How to Repair Columns That Were Built in 1861.




About: My name is Drew and I like to make things.

Hi, My name is Drew and I work at the UW where some very old columns were sadly allowed to rot. I was the carpenter who did much of the repair and made or designed many of the tools to do the job.

Step 1: Removal

To lift the columns that were rotten at the base I designed a metal frame that when "let" into the rotten base with a chainsaw actually fit under the columns.

Step 2: Lifting the Column

The column was lifted using this heavy metal frame.

Step 3: Wheels

In order to prep and paint the columns I came up with this idea . I could roll the column by myself .

Step 4: Damage

I made a survey of each column to find out how much new wood I would have to mill.

Step 5: Midevil Scraper

To assist the painters in paint removal and to help me shape new staves I had these made. It's nice to have access to a water cutter.

Step 6: Scraper

Because the staves are tapered only the initial hogging out of the wood could be done with the shaper. The rest was done by hand.

Step 7: Old School

Because the staves are tapered I was limited in how much I could use the shaper. So a lot of hand work ensued. I also made a pea-shooter to toe nail the staves together using hot dipped galvies.

Step 8: Really Good Circles

One tricky aspect of this job was creating patterns for the shaper to run against a rub collar to make the concrete form. The form was made of several stacks of poplar rings that had to join exactly atop another with each profile matching the exact duplicated pattern of the original column base and meeting the ring above and below it.

I made the ring by joining 120 pieces of poplar . The length of each piece dictated the approximate size of the ring and the size of the pattern rings dictated the exact finished size of each ring.

The first picture is of the router jig I made to make perfect patterns. I used some channel steel ,MDF and a really nice round chunk of brass for the pivot.

Step 9: Not Bad for a Concrete Form

Since the form would be used 4 times I had to protect it. To try and achieve a nice finish on the concrete I sanded and sanded.................

Step 10: Meet the New Base, Same As the Old Base...but Harder

After the concrete was poured I had to attach the treated wood rings that I would toenail the columns to through an identical ring in each column.

Step 11: Put It Back

To lower the rebuilt and repainted columns over the iron post in their center's I created this padded squeeze harness.

Step 12: Laser Bob

I have no patience .I'm sorry I just don't so the idea of trying to use a plumb bob or a level to line up four landmarks while a crew of workers was watching? No way.
Instead I used a self plumbing laser strapped to the new concrete base at the apex of the point where a string touched all 4 bases and a target fasten to the sweet spot on the column. When the red dot was on the x it was plumb. This worked beautifully .

Step 13: OK Next

All 4 columns back in place.

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    55 Discussions


    Reply 8 years ago on Step 9

    Thanks, Concrete will only be as smooth as the form it hardens in and I had to use this form 4 times without degradation. ...Also we were showing off.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Truly beautiful work! My dad's a hobby carpenter (he just built the desk that I use every day) but the sheer scale and skill of this project is awe inspiring! Initially I was wondering how you were going to keep the building propped up without them then I wondered where the building went . . .finally I came to the sluggish realization that they were free standing. . . ahh the little mental trips one goes through


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    I've heard rumors about a few late-year '62s in the mettalic mint green, but never seen one. I suppose I'll have to keep checking Old Columns Monthly and Antebellum Mopar Buildings Digest.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Great instructable. I didn't think the columns were free standing, i though tey were propping something up. Nice work though. Just one suggestion. Step 5, its medieval not medevil.


    10 years ago on Introduction

    this is an amazing instructable. and they turned out beautifully I hope people notice them every day and say Drew Grey Rocks!!!!


    10 years ago on Introduction

    and the award for most spesific Ible ever is.......drewgrey YAHHHHHHH! still cool that u did this never know what could be handy at some point


    10 years ago on Introduction

    Those columns are made of wood? @_@ Thanks for the warning.


    10 years ago on Step 13

    Another vote for awesome on your efforts and the posting. I enjoyed your use of a laser-plumb, but had done hand woodwork on the shaping of the columns - a good marrying of the ages. Keep up the good work and thanks for sharing.