Dating beams in old houses

dating beams in old houses

How can I tell the age of a cutting beam?

Generations of types of saws used in cutting beams, and similar details are readily available on many buildings and offer both clues to building age and wonderful aesthetic detail. Details at SAW & AXE CUTS, TOOL MARKS, AGE show clues such as hand hewn adze marks or even the type of saw cut marks on framing lumber, in rough chronological order.

What are some examples of exposed beams in architecture?

Exposing beams of wood, metal, and cement can reveal extraordinary architectural details. One of our favorites is Harry Gesner’s house for John Scantlin (1965), in which the structure of the single-ridge beam is highlighted, while its lateral rib-like beams rise up and out toward the view.

How can I tell the age of a building?

Visual clues pointed out by a home inspector or available to any careful building inspector can help indicate the age of a building. OLD HOUSE MYSTERIES & SOLUTIONS - whats that strange thing?

Why study the history of hand-hewn beams?

An understanding of how hand-hewn beams were cut, for example, can permit the careful observer to not only recognize the type and age of building framing, but even to understand just where the worker was standing when a blow from a tool was delivered to a building framing member.

How can you tell the age of a sawed beam?

Taking note of the shape and regularity of saw cuts or kerfs can tell us the type of saw used to produce the lumber or beam and can give a clue to the age of the wood. Where rounded or arced saw marks are present we can measure the arcs to estimate the size of the circular saw blade - another clue to the age of the lumber itself.

How can you tell if a beam has been cut by hand?

The saw cuts visible by flashlight on this sawn beam form an irregular vee shape, a clear indicator that this beam was cut by hand using a two-person pit-saw. Our photo shows a hand-sawn pit-saw cut beam or plank.

How do I know if my barn beams are axe-hewn?

The marks of an axe-hewn beam are very distinct: They bear long, smooth divots formed by the blade’s motion across the wood. If the beams in your barn are hand-hewn, it is entirely possible you are dealing with a very old barn. Check the history of your area to see when the settlers arrived — your barn is probably in that date range.

How old are the beams in my barn?

If the beams in your barn are hand-hewn, it is entirely possible you are dealing with a very old barn. Check the history of your area to see when the settlers arrived — your barn is probably in that date range. Pit saw: This hand-powered tool was essentially a saw blade that ripped beams in half.

Are hand hewn beams still used today?

Hand-hewn beams are a prized commodity among those who favor antique building materials, and the carpentry techniques used to create them are still in use among traditional builders today. What is a hand-hewn timber?

Why are hand hewn timbers so popular?

Creating hand-hewn timbers requires strength and skill, but it’s the very difficulty of the process that makes hand-hewn timbers such an aesthetic marvel—and the reason why their popularity lives on today. Hand hewn timbers are renown for their rustic, distressed surfaces.

How were beams made in colonial buildings?

These timbers can then be sawed to different lengths and used as beams, joists, or trusses. According to a Penn State University study on historic building techniques, in the American colonial period, most buildings were created with timber frames. Giant solid beams called “girts” were connected with mortise-and-tenon joints.

Who used hand-hewing for timber?

As early as 1620, millers were making a living turning logs into boards, and by 1840, historians estimate that there was a mill for every 245 people in the U.S. That means the people who used hand-hewing for their building timbers would have been frontier-dwellers who lived far from local sawmills, or people who couldn’t afford mill-sawn beams.

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