Issue 16 T.O.C. – Ted Ingraham – “Sash-making in Early America”

This post is part of a blog series revealing the table of contents of upcoming Issue Sixteen. As is our custom, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is to come. 

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Ted Ingraham – “Sash-making in Early America”

The pre-industrial joiner had his work cut out for him. Nearly every home built in early America required trim, window sash, and molding –  miles of it. One typical house of that period, the Whittier House of Danville, Vermont, needed over 7,100' of hand-planed white pine lumber for trimming out; for its window sashes, doors, and shutters, the joiner needed to cut more than 840 mortise-and-tenon joints – awe-inspiring numbers for us, but par for the course in those days.

In Issue Sixteen, author, teacher, and professional joiner Ted Ingraham takes a closer look at the practice of sash making as the joiner of the Whittier House would have done it over 200 years ago. Drawing from his examinations of the house during restoration, Ingraham shows us both the tools and the techniques of the period sash joiner as he reproduces an original window from the house. Determining how the house’s windows were constructed required a bit of archaeology as well as luck, as Ingraham notes: “The original sashes had been replaced at least once with seemingly no way to determine the initial construction methods or sash profile. That changed when a small fragment of one of the original attic nine-light frames was discovered during restoration. While the fragment was barely 5" in length, it revealed not only the profile of the sash but also the use of a seldom-seen mitering technique used to join the crossing muntins. With this find, there was enough information to recreate the original Whittier house sash windows.”

Bringing us through the process as informed by this find, Ingraham offers a fascinating look at a nearly lost trade. Keeping a broad view of historic context in mind, he works step-by-step through the methods of an 18th-century joiner. The sash plane, rabbet plane, layout sticks, and various jigs each find their place to quickly build a window sash fit for an early American homestead.

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