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making my own vintage wainscot

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  • making my own vintage wainscot

    its for my 1924 craftsman style house.
    I already sanded and refinished the fir floors, someone had painted over all the baseboards and casings so I pulled it out to get all the white paint off it.
    I did insulation and soundproof drywall. It was never insulated and the street is loud..

    when I had the walls all apart I could see it originally had a scratch coat of plaster up to eye level and finished plaster above that. from that evidence, I think it likely had fir strip wainscot , so im aiming for that.

    My wood stock is a pile of 100 year old flooring that a friend gave me. it was previously sanded quite a bit and so the thickness was uneven. but originally the typical 3 1/4 x 3/4"

    I started triming some up , to see how it was working out. so I trimmed off the old T and G and cut some from what it was to about 5/8"x 2/3/4'

    I think that old vintage wanscot was likely 3/8"

    I can thickness plane it thinner but turning it from 5/8 into 3/8" seems like just a waste of wood.

    I figured if I get the old shellac off and trim it on my tablesaw first its faster and then if I use my thickness planer it'll be nicer to the blades without the old finish and "hardened shell" on there.


    now Im trying to decide if I should
    - use it as 5/8
    - plane it to 3/8
    - split it to 1/4" and double my yeild.

    It's done it age related shrinkage, vertical grain, knot free , old growth fir. so its pretty stable. Of course all wood has expansion and shrinkage , to some degree.
    I'm near Vancouver and we dont see the heavy humidity in the summer, like in the east. my floors are a similar material and I filled most of the gaps. I just left the ones smaller than a credit card for movement, and that has been ok. it hasnt' heaved or opened a lot. I think in the first 100 years it sort of shrinks a bit then the movement is reduced after it shrinks what it is going to, becomes more stable. it's dry and well acclimatized after being stored 20 years in a dry warehouse.

    I'm pondering the idea of trying to use it as 1/4" x 2 3/4" and then since its quite thin there isnt' really room to cut in a new T and G plus the "vee" that falls on each joint.

    usually there is a bevel ( or a V) at the joints to sort of hide the gaps.

    some of the old styles of wainscott has a curvy profile but since it's craftsman style it should be fairly simple and robust looking. not victorian or art deco.

    I pondered over using a "triple bagette" which is three bumps , I set up my molding head and tried that thinking I could put two bumps on one side and the third on the other so the joint would sort of fall in the valley between two of the three bumps.
    I say bumps. but they would of course be releif cuts.

    I decided that's probably all just too fancy looking.

    I was looking for samples of wainscot from the era , I dont habe a lot of examples but I think was likely quite simple. I once biught some MDF wainscot but of course that needs to be painted. I want to show the wood.

    I dont want to make panels, I want it to be vertical strip stuff and I am going to run it up to eye level with a cap that will also be a shelf, 4" or so.


    If i cut it all to 1/4" thick I could try to do a lap joint or maybe just a butt joint, a bevel ( vee) where they meet and then just glue it to the drywall with some thin nails to hold it.

    I only installed one baseboard so far. Its an inch by 8" and I put a 3/8" strip behind the baseboard so the wainscott wouldnt bury the baseboard. it's 19 feet long so the strip helped me join several pieces into one.

    optionally I guess i could put a MDF backer of 1/8th

    I'm not sure what kind of glue to use PL glue?

    The drywall is nice and flat.

    splitting it gives me double the yeild so ill have enough material if I do that. this old fir is a bit hard to get.

    Am I off track? -to try to use it at 1/4" ? do I really need the T and G? I dont want it to go all wonkey.. but I thought that might do if it's attached to the drywall maybe I can get away with this. then Ill have enough material.

    your thoughts?

    Thanks, Phil
    Last edited by phil; 11-22-2020, 05:51 AM.
    “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -Bertrand Russell
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  • #2

    Re: making my own vintage wainscot

    That's a challenging project, but the payback may be immense.
    Noel

    "Being so impressed with the beauty of nature, I never cease to be amazed at how the
    'touch of the human hand' can transform it into another kind of beauty that is so uniquely human.
    "

    John Snow, Outdoorsman and Retired Teacher

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    • #3

      Re: making my own vintage wainscot

      I have not seen Fir flooring, I would have thought it too prone to splinters. I would worry that splitting it may release tension and ruin a lot. It must be very hard on tooling?

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      • #4

        Re: making my own vintage wainscot

        Just try re-sawing a couple of pieces and see what happens. I have some old growth fir and the grain is very tight, so you may see little distortion.

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        • #5

          Re: making my own vintage wainscot

          Originally posted by iamtooler View Post
          I have not seen Fir flooring, I would have thought it too prone to splinters. I would worry that splitting it may release tension and ruin a lot. It must be very hard on tooling?
          Probably more common in. the west. I have seen fir flooring offered at Windsor Plywood over the years.

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          • #6

            Re: making my own vintage wainscot

            Personally, I’d go the route of 1/4” thickness. It’s purely visual, so the extra 1/8th isn’t going to make any difference. That old growth fir is really nice material to use. I had a bunch of VERY old stuff left over from a boat project, and it was dead stable.

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            • #7

              Re: making my own vintage wainscot

              It's not really harder to work with than new wood. it'll split if you use big nails and don't pre drill. It can dent if i drop a can of soup. not as hard as oak.

              fir blackens near old nails. - a reaction between iron and the tannins in the wood.

              My planks are all 8-15 feet. it can be 20 foot. New fir flooring is usually shorter bits. Not as tight grained

              here, 150 years ago it was dense forests. they hadn't even had the invention of the wheel for that long prior. Indiginous didnt have it and lived without much destruction of their environment. technology brought inevatable change. I don't blame any single person. some is still found and its available but pricey. my whole house is fir so i usually use recycled to get old growth stuff

              if you cut it it darkens over the next few years as UV darkens it near the surface .
              i use danish oil and turpentine that helps hold splinters and pops the grain.

              They used the best. tall huge trees that grew with natural competition have very tight growth rings. they burned the knotty stuff. didnt pack the junk to the mill. Used the best part of the trunk. Used work horses to drag it out of the bush. Used water to transport.
              stumps were often cut not near the ground. values were different then.

              rail increased exports of fir once it came.

              it's not really a renewable resource. clear cuts can't reproduce competition for light.

              blades hate paint, dirt and nails of couese. Pitch isn't so bad. like pine. No match for carbide.

              I'm thinking if I just cut one edge like this '' \ '' and the other edge like '' < ''

              then I will have a " V '' at each joint and that might help hide the small amounts of shift.

              If i join a baseboard I do it like '' // '' not '' ll '' (as viewed from the top edge), more surface for glue and helps hide the joint. One side gets locked in. so a bit like that.

              it might be called a scarf joint. very simple variation. if the gap opens it doesn't form a visible gap but the V might change slightly.


              I'd glue it to the painted wall. I wouldn't try to actually glue the joints.

              I appreciate any suggestions.

              I'll try to run a sample for a picture.

              Phil

              Last edited by phil; 11-22-2020, 04:37 PM.
              “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -Bertrand Russell

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              • #8

                Re: making my own vintage wainscot

                All the farm houses around me were panelled with BC Fir, it cost 46$ per thousand back in the day apparently. It is near impossible to remove without splintering the panelling . It is about 1/2" thick and 2 or 3'' wide. It was most often varnished.

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                • #9

                  Re: making my own vintage wainscot

                  Ok hers a quick sample
                  I can get it a bit thicker I think I can split it on the bandsaw but I just used my tablesaw for this nothing else.

                  the joint is simply a 45 degree bevel cut on one side then the fence moved in a tad and then the second side is flipped to make the pointy side

                  in samples it didn’t even seem to mess things up if one was a bit thicker, they still mate up , the thicker one just stands out a bit prouder.

                  I cant decide if should have another groove
                  Down the middle ?

                  I started into this imagining it being more difficult and complex but maybe this simple pattern would reflect what I imagine was original to 1924 craftsman style house

                  nothing sanded or finished in the pic it’s just the underside of the old flooring boards that you see but it gave some contrast for a picture

                  the one at the left I flipped just so you can see the grain, it’ll all look like that

                  I guess I’m could cut the joint on my jointer it would cut a bit smoother but maybe it’s easier just on the tablesaw since I can reference to the fence

                  i dont know if i should even bother using the jointer or thickness planer for this


                  Phil

                  Attached Files
                  “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -Bertrand Russell

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                  • #10

                    Re: making my own vintage wainscot

                    I think I'd do a true tongue in groove.

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                    • #11

                      Re: making my own vintage wainscot

                      The T and G wouldn't be any harder. I could cut that on the tablesaw too, but then my wood would go half as far.
                      I was wondering if they would go too twisty but it seems like it will actually cooperate and you can't see the thickness at all when it's all installed. the bottom edge sits on the baseboard and Ill have a cap that forms a 4" ledge at the top of it.

                      If I went full thickness then when it butts against the window casings it will sort of mostly bury the outside edge. It will go halfway up the window, to eye level. If I stuck a 1/2" spacer behind the window casing, it would look funny above the casing as they would then protrude 1 1/4" from the wall.

                      I'd need thicker spacers behind the baseboards so they didn't get buried with the wainscott, Since they are mostly still off, that's still possible.

                      I'll have to face nail it a bit, and putty them, unless I can depend on only glue to attach it to the painted wall. if it were T and G I'd put nails in like flooring is done.

                      Phil

                      Last edited by phil; 11-25-2020, 11:45 AM.
                      “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -Bertrand Russell

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                      • #12

                        Re: making my own vintage wainscot

                        I suspect I would not like to see the wainscoting sitting on top of the baseboard. It seems to me that eye level is not normal either.

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                        • #13

                          Re: making my own vintage wainscot

                          here are a few pics showing the progress of the room. the one showing flooring is yellowed because of my work light.
                          once the flooring was finished and allowed to darken it darkened up nicely.

                          You can see where it still had plaster , the scratch coat went up to about halfway up the window.

                          near the windows, they had curved the plaster and I had to work to replicate those curves. Im trying to figure out how my wainscott should be on the curved portions, maybe I need to make some curved stuff. Click image for larger version

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                          “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -Bertrand Russell

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                          • #14

                            Re: making my own vintage wainscot

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                            Last edited by phil; 11-25-2020, 12:27 PM.
                            “The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time.” -Bertrand Russell

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                            • #15

                              Re: making my own vintage wainscot

                              Originally posted by phil View Post
                              The T and G wouldn't be any harder. I could cut that on the tablesaw too, but then my wood would go half as far.
                              I was wondering if they would go too twisty but it seems like it will actually cooperate and you can't see the thickness at all when it's all installed. the bottom edge sits on the baseboard and Ill have a cap that forms a 4" ledge at the top of it.

                              If I went full thickness then when it butts against the window casings it will sort of mostly bury the outside edge. It will go halfway up the window, to eye level. If I stuck a 1/2" spacer behind the window casing, it would look funny above the casing as they would then protrude 1 1/4" from the wall.

                              I'd need thicker spacers behind the baseboards so they didn't get buried with the wainscott, Since they are mostly still off, that's still possible.

                              I'll have to face nail it a bit, and putty them, unless I can depend on only glue to attach it to the painted wall. if it were T and G I'd put nails in like flooring is done.

                              Phil
                              I don't see how you'd lose more than maybe 1/2" by doing T&G. And can you better describe where you are putting this? Half way up the window at eye level does not sound like any wainscotting I have ever seen. Usually it would be maybe 1/3rd the way up the wall.

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