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I think that the quality of most aspects of domestic construction - stonework, brickwork, carpentry, joinery, roofing, plastering and decorating - peaked in the late Victorian and Edwardian era, so a book which defines these building methods contains this distilled knowledge. One that was published just at that time in 1904 has a doubly concentrated dose. Specification In Detail by Frank W Macey is just such a book.

This is a reference book, rather than one read from cover to cover, but that is what I wanted to do. How else do you find gems like, 'The wrought iron in plates, bars, tees and angles to be of Best Best South Staffordshire iron . . .' and even then samples had to be submitted for testing to Kirkaldy's Works or London University. Or of panelled doors, 'the usual height to the top of the lock rail is 3 ft. 1 in.' Or of lead soil pipes, 'astragal band jointed pipes bake the neatest work, but are more expensive than wiped soldered joints.' Or on creosote, 'softwoods will take about a gallon of creosote per cu ft . . . timber such as ends of posts buried in the ground may be charred; and in fact timber or joinery in any position subject to damp may be charred over.'

This was not an era of profligacy. Reuse was common (and reuse was not hyphenated to 're-use' in this book either):
'Old Bricks Reused - Clean, sort and stack old sound bricks, these may be reused in the foundations and internal walls, if approved by the architect.'
'Old Materials Reused - All stone sills and thresholds, all sashes, doors and all other old materials and articles may be reused, if dressed up, repaired and made out, and approved by the architect. Sort and stack all these sound old materials.'

Specifications In Detail by Frank W Macey reprinted as a hardback book in facsimile by Donhead Publishing, 620pp. Tel 01747 828422.

ID : (56815)
Date Created : 15 December 2010 04:57:23 PM
Date Modified : 15 December 2010 04:57:26 PM

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