Research & Resources,  Tips & HowTo,  Woodwork

Old vs new methods

The 120 year old fixing…

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The twisted wooden peg, a.k.a the ‘dochen’ made from temperate softwood is a wonderfully strong fixing point you will find throughout older houses if you have cause to peel back the layers.

I never knew about them until learning about hempcrete insulation retrofit, and seeing photos was not enough to truly understand what beautifully simple yet ingenious marvels they are. Only after seeing them in person and putting all your weight into trying to pull them out, do you realise just how strong they are & grasp how useful they can be.

They can compress and expand to some extent as needed, retaining a strong fixing point without damaging the surrounding material.

After 120 years, this dochen – which would have been used to attach the original wooden sash windows – is intact and remains strong.

Contrast with this drilled & rawl-plugged fixing hole for the UPVC replacements which is unlikely to be more than 30 years old…

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Something about this modern fixing method has sadly damaged the stone mullion. Most likely, hammer action drilling combined with cold bridging of the metal screw has encouraged condensation, followed by freezing/thawing causing the stone to split.

Sometimes (often) the old methods are truly the best. They came from a time of careful trial and error, observation of cause and effect. People’s livelihoods depended on their reputation and the longevity of their work. These techniques were a form of science in the real world executed by skilled craftspeople and passed on through generations often via an oral tradition of learning.

In contrast, many modern methods seem to be product lead. They are often pushed by myriad forms of marketing and the ingrained notion in our culture that newer must mean better & that forward is always progress. This is accompanied by a short-sighted ‘fix it quick’ approach that can sometimes create reduced longevity and false economies, along with irrevocable damage to expensive materials and limited resources.

Question everything.

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Plus… these things are surprisingly strong when made properly :

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