Preservation Update: West Balcony Work Continues

Last fall we let you know about the West Balcony Project. Thanks to a generous donor, we’ve been able to continue the work this Spring and Summer. Here’s Senior Preservationist Jeff Larry with an update, as well as a photo gallery of the progress. 

Steve Clark, our summer preservation intern, is a second year student at the American College of the Building Arts in Charleston, SC. For the past four weeks he has been working with our Senior Preservationist Jeff Larry on the west balcony restoration. In this picture Steve is using a table saw to replicate historic molding for the West Balcony balcony project.

Last August during my biannual inspection of the Cottage’s west balcony I found that the previous seasons’ heavy rains had brought to the surface something that had been going on for quite some time. Though a thoughtful restoration of the balcony had occurred in 2004 it was clear there were some design flaws; most notable, placing the corner posts directly onto the mahogany decking. I also discovered the railings and trim were also severely damaged.

The decision was made to remove all components of the balcony with the exception of the frame and brackets which were mostly intact. Over this past winter I put together a restoration plan that would address some of the previous design’s shortcomings. Based on recommendations from National Trust architect Ashley Wilson and carpenter Matthew Hankins, I decided to mill all of the decking, posts, rail cap and trim using Accoya (an imported softwood subjected to a really high pressured vinegar bath.) The pictures below detail my solution to getting the posts off the decking.

After marking the posts location I used a tool by called a multi-angle drill guide to drill four holes in the decking. After threading the holes with a tap I screwed in stainless steel inserts. (The inserts were also epoxied into the thread) The inserts then received 3/4” all-thread and a nut. A metal post, that I designed and had manufactured by Dan and the folks Anything Wood & Metal was mounted on top of the all-thread/nuts. This secured the metal post, allowed for leveling and, once the new wooden corner post was placed over top, would leave it about 1/4” above the decking. The metal flanges at the base of the post act as tenons and will allow the railing units (still mostly intact) to be slid down into place. The tenon on the upper rail will still be seated in a mortise on the corner post. The work continues!

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