Old-House Mechanic's Manifesto
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 19, 2006 11:51 pm    Post subject: Old-House Mechanic's Manifesto Reply with quote

Old-House Mechanic's Manifesto


John Leeke (center) gives his famous Old-House Mechanic's Manifesto talk/demonstration for the keynote speech at the Jacksonville, Florida preservation conference, 2010.


In my work on old buildings over the decades I've recognized several fundamental issues that lead most directly to saving the old buildings that represent our cultural heritage. I've boiled them down so they are easy for me to remember and use every day. These are my guiding principles. They imply a course of action that is contrary to the mainstream of the American culture, but directly in line with my own sense of the best way to care for the buildings where we live and work. By happy chance they seem to be in line with the growing interest in the field of historic preservation.


1. Older and historic buildings can be maintained and improved without ripping the guts, heart and life out of them.

2. This can be done in an economical and practical fashion.

3. To do this depend on yourself to learn about your building, recognize your needs and think for yourself.


4. You cannot always depend on those in the building construction and remodeling industry. Their knowledge is based on modern materials and methods that are fundamentally different than those that work best for older buildings. They operate to serve the needs of the product manufacturers and marketers, and not the needs of your fine old home. They are principally motivated by profits and see your fine old place only as one more "sales generation unit."

5. You can more often depend on those in the field of historic preservation. The craftspeople, artisans, contractors and advisers will give your building the respect it deserves, even if it is just plain old and sometimes even when it is not so old.

6. When you cannot depend on anybody, you can learn to do it yourself. You can also deal effectively with your limitations, often by seeking help from family and friends, or others right in your neighborhood.

7. Through our study, research and development these old buildings teach us. These are the lessons that we apply today so the buildings can be used and enjoyed now and by future generations.

8. By documenting our work we can look back to learn from our mistakes and from our good works.

9. Share what we learn with our neighbors, fellow artisans and colleagues, and the public at large. This puts everyone in the better position of knowledge and power. That power enables you to care for yourself, your family and your home. and to use the offerings of the building products industry to your advantage, rather than giving away your advantage to the industry.

10. When cared for effectively your fine old building provides a safe and comfortable place to live and work.


If you 'subscribe' to the Manifesto, click "Post Reply" and tell us why.


Story Form:

During the middle of the twentieth century we, as a society, seem to have forgotten how to care for the fine old buildings where we live and work. Actually, we didn't forget. The building construction and remodeling industry decided it would be more profitable to rip them down and sell us brand new ones; or, to sell us an entire houseful of new plastic windows for $11,000 rather than send over a skilled worker to replace a broken pane of glass for $40.

It is still possible to repair that window, fix up the front porch, or even paint the entire place. How? It is not as simple as writing that $11,000 check, but it can be deeply gratifying and less costly than paying off that $11 grand over the next ten years. It will take planning, patience and perseverance. (Didn't we used to call these desirable personal attributes?)

You can learn to do much of this maintenance yourself. It is even possible to find one of the rare craftspeople with the knowledge and skill needed. Many of them are educated, trained and currently working in the field of historic preservation. What if your house is not historic? Their good works can be applied with effective results to any older building. There are even a few renegades, experienced craftspeople and artisans, who have realized that helping people like you is what they do best. They've been working on old places just like yours for decades, and they learned their best tricks from the old hands who got their start early in the last century, before the profit-crazed manufacturers took over. They know which window putty works best and can run a line of glazing, straight and true; or, show you how to do it yourself, just like the pros. They sniff out the decayed wood inside your walls (or maybe they really do have X-ray vision) and then track down the leak that caused the rot. They can write up a work order, or complete specifications, and connect you with the skilled craftspeople and trustworthy contractors to implement the work.

But, you will have to study, learn, think and make good decisions. Why go through all this, when you could simply stop in at "Home Despot" and write a check? Would you like to knuckle under and agree with your boss that it's a good idea to work overtime all next weekend, to make sure that check is good? Or, would you rather spend Saturday painting the porch, and all day Sunday sitting on that same porch with a cool drink in you hand or maybe read a book, play with the kids, watch the sun set with cool evening breezes?

With some diligence you can maintain the value and character of your home. Your fine old home will return the favor and provide you and your family with a safe and comfortable place to live.

If you 'subscribe' to the Manifesto, click "Post Reply" and tell us why.

John
by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
by mind and heart we share the art



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John

by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought


Last edited by johnleeke on Sat Sep 10, 2016 2:07 pm; edited 12 times in total
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jade



Joined: 11 Feb 2005
Posts: 785
Location: Hawley MA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 8:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

bravo!!!

i met a potential customer to look at a beautiful 10 foot tall round top double hung window last week. the window and it's 11 mates were in the kind of condition that showed they had protected the brick library building for many decades. one in particular required lots of attention.
as we were looking at the window that was in the toughest shape, jane asked for a ballpark figure to repair and restore the window. i thought for a moment and said 'there is an investment to be made if you want to have this window service the building for many more years. you're looking at between $1,400 and $1,600'...then i waited for her face to drop...she said 'that's wonderful, when can you begin?' she showed me proposals for new windows--the prices ranged from $4,000 to $6,000!! she was thrilled that the library and the town would be able to retain two or three old windows for the cost of one new one...

the social fabric of our neighborhoods has been negatively affected by wham bam no maintenance building products....in the 60's my dad would be painting the windows or the siding and before you knew it, other neighbors would join in and help....later in the day one could hear the sounds of a sizzling barbecue and beer bottles being opened and in the background the laughter of neighborhood kids splashing around in the pool...someone would bring a bat and ball and a glove, teams were decided and the softball game would continue til dark....when was the last time you saw that kind of social gathering???

...jade
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
beautiful 10 foot tall round top double hung window...


Jade, may I tell your 'round top window' story when I talk about the Manifesto, and also include it as an example in the Manifesto write up?

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by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 10:21 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
the social fabric of our neighborhoods has been negatively affected by wham bam no maintenance building products....painting the windows...other neighbors would join in helping...sizzling barbecue...when was the last time you saw that kind of social gathering???


The last time was the day before 'they' tricked us into sitting in the house watching television instead of going out to help our neighbors. The day after that the 'tinmen' were knocking on the door selling us aluminium siding that we did not need. And now their partners, the 'vinyl pirates' are using one broken pane of glass like a crowbar to pry thousands of dollars out of our pockets as 'they' sell us a whole houseful of plastic windows we don't need.

I heard a story from a homeowner about the vinyl window pirate and his sales pitch. He picked out a window with a cracked pane. As he made his pitch, point by point, everytime he would rap his knuckles on the good pane of glass next to the broken one. To drive his point home at the end of the pitch he hit the glass so hard that it cracked. She was so startled she didn't know what to say. But, he did: "See? All your old glass is so weak that it breaks. You need all new windows so your children don't get hurt on broken glass."

No wonder the library lady thinks you look like an angel come down with good news !

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by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
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jade



Joined: 11 Feb 2005
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Location: Hawley MA

PostPosted: Wed Dec 20, 2006 7:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

yes john, you may use my real life true story......and her name really is jane!
...jade
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2008 9:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Date: Sun, 2 Nov 2008 14:16:54 -0500
From: Rudy R Christian <rudad@PLANEXUS.COM>
Subject: Re: Post-preservationistic communities...

John Leeke stated:

"If I could understand it all in one big idea..."
Thomas Friedman (New York Times) recently stated, in an article about the
"bailout" that we needed to get back to a nation of people who "made
things".

Simeon Warren (Dean of the American College of the Building Arts couldn't
agree more. In a letter he recently drafted to Friedman (with multiple
signatures including my own) he states:

".. we miss the most fundamental solutions which are already here. There is
a growing movement that understands that we need to be smart and ask the
question "what works and what do we know". I will give you one answer: We
need to build houses of quality that last for hundreds of years and not just
twenty. We need to preserve the buildings we have and conserve the materials
within them. An old wooden window which can be restored is greener than a
new energy efficient window that will need to be thrown away in twenty years
time."

My personal feeling is we have become a desensitized nation of people who no
longer understand value. We buy things instead of make them or barter for
them. We use money that is no longer based on anything of value. We have
become so disconnected from the worlds of "finance" and "governance" that we
don't have the ability to make real judgments of value. Anybody who thinks
we aren't a nation based on "faith" hasn't been paying attention.

Is it really any wonder why communities like PTN and the Timber Framers
Guild are so attractive? They're places where people who still believe in
the value of being able to make things gather and share.

Rudy

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by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Fri Jun 05, 2009 12:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jason posts a fine explanation of how and why he takes care of his home:

http://www.rabbitroom.com/?p=2691

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by hammer and hand great works do stand
by pen and thought best words are wrought
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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 29, 2011 9:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Another reason for taking care of older buildings, JOBS:

http://www.theatlanticcities.com/housing/2011/11/another-reason-stop-building-new-homes-jobs/447/

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by pen and thought best words are wrought
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