Customer Spotlight – Historic Restoration Using Cedar Wood

Our Customer Spotlight is on Terry Anthon with Garrett Construction. Terry is a hands-on craftsman working with the State of Maryland in the re-creation and restoration of 17th century buildings in some of the earliest settlements in the State.

1600s Home Awaiting Restoration
1600s Home Awaiting Restoration

Project Overview

The Problem

Western Red Cedar is being used for specific areas of the restoration and re-creation work. Cedar wasn’t used for building construction in Maryland in the 17th century, it was white oak, the official State tree. Due to environmental and availability issues, white oak has become very difficult to obtain.

Cedar as the Solution

The organizations overseeing the projects asked Terry’s opinion about cedar as a substitute. He’d completed a previous project for DNR using cedar purchased from Buffalo Lumber and knew it’d be the right choice.

Cedar is light-weight and easy to work with. It is sustainably grown and harvested. And, it’s bug and rot resistant with incredible durability, meaning it will last decades.

Approval was given for using cedar and Buffalo Lumber, again, partnered with Terry to provide the cedar boards.

Project Set-up & Re-creation

Terry and his crew set up work stations on-site to shape the boards before installation.

Board Shaping Work Station
Board Shaping Work Station

Using the tools of modern-day craftsmen, they hack and whittle away at both sides of the pristine western red cedar bevel boards, giving them the very rustic, rough-hewn look you’d see in the 17th century.

Typical Framing and Roof Boards
Typical Framing and Roof Boards

Currently, the boards are used as roofing material. Whether you’re inside looking up or outside looking upon the roof, you’ll see the unique, hand-tooled wood that mimics the original finish of these historic buildings.

New Roof Installation
New Roof Installation

Restoration & Installation Using Cedar

Pine tar is applied to the joints of the newly installed roof boards to prevent leaking, just as was done for the original buildings hundreds of years ago.

Pine Tarred Joints, Spraying to Darken Wood
Pine Tarred Joints, Spraying to Darken Wood

Once installation is complete, an application of equal parts mixture of pine tar, boiled linseed oil, and mineral spirits is sprayed on the roof and any walls that have been replaced. The boiled linseed oil opens the wood’s pores and allows the pine tar to soak in and the mineral spirits help dry the wood.

This old-timer’s concoction, referred to as witches’ brew, changes the patina of the wood to a blackish-gray within a few months, giving it an old weathered look, as if it’s been there forever.

All structural elements, including sill plates, window sashes, door headers, collars and rafters are secured using hand-carved dowels and pins from hickory and other indigenous hardwoods.

Nothing goes to waste on a restoration. All wood is re-purposed as fencing, shutters, trim, doors, wherever it can be used. Even the hand-forged nails are removed from boards that are being replaced, straightened, then re-used somewhere on a project.

The latest project is in Historic St. Mary’s City, the first city in the state of Maryland, founded in 1634. These are re-creations based on excavations. The site is still an active archaeological dig in conjunction with St. Mary’s College archaeology students.

Several other projects have been completed, including Cordelia House, and a project in Patuxent River State Park.

17th Century Home Before Restoration
17th Century Home Before Restoration

Terry has a keen eye for detail and a natural aptitude for woodworking. He, also, has an innate ability to look around a building and based on the cuts, miters, and angles, know how it was assembled and replicate that building process – without the aid of drawings, plans, or pictures. If he can see it, he can do it.

His craftsmanship affords the State of Maryland the perfect partner for these projects.

For Terry, it’s a labor of love. He feels it is both an honor and a pleasure to be a part of this historic work, representing some of Maryland’s and America’s earliest settlements.

Buffalo Lumber looks forward to working with Terry Anthon and Garrett Construction in the future, providing real wood products for these very important projects.

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