Bedroom Two


Refurbishing the window

The window in this room is the second to be refurbished and, protected by the verandah like the first, was in good condition but, as usual, the upper sash had been nailed and painted shut. There were two cracked panes and the lever latch was broken. It turned out that the meeting bar it was screwed into had some localised rot under the latch. Water, probably condensation off the glass, had over time penetrated down beside the screws and softened the wood. The old latch was removed and wood hardener/preserver applied into the screw holes. There was also a small 2mm gap between the frame and the cement fillet on the outside indicating that the whole frame had moved inwards slightly.

Disassembling the window was not too difficult but, as expected, the parting beads snapped in many places and would need to be replaced. The staff bead on the left side had been broken in a previous repair and crudely tacked back together and disguised with filler and paint and would also be replaced. The jamb extensions had been nailed not only to the stool and head jamb extension but also directly to nailing blocks in the stone wall, one of which was very loose causing the render covering it to fall away when the panel was removed (see far left of image 14). The stool was also removed as shown.

The old paint was heat-stripped from all surfaces, which where then sanded. The pulleys were removed and cleaned up. The weights access panels were in much better condition than the lounge room window and just needed some filling and painting, and the hole drilled through the bead slot to facilitate future removal without damage (rather than prying them out).

1. Window disassembled with frame re-wedged and ready for repainting.

The frame with clear polycarbonate sheeting was made to keep the weather out while working on the window. It's a universal design to fit all the window and door openings.

The loose nailing block was removed, the cavity cleaned out and a bed of masonite strips laid in the cavity before the block was gently hammered back into place for a tight fit. The shrinkage of the block was enough to be able to use packing, otherwise I would have used liquid nails, as I have for some other loose nailing blocks, in the refurbished doorways for example.

The frame was moved outwards as far as it would go to close the 2mm gap, then re-wedged. The wedges were secured with screws in the same way as were the lounge room window wedges.

The stool had been nailed to the frame so when reinstalling it I instead used one screw at each end in pocket holes that would be hidden behind the jamb extensions. As I did for the lounge room window I reassembled the head and jamb extensions using screws, placed so that they are hidden once the window is completed with architraves.

2. Second attempt to screw the stool to the frame - the first pocket hole was too deep and had to be filled with dowel and redrilled shallower.

The two cracked panes were replaced and the old roughly applied fillet of putty around another pane was also removed and redone. I use a dremel oscillating saw with semi-circular blade to cut out the old putty because my attempt to use heat and a knife on the lounge room window was much slower and cracked too many panes in the attempt

The cost of the glass for each pane cut to size is just AU$10 but I prefer to retain the original glass wherever possible because of it's characteristic physical and optical imperfections. The original glass is 2mm thick and because the panes are small they have stood up to over a century of weather, including hail storms. So rather than replace them with todays heavier standard (minimum) 3mm window glass, I order 2mm picture framing glass to maintain the weight and look of the sash.

Once the glazing was completed I decided to try the "whiting" and dry brush method of cleaning the putty oil off the glass, and it worked well even after having left the oil on the glass for a day or more. Tip: The local hardware store didn't have "whiting" but they did have white chalk packaged as refills for chalk string-lines. It cleaned the glass nicely but didn't seem to speed the surface drying of the putty. I still had to wait two weeks before painting it (with oil paint).

3. Two glass panes replaced.

Both sash were repainted, and then when putting the upper sash back into the frame I noticed the gaps at the sides were not even. The sash was several millimetres narrower at the top than at the bottom. The lower sash was similar but not as bad.

Most of the problem with the upper sash was confined to one stile which was not only tapered but slightly bowed outwards, so to fix it I measured, marked and hand-planed the running face of the stile to make it parallel to the other running face, and square. I then cut a strip from an old skirting board (same age red cedar as the sash) and precut the slot for the sash cord before glueing it to the running face. Once the glue was dry the strip edges were hand-planed flush and painted. Some more planing was needed to smooth the new running face and reduce the overall width of the sash a little to take the weather strips (Raven RP61).

4. Stile planed back to parallel and new strip of red cedar waiting to be glued.

5. Strip clamped in a sandwich to even the pressure while the glue dries.

After applying several coats of paint to all components (a very long process using oil paint, but worth it), the stool, jamb extensions and upper sash were reassembled, with new sash cords running through the refurbished pulleys. With a single access panel on each side for both weights, the lower sash cords need to be attached to their weights before the weights access panels can be closed and the parting beads installed. This is the stage the work is at in image 14.

6. Stool, jamb extensions, upper sash and parting beads reassembled. Lower sash cords waiting to be attached to their sash.

I had already made a batch of new parting beads while repairing the first window in the lounge room but needed to manufacture a new staff bead. I cut down one of the old architraves from the lounge window (all windows will get new architraves) and routed the profile to match the old staff bead, which has a simple 1/2 in (12mm) radius semi-circular profile with a small lip that I was careful to match also. The lip results because the bead is about 5/8 in deep (see image 7).

7. New staff bead profile (painted) to match the original. I use red cedar of the same age as the original, in this case cut from an old architrave that will be replaced by new.

For the lower sash, as well as some hand-planing of the running faces to straighten them and make them parallel, the bottom face of the bottom rail was not straight and was also bevelled at too great an angle. The angle of the sill that it sits on is 19 degrees. There was also a misallignment of the meeting rails such that the upper surface of the upper sash rail was lower than the upper surface of the lower sash rail by about 5 mm, so that the lever latch components (lever and keep) were not going to fit together properly. The root cause of this is the head of the frame which has sagged, probably from having been wedged off the lintel too near the centre line of the frame. This is not easily fixed so will have to be worked around.

Fortunately all three problems were able to be worked around with the one modification. Hand-planing the bottom face to the same angle as the sill would straighten it and take about 5mm off the overall height of the lower sash, which would allow the meeting rails and lever latch components mounted on them to align correctly.

I marked the line that I'd work to and estimated that if I planed to that line, which is the high side edge of image 9, and kept the low side edge unshaved then I would be close to the target angle of 19 degrees. It's not critical that the inside edge of the face be perfectly straight because it is hidden behind the staff bead but the outside edge is visible and obvious relative to the sill if not straight.

8. Lower sash, upside down, with bottom face reshaped.

9. As straight as I can make it.

10. Not perfectly flat but the angle shown by the SINGLE CUT arrow matches the angle of the sill, i.e. 19 degrees.

After applying three coats of paint to the reshaped bottom face and fitting new sash lifters it was finally time to attach the cords and hang the lower sash. The original cords had been nailed to the sash so once again for easier maintenance I used screws instead, specifically 8g x 25mm button head wood screws, that will clamp rather than penetrate the cord. I'm using 6mm cotton sash cord in all the windows, which fits neatly in the slot doubled up, as shown in image 11. The cord is looped around the bottom screw and back up to where it is clamped again by the upper screw, making sure to leave enough length of single cord in the top of the slot for the sash to ride over the pulley wheel properly.

11. Clamping the cord to the sash with button head wood screws.

A new lever latch and keep were mounted on the meeting rails. The lever was mounted first on the upper sash then, to fit the keep correctly on the lower sash, the meeting rails needed to be squeezed together in order to locate the keep so that when engaged the latch would pull the rails together firmly.

12. Lever latch fitted. The keep screws are untidy but will not be seen under normal circumstances and I didn't want to overtighten them or have them too loose.

13. The job of the latch is also to pull the meeting bars together.

There is still a gap there that I'll monitor. The solution would be to route a shallow channel the full width of the upper meeting bar to accommodate a weather strip.

Then finally, the staff beads were positioned and brad nailed.

The colour scheme is the same for all windows: "Wheat" on the outside surfaces and all box frame components, and "Ocean Pearl" on the inside. In images 15 and 16 you might spot an error in the painting. Luckily it will almost never be seen even with the sash in this lowest position but the top face of the upper sash should be white (Ocean Pearl).

It takes me many hours over several weeks to do the job including researching the different issues that arise with each window and the skills to deal with them, and I have another six windows to do several of which will need significantly more work than either of the first two. I don't have the latitude for trial and error. Everything needs a viable plan B before I start. But, it's worth it to see the windows functioning in their full original glory. It's a joy to see the sash and pullies once again doing what they were built to do back in 1879. I could and do look at them and admire them for hours.

14. Playing with the sash movement.

15. Left side pulleys and cords.

16. Right side pulleys and cords.

17. New mortar fillet between the sills.

The old fillet had mostly disappeared over time.

18. Replaced the mortar fillet between the limestone lintel and the box frame - still wet.

19. Window refurbishment complete.

20. Window refurbishment complete.

The pink layer of wall plaster (image 20) has me a little concerned because the colour can indicate gypsum rather than lime. However, it also appears more like an artificial colouring additive than a natural one because of the intensity/saturation of the colour (image 21).

21. Section through wall plaster.

The pink layer is a concern, possibly indicating gypsum. The ultra white at top is actually gypsum used as a later filler in this location (top of window opening - that is the timber lintel at bottom).

22. Always a thrill to find some buried treasure. On the back of one of the jamb extensions is the name, I believe, of the building contractor to whom the completed window was supplied.

Cox Brothers, Crookwell

Samuel Cox (contractor) spoke at the 1880 opening of the new schoolhouse.

The window that I renovated in the lounge had the same name written on the back of one of it's jamb extensions. I will expect to find it for each window because it indicates that the windows were made off-site and most likely not in Crookwell. But where and by whom?