Renovations are a vital part of the routine at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Va., estate, which is open to the public 365 days a year. Recently, Steve Ritter’s company, Cedar Shakes and Shingles, was called upon to install decorative red cedar shingles on the bell-shaped roof of a reproduction outbuilding (1). Built into the corner of a garden wall, the original ornate, octagonal structure had apparently served as a seed shed.
The crew had to steam-bend the shingles to conform to the roof’s constantly changing curvature. Shingles were placed — 10 at a time — in a vertical rack inside a homemade steam box (2), where they were “cooked.” Then each shingle was laid across a simple bending rack (3) and weighted; PVC pipe served as a bending form (4). When needed, barbell...
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