premised on a simplistic view of white Southern defeat, instead of the more complicated morass we have all around us.

And one need not wait to ask if Benioff and D.B. Weiss are, at any rate, the candidates to help lead us out of that morass or deepen it. A body of work exists in the form of their hit show Game of Thrones. We do not have to wait to note the persistent criticism of that show is its depiction of rape. Rape—generational rape, mass rape—is central to the story of enslavement. For 250 years the bodies of enslaved black women were regarded as property, to be put to whatever use—carnal and otherwise—that their enslavers saw fit. Why HBO believes that this duo, given their past work, is the best team to revisit that experience is a question one should not wait to ask.

And all this must be added to a basic artistic critique—Confederate is a shockingly unoriginal idea, especially for the allegedly avant garde HBO. “What if the white South had won?” may well be the most trod-upon terrain in the field of American alternative history. There are novels about it, comic books about it, games about it, and a mockumentary about it. It’s been barely a year since Ben Winters published Underground Airlines.

Storytellers have the right to answer any question they choose. But we do not need to wait to examine all the questions that are not being chosen: What if John Brown had succeeded? What if the Haitian Revolution had spread to the rest of the Americas? What if black soldiers had been enlisted at the onset of the Civil War? What if Native Americans had halted the advance of whites at the Mississippi? And we need not wait to note that more interesting than asking what the world would be like if the white South had won is asking why so many white people are enthralled with a world where the dreams of Harriet Tubman were destroyed by the ambitions of Robert E. Lee.

The problem of Confederate can’t be redeemed by production values, crisp writing, or even complicated characters. That is not because its conceivers are personally racist, or seek to create a show that endorses slavery. Far from it, I suspect. Indeed, the creators have said that their hope is to use science fiction to “show us how this history is still with us in a way no strictly realistic drama ever could.” And that really is the problem. African Americans do not need science-fiction, or really any fiction, to tell them that that “history is still with us.” It’s right outside our door. It’s in our politics. It’s on our networks. And Confederate is not immune. The show’s very operating premise, the fact that it roots itself in a long white tradition of imagining away emancipation, leaves one wondering how “lost” the Lost Cause really was.

It’s good that the show-runners have brought on two noted and talented black writers—Nichelle Tramble Spellman and Malcolm Spellman. But one wonders: If black writers, in general, were to have HBO’s resources and support to create an alternative world, would they choose the world dreamed up by the progenitors of the Ku Klux Klan? Or would they address themselves to other less trod areas of Civil War history in the desire to say something new, in the desire to not, yet again, produce a richly imagined and visually beguiling lie?

We have been living with the lie for so long. And we cannot fix the lie by asking “What if the white South won?” and waiting for an answer, because the lie is not in the answer, but in the question itself.

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brico
9 days ago
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12 days ago
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2 public comments
jprodgers
12 days ago
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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national treasure. Also that Andrew Johnson = Trump link is pure gold.
Somerville, MA
mareino
13 days ago
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Coates brings up a point that I have never seen quite so well articulated before. The South did win the Civil War. When the War began, 40% of the South was enslaved. When the war ended 0% of the South was enslaved. That's a win by any decent ethical standards.
Washington, District of Columbia
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