Saturday, 22 May 2010

The Graineterie Steps

The steps up from our entry hall to the graineterie are really old. Even if they didn't have interesting hardware attached, the rickettiness (is that a word?) would give it away.

The steps in question, soon after
we first looked at the house
Yesterday we had a good long play with the steps, and in the process discovered quite a bit about them. The joints where the steps are attached to the stringer are of a pattern I have never seen before - a lozenge shaped wedged mortice. It is obvious that they steps were made by a real artist - I can't imagine that this sort of join is terribly easy.

A wedged mortice. Look how worn the treads are
The ironwork is also interesting: the steps are made to be removed to allow access to the vide sanitaire, so the steps have a pair of hooks at the top that fit into a corresponding pair of rings fixed to the final floor joist of the graineterie. All the ironwork is artisan made - the rings and hooks are forge welded, probably by the same blacksmith that used to shoe the horses that were kept in the stables (now Célestine's garage).

The handmade hooks:

that fit into the forge welded rings
We really like the steps, for all their faults; yes, they are dangerously worn, and they are not terribly aesthetic but they have real character. We will eventually have new steps made, but we will find a place for the old steps to live out their remaining years without big blokes trampling up and down them.

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If you're on your way to this part France next week, you're in luck - the weather is expected to be really warm - highs in the high 20's (28° on Monday), lows around the 10°-12° mark. We suspect that winter is finally over, but we are keeping some wood in the house just in case.

Simon

5 comments:

John said...

The joint is interesting to see. Pleased that you intend to keep these steps. I think you will find that the 'horizontal' mortice hole edges are aligned with the treads and the edges of the housing (groove) cut into the inside of the sides of the steps. There is a good practical reason for doing it this way as it limits the amount of chiselling across the grain that has to be done to make the mortice hole. So it saves effort and looks good.
The tenon is wedged to keep the two sides of the steps firmly together just as the rungs of a traditional wooden ladder would have been wedged to hold them securely to the side members of the ladder.
I have seen this detail in old joinery manuals. Joinery details have a great deal in common across the whole of europe and the world for that matter.

John

Tim said...

Your steps are a superb bit of woodwork and engineering. The O-rings look very interesting and still strong.... I take it that the joist has decayed around the metal?
When you get a new set made try Polo at Totem in Yzeures... he'd probably be able to duplicate the set [but without the wear!] Pauline et moi are very pleased with the set of doors he made for the back of the Laiterie... using ash.
His hobby is renovating the flat bottom boats used on the rivers in our area.
Next time you drive past La Forge you will see that he has now moved the two sets of big barn doors around and is making all our shutters lockable from the outside next week.
As for the old steps, we are bringing over an old set of steps that belonged to Pauline's Dad and are going to use them as a potted plant stand... these steps would look great outside [with some wood preserver soaked in] at yours with some trailing plants drifting down.
Just a thought!?

Susan said...

Tim: Good thought. I am wanting some staging for ferns and auriculas in the window niche of the coin d'apéro.

The joist hadn't decayed, but we have modified the position of the steps slightly. The original position meant that the steps encroached on the doorway of what will be the pantry, now they sit more naturally, slightly inset into the graineterie.

Food, Fun and Life in the Charente said...

The steps will make a beautiful feature. We have an old door, very small, that we want to use somewhere but we are still waiting for inspiration to strike. Re the weather my weather forcast says severe storms tonight and hail!!! Sunday 27th. Diane

Carl Patten said...

The handmade ironworks are amazing. These are really interesting steel works, and they should be preserved! I mean, how many of these still exist today? :)