Construction, House and Acreage Restoration

Dados and Good Old Fashioned Woodworking

A door saved from our demolition.
A door saved from our demolition.

I watched a couple of ordinary documentaries on Hulu the other day. (Hulu free here people-we are building a house, I don’t spend money on television or movies). I have always been fascinated with the French Revolution. In fact, I ended up writing a paper on how the Revolution influenced music coming out of France in grad school for a research assignment in Classical Music History. The more I learned about the Revolution, the more intrigued I became. How did such a powerful monarchy fall? How, when America was going through similar enlightenment, did the US manage to form and get through a war and come out on the other side independent? Why didn’t it seem to work for France the first go-around?

All I can conclude is that the US was blessed to have some pretty damn amazing leaders back then who had foresight and great concern for the ideas brought about by the enlightenment. We were lucky.

So, naturally, I was drawn to a series of documentaries (I think done for the BBC) about Louis XVI, Louis XV and, of course, the sun-king himself, Louis XIV. Louis the XVI was the Louis who married Marie Antonniette and was eventually beheaded after being overthrown by the people of France. The documentary looked at how the Revolution developed thanks, in part, the the ruling and legacy leading back to the sun-king, often known as France’s greatest ruler and king. Louis XIV was the king who “built” Versailles. The speed at which Versailles was built and the level of adornment is unparalleled.

But what I find truly fascinating is the ornate craftsmanship that was accomplished without the use of power. The frames, the furniture, everything in the palace was done by hand by a person with hand tools. It is a skill and a craft that our generation takes for granted. (Albeit a lot of people worked in terrible conditions and died during the construction of Versailles).

What does this have to do with the house? Well, I’m getting there, I promise.


Tyler and I were speaking as he was working on the trusses. You see, the north trusses are attached to a sofet (which has something to do with the gutters and water run-off on the roof), which means these notches (called dados) have to be made into them at precise measurements. Because of the type of saw he had (I think) part of the work of this involved chiseling out pieces of wood to get these dados done with a clean finish and straight line.

Dados before chisel.
Dados before chisel.

It took a decent amount of time, with a small hand tool.

And, yet, craftsmen use to do this stuff all of the time. The roof we just tore off was made this way completely by hand.

Detailed Work.
Detailed Work.

Why have we abandoned so much of this way of life? I can certainly go to Walmart and buy a shelving unit to hold my shoes (I did this exact thing). Or I can head off to a furniture mart and by one of a dozen couches. Great convenience for the masses, but inferior quality and (somewhat) a lack of respect for the everyday art that use to be so commonplace in people’s homes.

Our house will certainly not be the masterpiece that is Versailles, but I’m proud to be on the journey with a craftsman. And to know the value of skilled labor-both monetarily and educationally.

Clean and smooth dado.
Clean and smooth dado.

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