Building new windows
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firebrick43



Joined: 08 Sep 2011
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:03 pm    Post subject: Building new windows Reply with quote

Hello everyone,

I have a newer house (10 years old) with vinyl clad andersons and suprise, their junk. They are rotting out and hard to open due to the stiff jambs but they are tight? The more I looked at factory built windows made in the last 30 years the less I liked. Even hight quality wood windows or fiberglass windows have a lot of plastic hardware to break and will it be available in several years. I live in west central indiana on the prarie so wind (largest wind farm in the US is just a few miles north) must be kept out for a comfortable winter, dont want to have to buy a larger stove and chop that much more wood to heat the house.

Also many wood windows are very expensive if you want them to have hardwood interiors and yet they main frame is still laminated pine?

Growing up in a house built in 1893 (lived in it from 88 to 98) and still have good working windows I know that good wood windows can outlast me. I am a Craftsman/arts and crafts fan so I would like to build some windows for my house with wood framed storms to insure drafts to stay to a minumum.

I have taken up fine wood working with hand tools and have done quite a bit of mill work. I have a sargent 1080( equivlent to a stanley 45) so I feel I can recreate sash moldings and cut drip edges, dados, and such. I can hand cut fine gap free dovetails and mortise and tennon joints buy hand as well. I typically don't work to measurements but story sticks and know the techniques to build casework to fit as perfect measurements in wood work can drive a man crazy.

The several books I have previewed on wood windows are all about restoring them. Are there any good ones about actual construction of wood windows.

Is there any low maintence/durable options out there instead of sash weight pulleys so I can maintain a tight envelope as my house was designed for such(unlike older houses).

I would really like casement windows but cant figure out how to get a storm with stays and screen all to be installed / work like a double hung window is.

As far as wood goes, white oak is available at the local sawmill and I can log and have cut osage orange and black locust which especially the osage orange fence post can last 60 Plus years in our wet clay soils. Has any used these woods before?

What do people think of presoaking sash, sill, and frame in epoxy like they do some modern wood boats now? If you fill the pores with epoxy nothing can move in and out?

Thanks for the advise
Jay

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rncx



Joined: 21 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2011 2:30 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

if you're going to use white oak, there's no need to worry with sealing the wood with anything like that. white oak is naturally moisture proof. the outsides will still need painted to protect it from the sun, but that's it really.

both john and myself have posted step by steps of building sashes on this forum, if you search you should turn them up.

i don't use hand tools, i use a table saw/router table, for what it's worth.

from building them from scratch, here's my thoughts....

a) if you use machines, you can use bridle joints and glue the joints, since we have modern epoxies/wood glues that can easily survive moisture for decades. that wasn't the case in centuries past so they relied on mechanical joints. titebond 3 at minimum, a polyurethane glue such as gorilla glue or PL adhesive, better. the reason this works for machines is you can get the joints repeatable and accurate within a couple of thousandths pretty simply with machines. so the glue lines will fit perfectly and should hold up indefinitely. i also like the clean look of glued joint lines. they make for better 'stain grade' insides.

b) with hand tools, i would haunch the tenons and use proper mortises rather than open bridles on the ends. you could wedge/pin them and they'll last forever, basically, without any need for glue.

we have debated the merits of modern wood glues at length around here so you can read those threads too, but i think it comes down to personal preference on your tooling, personally. fitting bridle joints together with machine cut joinery is easier (assuming you don't have a tenoner), fitting proper mortises with haunched tenons is just as easy with hand cut joinery.

whichever method you go with, the things that apply to both methods...

1) the rail tenons should not stop short of the edge, have them go all the way through. that way when/if moisture does intrude into the joints, it can get out through that end grain.

2) generally you want quarter sawn rails/stiles, and flat sawn muntins. you will find that certain grain orientations tend to tear and split. this is more of an issue with shaper/router cut profiles. muntin mortises do not need to go all the way through, although they can on the non-water exposed joints if you prefer the look and plan to stain the insides.

it's a bit tedious building one-off windows. using machines, there are 12 cuts per muntin. one for each cope, one for each stick, one for each side of the glass rabbet, one for each edge of the tenon on both ends, one to get the length to match on the back on each end. and, of course, the more muntins you have, the more you are compounding the time required to cut the parts. doing the parts by hand, this will exponentially increase the time required to build each sash. doing it with machines, not so much, since you can mass produce parts.

either way, start with some home depot 2xs first, there are a lot of 'gotchas' which must be done in a certain order to avoid problems with the fit that are too many to list. you have to do it to figure them out, really.

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squarehead



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

You can make casements that meet your requirements. It's just that you will need to do as the modern makers do and use 1/ crank hardware 2/ hardware cover with screen rabbet and 3/ profiled cam locks.

Make a better Andersen. Better wood, better joinery.

I cannot share the enthusiasm for glued joints. Maybe after the new products have performed in the wild for a few more decades I will change my mind.

For hand work, look to reprints of old British joinery books.

For machine work, I have not yet seen a good review. The reason for this I believe is that there is no longer a standardized process at any level. A hundred years ago, the process was somewhat standardized by the machinery manufactured for sash and door plants.

A small modern maker has to figure how to work using tooling and joinery gadgets not used traditionally. So most guys wind up re inventing or customizing their method to suit themselves. Consequently, there is no system we all agree upon.

In my case, I have reverted to the past and use period machinery and techniques. I did not start that way. I started with shaper cutters and upside down router bits, suicide long reach shaper cutters custom made, hand ground router bits to cope -- all kinds of silly stuff. At least silly once I found the machinery that had made what I was trying to reproduce in the first place.

Bridle joints are a hinge. They developed with the more powerful single and double end tenoners with Direct Motor Drive, electric, arbors which make slotting a breeze. And, the labor saving drive to get rid of two steps and a work station, the hauncher/relisher. The competitive edge went to these products in an increasing national market. Marvin is still a bridle joint.

Dowel jointed doors were also an innovation of changing machinery, mostly multiple gang borers and full stile borers. With the savings in wood, the edge went this way and the wedged through morticed door was history.

So to make windows a today, I urge people to consider returning to details and techniques used at the turn of the previous century. Things were pretty well worked out by then as many of use have the testament to the system in our homes today. It was at that time that we came closest to having a national standard. Something to teach and learn. DIY was still decades away.

Some review of traditional sash making can be seen at my blog: http://awwm.wordpress.com
In the Proper Title Form entries. The CAPS are for machine geeks.

There is an episode of the Wood Wright featuring a New York state shop that is informative. And the host doesn't quite stick his fingers in the machinery.

D Square
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SashGuy



Joined: 10 Sep 2010
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 08, 2011 9:49 pm    Post subject: Building new windows Reply with quote

Squarehead, I always wondered what heaven looked like... Thanks for the tour.

Jay, Here's a decent primer;
http://www.woodmagazine.com/woodworking-plans/home/window-sash-set
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rncx



Joined: 21 Jun 2008
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 10, 2011 7:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i should have said "it's a bit tedious building one-off windows with modern multipurpose tools".

if you have a shop full of cool old specialized tools like squarehead does you can churn them out all day ;).

http://flash.unctv.org/woodwrightss/wws_2612.html

the above is the woodwright episode in question.

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rncx



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

in regard to this topic, some further details regarding modern machines versus old machines, and the gotchas with sash making.

here are the basic flaws as i see it with modern multipurpose machines and how they relate to making sash...

a) accurate mortises
b) haunching tenons without a tenoner

the problem of mortising hyper accurate holes exists because modern mortisers, particularly the smallish DIY type home shop mortisers or mortising attachments for drill presses, simply aren't capable of the level of accuracy required to get the length of the hole correct and repeatable.

in the old days they used chainsaw type mortisers more than chisel type mortisers. a video...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNIy3bT_yOs

if you consider that type of mortiser, the length of the mortise is set by the width of the cutting mechanism. with a chisel mortiser you slide the board or the table back and forth to arrive at a proper length. but with a chisel mortiser there's always some sort of visual alignment to figure out where to start, at least, if not where to stop (some machines have adequate stops with sliding tables to get the length correct, but setup is still tedious).

the other issue, haunching tenons, is simply not easily accomplished with any sort of modern multipurpose tool. you have the cope, and in most cases have used the cope cutter on your shaper to cut the tenon itself, in combination with a table saw. ok fine, but haunching the top and bottom edges, how? the same table saw can't do it while leaving the cope intact. there are router jigs (such as the leigh FMT) which do make hyper accurate mortises, but they aren't designed to mortise around a cope, so would haunch the tenon and give you a perfectly fitting mortise, but they would destroy the cope as well.

for this reason, with multipurpose machines and off-the-shelf tooling, you arrive at the solution of bridle joints. i don't doubt that's why marvin arrived at the same solution.

you can cut the copes and what's left is the tenon. you can cut the open side of the joint with a dado blade. what modern mortisers and/or router jigs lack in the ability to properly size mortises, a table saw does not. you can repeat the same open side of a bridle on a table saw all day long and every one will be perfect.

for me, in a home shop with limited space and limited budget (don't have room for a tenoner and they are prohibitively expensive), reducing sash making to a system of table saw cuts was the most feasible way to go. it's the most accurate and repeatable tool that most folks have.

all of these observations stem from the first thing you'll notice when you try to build a door or window sash...that thing being that pencil marks and rulers/tape measures aren't good enough. your joints need to be accurate within thousandths, not sixteenths. you can accomplish a solution to that in varying ways, but the fact remains that you must accomplish the solution somehow.

http://www.historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2079

the pics in the above thread are an example of what i'm talking about with bridle joints. those sashes were built the way i build mine, i'm guessing by the age they were ordered from a local cabinet shop or some such as a custom job in the 40s/50s.

and fwiw, i don't question the joinery methods of the modern sash manufacturers as much as the glazing methods. lots of joinery methods will work for a very long time. the reason modern manufactured wooden sash fail so much is modern glazing methods (vinyl/aluminum cladding, glazing with wooden strips like a door, etc).

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Hannah



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is quite a bit off the posted topic here, but...

Just when I think I have a passing knowledge of something like windows and doors, I am humbled to look at those with greater skills and experience. I've been looking at the information, pictures, and links in this thread and all I can say is...wow. (I'd never even heard of a tenoner.) I wish now even more fervently than I have for the last few years that I had learned a skill like this rather than getting a liberal arts degree. It would take several lifetimes to fully appreciate and grasp all the knowledge held by this forum's members.

It also warms my heart that there are still people out there who possess the critical thinking skills to look at something like a vinyl window and differentiate what is SAID about it from what it actually IS--a piece of (generally flimsy) plastic.

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rncx



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PostPosted: Tue Sep 27, 2011 10:32 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

honestly, it's not rocket science. there are lots of little details that go into building a window sash, but you can't help but learn them all as you go.

as squarehead said, you look at the tools you have, and look at where you have to get to, and you figure it out. generally, there's only one way depending on those tools that you have, and you'll stumble across it eventually.

if you care to learn how, keep an eye on craigslist for a good table saw (old delta unisaws and powermatic 66s are always for sale somewhere nearby, and as long as the motor and bearings are ok there's nothing else to break on them, they last forever).

you could actually build an entire sash with a table saw. it wouldn't be as pretty as a sash with cope/stick joints (the rounded profiles) but it can be done.

i didn't know anything about building windows ~5 years ago. i just got a table saw and a router table and figured it out.

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Hannah



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PostPosted: Wed Sep 28, 2011 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, yes, I agree, rncx. Doing it is the best way to learn it. My 1940s house has bridle joints in the sashes, so the haunched cope & stick joints outlined here don't even apply to my project. I'm a proud member of the scavenger class of society, so I certainly know about making do with the tools one has.

But I was thinking that there is a certain dignity, in my mind almost a sort of sacredness, to what squarehead is doing. You look around this world and realize there are crafts that were practiced for hundreds (in some cases, thousands) of years through human history that are becoming lost in just a few generations. You don't see a lot of wheelwrights or coopers or cobblers these days, although wheels and barrels and shoes are still made. It's all done with computerized machines now. People know how to run these machines, but would they still know how to produce these goods if the computers failed? I think in most cases, not. Or maybe I've just got a soft spot for old tools and too little trust in computers. :)

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rncx



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PostPosted: Thu Sep 29, 2011 8:46 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

i agree, don't get me wrong, i'm not criticizing him. just sharing what i've figured out from trial/error/observation. i don't disagree with the assumption that the old way was better, but i don't really see the newer way of using bridles and glue joints as a compromise, but rather just the opposite. when i figured out how to build mine and arrived at that solution it wasn't an attempt to make the least quality possible, it was the best way to make flawless looking joints.

as a tool junkie i am entirely envious of his shop full of those old machines, actually ;).

and yeah, if you look at the history of the tool manufacturers, you'll find that they started to gradually disappear and close down and go bankrupt and what not during the late 20s, 30s, etc. so i have also noticed that in the 40s on up, you started to see the bridle joints in lieu of the old style proper mortises.

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squarehead



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PostPosted: Fri Sep 30, 2011 11:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

It is fun to make things. I always wanted to make shoes but settle for millwork.

But back to the garage shop. A small hollow chisel mortiser and tenoner can fit in a garage. The mortisers would be the Wallace, the Union (Gallmeyer and Livingston), the Monarch (American Sawmill Machine), possibly smaller Crescent, Parks and others I am sure. these are "light" mortisers fine for sash. Foot pedal operated. These are the fair price machines.

In the tenoner, the Harris Bench tenoner, later Milbury. Tons were made. They are fussy but adequate. Don't take much space. Adequate for sash and cup board doors only. They are not generally very costly.

As for the haunch and relish, a hand saw and a drill are all that is needed.

The reason I chose not to produce the bridle joint sash was seeing all the failed sash brought into the shop. After seeing many failed sash, patterns emerge.

It also deeply struck me the genius of press and pinned as opposed to glue. Repair is easy.

Now I know there are those who say just warm the glue and all pulls apart. But I don't think that is true of the new glues as it was with hide glues. Sash are not furniture.

At any rate, like I said up thread, it was the larger cope spindles and double end machines that made the bridal joint ubiquitous. And that was simply a cost saving advance.

D Square
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rncx



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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 3:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

you're right, new glues do not turn loose like hide glues do. and they do not stick to themselves either, in the case of PVA glues (white/yellow modern wood glues, basically). they only stick during their open time, after that they are permanent, either permanent in the bond or permanently failed in doing so.

but the fact remains, they build boats by gluing boards together. they build tables by gluing boards together. they build chairs by gluing boards together. we've all seen examples of antique furniture where the glue joints are going along fine after 100+ years, and boats which are holding up fine after 50+ years.

gluing boards together is as old as the idea of furniture itself. after all, there aren't many 4 foot wide trees left (and even if there were, you can't put the pith in a table top).

true, sash are not furniture, but they are wooden things assembled from smaller pieces than the whole. i don't see how the fact that they are not furniture disqualifies them from having the principles of other types of wooden construction apply to them.

a glued joint properly cut to fit leaves no perceptible joint lines. other than the differing grain orientation, the boards appear seamless, and the resulting joint is stronger than the boards that comprise it.

i don't see how that's a bad thing.

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johnleeke
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 01, 2011 7:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Quote:
a glued joint properly cut to fit leaves no perceptible joint lines. other than the differing grain orientation, the boards appear seamless, and the resulting joint is stronger than the boards that comprise it.

i don't see how that's a bad thing.


In itself, a glued joint is not a bad thing, especially in furniture that is kept indoors and not subject to wide swings in moisture content.

There is much more to sash making than the immediate result of seam appearance. Effective performance over the long-term is more important, and repair-ability is a key requirement.

An advance warning: the following idea will seem like upside down crazy thinking, but it is not. With sash you actually don't want a joint that is stronger than the parts that are joined. Exactly the opposite is required: a joint that is weaker than the parts. If there is a failure it should be at the joint so that most of the part remains intact and can be saved by repairing, which is more easily done at the ends of the parts.

Window sash joints are subject to a lot of stress, both physical stress from operating the sash, and movement stress from moisture content. The stress from moisture changes is dramatic because they are subject to exterior AND interior environments at the same time.

A pinned mortise & tenon joint is designed to allow for movement from physical stress on the parts and expansion and shrinkage within the joint due to changes in moisture. It is pinned very close to the interior of the joint where the putty is located to keep that part of the joint stable and reduce the stress on the putty and glass, so most of the movement will be at the outer parts of the joint. This also tends to hold the exterior weathering joint closed better.

If a sash joint is glued then the movement of expanding and shrinking wood is distributed across the entire width of the stile and rail. The stile and rail are expanding and shrinking at right angles to each other, essentially doubling the stress on the glued joint.

I too have seen many glued saddle joints made during the last half of the 20th century that have failed due to this expanding and shrinking. The exterior weathering joint opens up, allowing water into the joint. The glue in the joint traps it there, the moisture builds up and fungal decay consumes the wood.

Now, of course, a glued saddle joint could be made to avoid many of these failure modes. But it is not what is done in the corporate factories. This is because their purpose is to make money, by making a product. Their product has glued saddle joints that appear seamless. That's because the appearance is the only thing that is important. The product has to look good enough to sell, but it does not have to be good enough to last a long time. It only has to last long enough for the corporation to get the money. This is why their windows last only a few years or decades. They are really only fake windows because they will not last.

In our own work, whether we are do-it-yourselfers or professionals, we can make real windows--windows that will last for many decades, even centuries. One of the proven ways to do that is with pinned mortise & tenon joints. This is the traditional approach. Of course, every one of the traditional methods were new at one time, and some of the innovators among us may develop a glued saddle joint that will last and become a tradition.

It does not take a shop full of big cast iron machinery to make windows, although it is nice to have them and use them when you can.

Windows can be made with just a handful of hand tools. A simple table saw can be useful, but I know a window maker, Amy McCauley in Portland, Oregon, who earns her living making and repairing windows entirely by hand, no power tools at all!

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rncx



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PostPosted: Sun Oct 02, 2011 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

another factor in that, that we haven't discussed, is lumber species and quality.

i agree with your points about expansion and contraction, actually. so part of the design of mine was to use lumber that simply doesn't move all that much. having access to new orleans lumber yards means i can get high grade old growth cypress, which, per % change in moisture content, simply doesn't move all that much. movement between summer and winter on a 3' x 4' sash in my house is less than 1/8, closer to 1/16. joint movement, measured by how far off of flat the joints in question are since the sashes were built and between seasons, is probably close to 1/128 and pretty consistent at this point after ~5 years, my oldest example to go by.

all of my stock starts as a 16 foot long 2x12, clear of knots. such trees are not youngsters.

there was a FPL chart on this but i can't find it, i stumbled across this one from google...

http://workshoppages.com/WS/Articles/Wood-Movement-Charts.pdf

(the chart i remember is probably in this somewhere http://www.fpl.fs.fed.us/products/publications/several_pubs.php?grouping_id=100&header_id=p ...)

white pine moves nearly twice as much as cypress, for example. you'll see the same thing with low quality new growth pines that the window manufacturers use.

and it's obvious why mahogany is considered 'premium' for our purposes. it moves less than better suited softwoods do in addition to its hardness and durability.

and it should be noted that this is not the sole determining factor when choosing lumber. the chart lists black walnut as a low movement per % in moisture change species as well, but black walnut cannot be used outdoors due to its grain structure promoting rot.

anyways, i guess the point is design of a wooden structure has many elements. joinery methods are only part of that. species, environment, finish, and stress are all factors that add up to make these decisions.

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hdrider_chgo



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PostPosted: Mon Oct 03, 2011 10:37 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

rncx wrote:


http://www.historichomeworks.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=2079

the pics in the above thread are an example of what i'm talking about with bridle joints. those sashes were built the way i build mine, i'm guessing by the age they were ordered from a local cabinet shop or some such as a custom job in the 40s/50s.



A bit late to the thread, but since you referred to my pics, I have to correct one thing.

The bridle joint shown above was used at the meeting rail in Chicago all the way back to the 1800's. (Most of the existing city was built after the great fire of 1871.) I've seen thousands of sash, all over the city, in all types of buildings here from 1800's to WWII, and they were all done exactly the same way. A bridle joint at the meeting rails on both the upper and lower sash, and mortise and tenon joints at the top rail of the upper sash and the bottom rail of the lower sash.

Why? If you are doing mortise and tenon on the bottom and top rails, why not do it on the meeting rail as well? I puzzled over it for a long time, but the answer is obvious. The meeting rails on windows here are narrow. I guess it looks better that way. Sometimes they are as narrow as 1 inch. Well if you do a mortise and tenon, on something that narrow there isn't much of a tenon left. You'd end up with maybe 1/2" at most. The bridle joint gives you the full width of the rail to lock together.

The second reason is that the meeting rails here are done with inverse wedge shapes to help bring them tightly together and seal out the weather. That wedge shape on the meeting rail carries over the stile all the way to the parting stop. Not sure how you would accomplish that with a mortise and tenon at the meeting rail.

Sorry I don't have a pic handy if you are having trouble visualizing this. But it's quite simple really. You can see a bit of it in the pics referenced above.
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