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Glas-hirfryn: Repairing the timberwork

Back in the workshop

Repairs and restoration work is by Colin and Roger Morris of Manor Joinery.

Just before Christmas 2012 the timbers to be reused in the reconstruction were transported in several load back to Manor Joinery's workshop at the Malehurst Industrial Estate between Pontesbury and Minsterly, Shropshire. Here, over the next 12 months surviving timbers were cleaned, dried out and repaired and new pieces needed in the reconstruction were produced. The following images show some of the processes involved.

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General principles

One of the original beams from Glas-hirfryn, illustrated here, shows some of the problems involved in the repair work. Although the fine moulding on the bottom of the beam is preserved, to top of the beam has become rotten, mortises carrying the ceiling joists have deteriorated, and the mortises at the ends, tying the beam to the wall posts are missing.

The aim is to retain as much as possible of the original timberwork. But since the timber frame will be load bearing it is necessary to cut out the rotten timber, replace it with new oak, and match the original as closely as possible.

Traditional craft skills

For the sake of convenience modern machinery is used where possible. Even so, traditional carpentry skills are essential for the work, to make sure that the new work blends in with the old.

Here, replacement moulding that has been started by machine but is being finished by hand in the workshop.

The mouldings on one of the replacement jetty bressumer beams are here being finished by hand.

Matching new and old

These views again show the way that the decorative detail on new oak, spliced in and glued to the original, was carried out in the workshop.

The outline of the mouldings was first set out with a router and then finished by hand in order to match the old work as closely as possible.

Tenons and mortises

For the timber frame of the building to work, each of the repaired timbers needs to retain its structural integrity.

New tenons, as here, were therefore added to the ends of timbers. Mortises were either repaired or new ones cut into new oak spliced into the original.

The lower photographs show some of the finely moulded tie beams which support the floor joists, again with new oak shaped to match the original.

A chain mortising machine is being used here to cut mortises in one of the replacement sole plates.

Machined mouldings

Although quite a number of the original finely moulded ceiling joists had survived, quite a number of new ones were needed to complete the ceilings and floors.

In this case it was more economical to carry out the work by machine. A specially made router, shown above, was used in order that the mouldings on the new oak joists matched the original ones as closely as possible, as can be seen in the lower photograph.

Also visible in the lower photograph is one of the new oak jetty brackets (with a curving outline) fitted into a mortise in one of the original wall posts.

Decorative detail

Some of the original ground-floor wall-posts still survived but many were in a poor condition. As here, it was necessary to repair the tenon at the foot of the post where it fits into the sole plate.

The original pilasters on the outer faces of the posts had been decorated with vine leaves (see section on 'Building recording', but rather than trying to imitate the original, plain pilasters were reproduced here.

Laying it out in the workshop

As the work progressed, sections of the walls, roof trusses and floors were laid out in the workshop, to make sure that new pieces fitted in with the original work.

Here, two bays of the original ground-floor ceiling joists have been laid out, together with the principal tie beams. Laying the floors out in this way also allowed more precise measurements for the building to be obtained.

In the workshop the first floor walls are added to the frame of the ground floor ceiling. Here, new and replacement first-floor wall studs on the north side of the house are fitted into mortises in the girding beam above the ground floor wall.

To the left, the principal ground-floor wall studs and mid rail are reassembled in the workshop floor.

Here, the ground-floor north-east corner post and the close-set studding, sole plate (to the right) and girding beam (to the left) are reassembled on the flat. Apart from the corner post little of the other timberwork had survived, so much of the timberwork is of new oak.

The surviving timberwork from the eastern gable is reassembled on the workshop floor. The original moulded jetty bressumer beam (nearest the camera) was in a poor condition and since it formed an important structural component of the building it had to be replaced with a new timber.

Work in progress, fitting the surviving timbers from the east gable into a new, moulded jetty bressumer beam.

The first floor wall from the east gable, with the original window opening, nearing a state of completion on the workshop floor.

The first floor, southern façade of the house, with decorative diagonal studs. Little of the original timberwork had survived in a reusable condition and many of the timbers therefore had to be replaced.

The jettied eastern gable being assembled on the workshop floor. Again, little of the original timberwork survived in a sound condition and has had to be replaced with new oak.

Pegging out at last!

One of the last jobs in the workshop was making the pegs needed to fit all the timbers together, of which over 800 will be needed! The pegs are cut down from squared pieces of oak with a spokeshave.

A start was made in returning the timberwork to Glas-hirfryn on 17 March 2014, when the work of reconstruction started (see section on 'Rebuilding the house').

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