I officially retired about eight years ago. “Officially” means that I still “putter” in the shop, doing the things that I want to do, when I want to do them, a priceless luxury. But I still have friends in the trade that will occasionally stop by with “bench carpentry” work that they need help with. I don’t mind helping these fellows out as they’re good people trying to earn their daily bread in an area of endeavor that becomes more difficult to make a living at with each passing year.
The restoration or replication of interior details is usually straightforward. Exterior detail work is a different story, altogether. The effects of oxygen and gravity make most exterior replications a guessing game, at best. Rot is your arch enemy when trying to determine dimensions.
Several weeks ago a “brother carpenter” called and asked if I could put together a chevron window sill (with aprons and mouldings) to replace one that he had just removed. He quickly added that, fortunately, he had “most” of the old one for measurement. I told him to bring it to the shop.
This is what I received:
I couldn’t help but feel a little like Sherlock Holmes looking at bits of evidence exhumed from some century old grave. Trying to find a datum to work from was virtually impossible. After expressing complete confidence in my uncanny abilities, my friend asked if I could make the replica in such a way that his crew wouldn’t have to do much fitting in the field, as they were a bit inexperienced at that type of thing. So after a day of guessing at lean angles and drip angles and shooting edges into an unevenly divided center joint, I called my friend with the news that the sill assembly was finished. When he picked it up, I told him to bring it back if there were any “fit” problems. That was three weeks ago. No call.
I told my wife that I had thought about throwing that old Ouija Board away. But, I’ve decided to hang onto it, just in case.