Nye-Carlton Barn, Woodstock, VT

Project Overview

What began with a phone call from a fellow contractor seeking advice about a broken tie beam, turned into one of our favorite restoration projects to date.  As it turned out, in addition to the broken tie beam, there was significant damage to both of the rafter plates, a second tie beam, the sill system, post feet and foundation.  Although the level of damage to the barn was not uncommon, the barn itself is a rarity.

This barn has everything that we love to see.  It is a scribe rule frame with stunning marriage marks, built predominantly of beech and chestnut.  It is a classic English threshing barn with tapered posts and English tying joints.  The timbers are all hewn with the exception of the scantlings and two sash sawn chestnut posts.  Although the technique of scribing timbers continued well into the 1800’s, the abundance of hand wrought nails and the gouge marks around the peg holes (indicating the use of a nose auger), suggest that the barn was likely built in the late 1700’s.  Records show that the first saw mill in the town was set up in 1785, leading us to conclude that the barn was constructed within the next twenty or so years.

The current owners of the barn had initially intended to shore the structure so that a cupola might be added.  After presenting our research on the history of the barn and property, the current owners became completely invested in completing a full restoration.

When we had first surveyed the barn, we were delighted to see a marriage mark on the interior drive post and tie beam in the shape of a small ‘daisy wheel’.  The daisy wheel is a circle, drawn with a compass, that usually contains six, equidistant ‘petals’.  Occasionally, circles can be observed with six equidistant marks around the circumference.  This type of wheel is referred to as a ‘broken spoke’.  The wheel has long been used as a design tool and template for carpenters that allows for complex ratios and proportions to be used in design without carrying out long mathematical computations.  Shortly after beginning work on the project, another contractor discovered a daisy wheel of about eight inches in diameter on one of the roof boards, further indicating that the wheel was likely used as a design tool for this frame.  Seth was easily able to match the proportions of the frame to the wheel.  Although we have seen our share of frames that fit the proportions of the daisy wheel and a number of frames with compass markings, this was the first frame that we have observed with a fully drawn wheel.  The roof board with the wheel on it now hangs in the doorway of the barn.

The damage and deterioration of the frame was so wide spread, that we had to fully dismantle it to complete the restoration work.  Having the frame dismantled and safely housed in our shop afforded us a great opportunity to restore every aspect of the frame under ideal conditions.  We had plenty of space to lay out each wall of the frame for scribing in new material.  Although there was a great deal of damage to many of the shoulders, tennons and post feet, we found that once the damaged areas were excavated, the remaining wood was of outstanding quality.

The finish work of the project was carried out by a local contractor after we had set the restored frame on its new foundation.  The exterior of the frame was updated sometime during the 1860’s or 1870’s by the Carlton family.  The gable and eaves walls visible to the road were covered with clapboards and trim and new sliding doors replaced the original doors that had hung from traditional strap hinges.  The homeowners were able to re-use track hardware for the doors.  They also opted to omit the addition of clapboards and trim in favor of vertical boarding to show off the details of the visible plate and boarding grooves.  They chose shingles for the roof and added beautiful copper gutters which we thought was a really nice touch.

We felt incredibly privileged to work with such dedicated and enthusiastic homeowners to restore this frame that now stands virtually unchanged from its original configuration.

 

 

Project Pictures

Nye-Carlton
The barn as we first saw it.

The barn as we first saw it.
March 2012.

March 2012.
Two sides of the barn facing the road had been clapboarded in the late 1800's.

Two sides of the barn facing the road had been clapboarded in the late 1800's.
While the door track from the late 1800's was reused, the clapboards were not replaced in order to show off the boarding groove in the plate as it would have originally appeared.

While the door track from the late 1800's was reused, the clapboards were not replaced in order to show off the boarding groove in the plate as it would have originally appeared.
This 'daisy wheel' was discovered in the roof sheathing.

This 'daisy wheel' was discovered in the roof sheathing.
The 'daisy wheel' board now hangs in the drive.

The 'daisy wheel' board now hangs in the drive.
Quarter sized daisy wheels were also used as a pair of marriage marks in a drive post and tie beam.

Quarter sized daisy wheels were also used as a pair of marriage marks in a drive post and tie beam.
Seth discovered that the proportions of the barn fit nicely into the wheel.

Seth discovered that the proportions of the barn fit nicely into the wheel.
This barn had significant insect damage.

This barn had significant insect damage.
The boarding grooves in the plates and tie beams have the unusual detail of stopping at each post.  This post top shows an original free-tenon.

The boarding grooves in the plates and tie beams have the unusual detail of stopping at each post. This post top shows an original free-tenon.
We particularly enjoy this pair of marriage marks.

We particularly enjoy this pair of marriage marks.
Gouge marks can be seen around the peg holes for setting a nose auger.  The marriage marks throughout the barn were very consistent with the exception of those on this post.  The numerals seen here are redundant to those of the adjacent reference posts.

Gouge marks can be seen around the peg holes for setting a nose auger. The marriage marks throughout the barn were very consistent with the exception of those on this post. The numerals seen here are redundant to those of the adjacent reference posts.
The shoulders of the post from the preceding photo were extremely deteriorated but the remaining wood was sound.

The shoulders of the post from the preceding photo were extremely deteriorated but the remaining wood was sound.
Here is the same post with new shoulders scribed to fit an original brace and girt.

Here is the same post with new shoulders scribed to fit an original brace and girt.
Each wall of the frame is laid with its parts set square and level in order to use plumb as a reference for scribing.

Each wall of the frame is laid with its parts set square and level in order to use plumb as a reference for scribing.
Drift pins pull the shoulders tight at each joint by way of offset drilling of the peg holes known as draw boring.

Drift pins pull the shoulders tight at each joint by way of offset drilling of the peg holes known as draw boring.
A new girt is scribed to a shoulder repair.

A new girt is scribed to a shoulder repair.
An original girt that spanned the drive bay had been cut out and spiked higher up the post in order to allow unobstructed headroom on the main floor.  The owners of the barn wanted to retain the functionality of the higher position of the girt.  We were able to re-use the original girt without repairing it by adding oak free tennons with clasping struts in the original mortises.

An original girt that spanned the drive bay had been cut out and spiked higher up the post in order to allow unobstructed headroom on the main floor. The owners of the barn wanted to retain the functionality of the higher position of the girt. We were able to re-use the original girt without repairing it by adding oak free tennons with clasping struts in the original mortises.
The diminished haunch of the original mortise provided great support and stability to the struts.

The diminished haunch of the original mortise provided great support and stability to the struts.
The entire sill had been replaced at some point prior to this restoration with the exception of the summer beam in the drive.  It now rests on its dovetail tennons as part of the barns third sill system.

The entire sill had been replaced at some point prior to this restoration with the exception of the summer beam in the drive. It now rests on its dovetail tennons as part of the barns third sill system.
 


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