Re-roofing a house with a metal roof

This year I completed a project that I have been meaning to do for a while now – adding a metal roof. Not a trivial thing to do on a semi-detached house, because of the obvious issues with the division of the roof (made more challenging because more than 20 years ago someone put in a cathedral ceiling next door, and must have insulated from the outside, making that roof 2″ higher). I had been considering this for a while, as our “30-year” architectural shingles reached 12-odd years old. Now metal roofs, either aluminum or steel aren’t as popular in North America yet, for whatever reason. I always find it odd that people buy brand new, $2 million houses, that have crappy cheap asphalt shingle roofs on them. Make it sustainable and add a metal roof. But cities are as much at fault as homeowners, they could require greener more sustainable roofing.

Metal roof on the front of the house.

So metal roofs do cost more. I likely paid nearly twice what I did 12 years ago for the asphalt roof, but it will last probably 50 years. It also doesn’t deal with the flat roof at the back of my house, but honestly 3-layer flat roof technology is pretty good these days. There are of course a bunch of different metal roofing technologies, some use strapping, others attach directly to the existing roof (I chose the later). I settled on an aluminum roof made by Classic Products Roofing Systems. These come as long panels, 12″×60″, and they lock into one another.

Locking edges on the top and side of the metal panel.

Asphalt shingles first appeared in north America  in 1901, and gained a foothold in the 1920s in a market dominated by wooden shingles (wood = cheap roofing). The use of fire-clay tiles or metal roofs never really caught on in Canada, although they are extensively used in cold climates such as Norway, and Iceland. They are popular in cottage country, probably because people realize they are less maintenance than an asphalt roof. Asphalt roofs are also very environmentally unfriendly, although there are now some companies recycling them.


Messy vintage dovetail joints

It is always fun to explore old furniture when travelling, mostly to see how it is constructed. We recently stayed in an old country house in Caputh, Scotland, and there was a neat dresser in one of the bedrooms. Looking back at the evolution of dovetails we often forget that joints were once just that – methods of holding together two pieces of wood. Early use of dovetails in details such as drawer joinery was very primitive – certainly not to the standards of todays micron-precision cuts. Older dovetails were different.

Cuts were often made beyond the dovetail. In the figure below, notice how deeply cut some of the tails are, in addition to the intensely scored layout line marking the shoulder of the pin socket. This is a half-blind dovetail from the front of the drawer.

The pins are quite skinny, and likely would weaken the joint were it not for its half-blind structure. The number of dovetails were also different depending on whether the joint was on the front or rear of the drawer – the front has five pins, the rear, only three. Below is a picture of the rear dovetails. The tails are again cut beyond the shoulder, but this time the angle is 20° which falls to the other extreme, potentially leaving some unsupported grain at the corners of the tails.

Finally, consider the back of the drawer. This was truly a case of  “part of the furniture never to see the light of day”. It almost seemed like a piece of scrap wood.


A horned plane from E. A. Berg

Late last year I  had the fortune of purchasing a horned wooden smoothing plane from Swedish manufacturer E.A. Berg (Eskilstuna) on eBay. The plane is in exceptional condition.

Looking in a circa 1940’s catalog, it seems that the plane fits the “Putshyvlar” category with a double blade. The plane is 240mm in length, with a width of 55mm, and a blade width of 45mm.

Planes from E.A.Berg are interesting because the wooden bodies are usually made by a third-party European supplier (typically Danish, or German).

The interesting thing about this plane it the fact that the horn in the front is detachable. Was it always meant to be? It attaches to the body using a dovetail type fit.

The plane is 9-5/8″ in length, and 2-3/16″ wide. The wood seems to be a fruitwood, incredibly grain-free, with a beautiful patina.

The main iron is tapered, and is 1¾” wide. The blade is marked “Erik Anton Berg Eskilstuna Garanti“. The trademark on the blade is a Wels catfish (Sirulus Glanis), which pre-dated the “shark logo”, and is recognizable by the dovetailed tail. For a full discussion of the catfish/shark logo, check out this exceptional article by Kim Malmberg.

The chip breaker is much smaller than the iron. The chip breaker  is stamped with an ornate trademark displaying images of the various gold medals (“Guldmedaljer”) won at the  World Exhibition in Stockholm in 1897, and Paris in 1900. According to the years mentioned on the accompanying chipbreaker, this logotype variation could have been in use post 1900, but before the shark-like fish was added..

The stamp on the plane “VAREMÆRKE” means trademark. The wooden body is made by a maker with a unknown trademark from Aalborg, Denmark.

All in all a nice plane.


Re-siding the shed

The shed in my backyard is over 10 years old now, and I have been slowly renovating it over the last couple of years. The original siding was inexpensive pine (6″, rabbeted)  that I attached directly to the plywood carcass, i.e. no furring strips. The siding was stained years ago, and just looked tired, and I wanted to allow it to breath better, so I decided to replace it with something that will last the remainder of the shed’s life. So I ordered some 6″ rabbeted siding from Quebec company Maibec. The old siding went to a good home, to be re-cycled into a new shed. One benefit of this siding is that it comes pre-painted – factory painted lumber is great because it has been added in an environment-controlled facility, and is painted all-six-sides. Another benefit is that there is a whole bunch of matching trim. Even the nails to attach the siding come colour-matched.

A half complete wall.

Maibec have a bunch of different options, and a bunch of different systems, and I have to say the material is a pleasure to work with. The siding is kiln-dried spruce-fir, as opposed to generic siding that is a hodge-podge of species, and often warped. I used 1×3 furring strips, aligned with the 2×6 walls, so 14-16″ apart. The siding is attached using ring shank nails, and Maibec provide a special plastic hammer-cap to prevent marring the nails. They also provide a multitude of perforated ventilation strips for the top and bottom of walls to allow for ventilation behind the siding, and preventing pests from entering.

Ventilation strips

It is not inexpensive (likely C$6 a square foot all in for materials), but there are inherent labour savings from not having to paint the siding, and deal with warped siding.

Framing a picture

Sometimes when we travel we go to art galleries. I’m not a big fan of modern art, but I do have a soft spot for those large historical landscapes, the ones that are 6’×8′ or larger. However the one thing that I always find fascinating, but most people likely ignore, are the frames. These masterpieces are usually just used to support the picture, but they should be on show by themselves. The frame makes the picture. Their intricate hand-carved details, and gilded surfaces, like the paintings they frame are a slice of history we may never build in the same way again.

Block planes: Stanley No.18 (and No.19) (i)

The Stanley No.18, and No.19, first appeared in the 1888 Stanley catalog as “Improved Block Planes”. They were essentially the No.9½ and No.15 with knuckle lever caps, with nickel platted trimmings. The knuckle lever was the result of an 1886 patent (No.355,031). The planes had the requisite “excelsior” style rear-biased cheek. When first released they had the following characteristics (this discussion is geared towards the No.18, but the evolution of the No.19 is similar).:

  • Excelsior body shape.
  • Lateral adjustment lever.
  • Bailey depth adjustment mechanism.
  • Blades with rounded heads (as opposed to tapered)
  • Adjustable mouths.

Common to all types are three forms of adjustment mechanisms: blade lateral, blade depth, and mouth adjustment. Block planes don’t exactly have the same type studies as bench planes.

Fig 1: The original No.18 from the 1888 catalog.

The “Type 1” planes were only manufactured for a one-year period. The planes have an excelsior-style plane body, and are differentiated by having a lateral adjustment lever with an “integral upward projecting rib”, to shift the blade from side-to-side. This lever was the result of a patent assigned to J.A. Traut in 1888 (Patent No. 376,455).

Patent No. 376,455

This form of the No.18 incorporated an adjustable throat, however no mechanism for performing the adjustment – the front brass finger rest would need to be loosened and the sliding plate adjusted manually, before being tightened again.

In 1889, the Type 1 was modified with the incorporation of a new lateral adjustment lever, replacing the “integral projecting rib”, with a circular disk. This change was based on two patents issued to Traut: No. 306,877, issued on October 21, 1884, and Patent No. 386,509 for a “Lateral Lever with Rotary Disk”, issued July 24, 1888.

There were a number of changes in the catalog of 1898 associated with improvements in features (Fig.2):

  • The addition of the “Hand-y” indentations to the sides of the plane. (Design patent No.27,474, 1897)
  • A modification of the No.18’s body so that the sides have a centred “hump” profile, as opposed to the classic Excelsior shape. (Design patent No.27,474, 1897)
  • The addition of eccentric throat adjustment lever. (Patent No.515,063, 1894)

Fig 2: The No.18 with improved features from the 1898 catalog.

Of course the problem with catalogs is that they didn’t come out every year, so that changes were sometimes offered prior to their appearance in a catalog, or may not have appeared in a catalog at all. For example, Stanley was still producing a No.18 with the Excelsior body, eccentric lever, and original lever cap, in the 1898 catalog – a sort of “souped-up” Excelsior (Fig.3).

Fig 3: The updated “excelsior” No.18 from the 1898 catalog.

There have however been appearances of the No.18’s with Excelsior bodies that have a Hand-y, as shown below.

Excelsior with Hand-y (linked from