Lee Valley Tools    Woodworking Newsletter
   Vol. 6, Issue 5
   May 2012
   The Reconstruction of a National Historic Site

Shingle Making
Wooden shingles made from both white pine and red oak were used as the roofing material. Laborers cut logs into 16" lengths for the pine shingles and 8" lengths for the oak shingles. Using a froe, they halved and quartered the pieces. Next they split off pieces to the required thickness parallel to the quarter faces. By splitting in this manner, the tree's growth rings were at right angles to the face of the shingle, which prevented warping across the face. Trimming was done with a hand axe to make edges parallel. Laborers did a preliminary taper to the thickness of one face, followed by finishing the tapering on the shaving horse. One face was smoothed off from the bottom to the top, and the other face was tapered from approximately 4-1/2" from the bottom to the top to become the side positioned outwards towards the weather.

To extend the life of a shingle, a worker used a drawknife to make a 60° cut across the bottom of it to seal the pores of the sawn edge and to allow water and snow to run off the base for a quicker drying time. The shingle makers also noted that shingles split and shaved better if worked from the bottom up as the tree grew.

Port Royal National Historic Site was completed in 1940 and opened to the public in 1941. As part of Parks Canada's national network of heritage areas, Port-Royal National Historic Site preserves the fine work of these 20th century craftspeople.

A special thanks to Warren Peck, who generously lent me his father's valuable account of the 1939 reconstruction. Also, thanks to Parks Canada staff, who enthusiastically answered my endless questions.

Susan Cargill

Susan Cargill has worked with a variety of national and provincial heritage organizations including Parks Canada. She has a keen interest in history, architecture and heritage preservation and regularly researches and writes on these topics.
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