25 July 2017
Why I enjoy teaching
Thanks to the Connecticut Historic Preservation Trust in conjunction with Historic Windsor/The Preservation Education Institute I have presented six lectures and a three day hands-on workshop on historic wooden window restoration in different regions of Connecticut. We are hoping to run at least one three day hands-on workshop this coming winter.
In my twenties I did not consider myself "teacher material" but have been pleasantly surprised to find how much I enjoy lecturing and teaching. Presenting and verbalizing the techniques and information I use daily for others to understand provides me with clearer perspective and understanding of what I do and why. It helps me solidify my years of experience and knowledge to truly understand my approach to historic preservation.
Given that I spend my days working alone in my shop time spent with others who appreciate my work and want to learn more about it is great boost and provides a chance for me to learn as well. I think I must come away from each workshop and lecture with a new nugget of information to add to my knowledge of window restoration.
One example comes quickly to mind from the lecture I delivered Haddam, CT. I was demonstrating paint and glazing removal techniques prior to re-glazing. Greg Farmer, the CT Trust circuit rider who makes these programs possible, speaks up while I am cleaning up the little bits of paint and glazing still stuck to the edges of the glass, (the glass must be clean prior to re-glazing for the glazing and paint to create a good weather tight seal to the glass). Greg notes that he uses 0000 steel wool to remove those obstinate bits of paint, glazing, and other films that are not easily scraped off the glass. Brilliant ... now why have I never heard this before?
If I've read it in one of the many books on window restoration it did not stick in my brain long enough for me to bring it to the shop. I decide that as soon as I am back in my shop I will have to try this solution out. Weeks later I am removing some stained glass panels from sashes that we are restoring. I notice the bits of paint on the stained glass and think "perfect opportunity to try Greg's trick out."
If you've ever tried to clean paint spots and brush marks off of stained glass you know it is near impossible due to the texture of the stained glass. The 0000 steel wool, and even 00 ought worked great and did not scratch the glass. Now I have a use for those packs of steel wool I bought years ago besides polishing hardware.
In addition to lectures and workshops, two years ago I agreed to work with a Vermont Youth Conservation Crew. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has run the HOPE, Hands-On Preservation Experience, program since 2014 with the Youth Conservation Corps to introduce younger folks to historic preservation. They partner YCC programs with historic sites and preservation professionals.
I agreed to be the preservation professional guiding the VYCC crew in the maintenance and restoration of the Marsh-Billings Estate greenhouse windows. What a pleasure it was working with the crew. Aged 18 -20 years old they were polite, respectful, and hard working. There were many challenges along the way but they never faltered in their work ethic and did an excellent job with the tasks they were given. The majority of the work was repainting and re-glazing the windows but some repairs were also required. They stepped right up to the task of using hand tools to create good wooden Dutchman repairs even though they did not have prior hand tool experience.
Another opportunity this past year re-invigorated my love of historic preservation. Ross, a Danville High School Senior, contacted me in spring of 2016 hoping to work with me over the summer and into the school year learning window restoration for his senior project. I agreed to have him work in the shop one day a week. Ross worked on a variety of projects, some of our current jobs, some for my house and a few for his house. I must admit taking the time to train someone side by side in the shop does slow down the process but the reward was Ross' help and seeing him learn the steps and complete them well. In addition, having an enthusiastic person around who is already well versed in architectural history and restoration theory was a joy. Working with Ross renewed my energy and appreciation for the work I do. I assume we all get tired and frustrated at times with our work even if it is our passion. This was a well needed boost for me. I should note that he did an excellent job presenting the steps of window restoration to the teachers and parents attending the senior class project presentations. Plus, he is helping us stack 6 cords of wood!
In closing this blog post I would like to note another teaching and demonstration opportunity coming up in August. On August 5th S.A. Fishburn, Inc. will be holding a SASH REVIVAL at the Theron Boyd House in Quechee, VT. We will spend the day demonstrating restoration techniques on sashes from the house. You can come for the day or just part of the day to observe or try your hand at stripping and re-glazing window sashes. For more information visit our events page.