Should you be attracted to the textured timber look, part of the current craze for weathered barn wood, you need to get on board with burnt wood. A century and more ago, the Arts & Crafts movement reinvented this ancient method for highlighting the natural beauty of wood. With an appeal both chic and sustainable, the concept is back again.
Treating wood with fire has a timeless history for enhancing performance or appearance. Early on, primitive peoples learned to heat wood spear and arrow tips to harden their points. In construction, the surfaces of boards or pilings have long been charred to incineration to impart insect and weather resistance, dimensional stability—and, ironically, even fire retardance—all without resorting to chemicals.
On the decorative side, accentuating the grain in wood paneling and siding goes just as far back. Of course, there’s pyrography—using wood-burning tools to brand in attractive designs and images. But removing the soft springwood to reveal and bring up the natural patterns of the harder summerwood cell structure produces a different aesthetic, by use of different methods. It can be as simple as wetting down the springwood to raise and soften it, then abrading away the cells by scrubbing with sand or minerals like emery. Skillfully scorching the wood with fire, however, dramatically enhances the process and has added benefits.
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Five handy, high-quality devices make carpentry jobs go smoothly.
Glasgow School in the Bathroom
A tutorial in bracing color and geometric, stylized forms.
STUFF MY M-I-L SCREWED UP
My mother-in-law is an active 83-year-old who still lives in her own home of many years. When we last visited, we were horrified to discover that she has hung a collection of disused and out-of season clothing on Romex electrical cable, which runs through the joists under the basement ceiling. Now we’re worried about other safety issues down there, too. —Anthony (and Julia) Wisniewski
MATCHING INTERIOR MILLWORK
If one lacks professional expertise, installing crown moulding, replacing missing bits of casing or trim around windows, and retrofitting lost baseboards may be an exercise in frustration. Especially when nothing in an old house is square! First learn about the role of trimwork, building up profiles, turning corners with mitered and coped joints, and what tools to use where.
The Tradition of Burnt Wood
An ancient Japanese method for finishing woodwork was adapted by bungalow builders, and it’s back in style.
“Turning the corner” is easily the most challenging part of any moulding installation or repair. It helps if you aced geometry in high school. For all others, learn to use a miter box, preferably one with a clamp. More experienced? Upgrade to a compound miter saw.
ARTS & CRAFTS DO-OVER
With generous living space yet a focus on the outdoors, an undistinguished cottage is rebuilt in the Craftsman tradition.
Salvaged icebox hinges make new cabinets look like vintage equipment.
ASK OLD HOUSE JOURNAL
ASK OLD HOUSE JOURNAL
A House unbungled
A couple embarks on the restoration of a diminutive house, aiming to reverse a mid-century Colonial style remodeling. Replacing one wall with a period colonnade lets light flow front to back.
A Healthy Berry Very Easily Turns Decadent
Austin, Reluctant Boomtown
Residents fear that the wave of tech workers arriving will turn the city into San Francisco
PEERING INTO THE FUTURE OF RETREATS
Retreat centers are ready to invite guests back onto their properties, but what that means may be vastly different in 2021 and beyond, even after the pandemic is under control.
5 PREDICTIONS FOR THE FUTURE OF RETREATS
The rustic, historic property once offered hot mineral soaks in private rooms with big clawfoot tubs and one of the best and largest wood-burning saunas in the States. Days frolicking between the steaming hot mineral baths, a cold creek, and the sauna—and nights spent without phone or wifi in a simple cabin in the woods. Hot tea, a warm fire, and a cool stack of magazines: My kind of bliss.
How to Adapt ZOOMING INTO THE FUTURE
In 2020, Zoom transformed from a business tool into a lifeline. How did the company keep up? Simple, says founder and CEO Eric Yuan: It focused on fundamentals.
Scott Wiener Is California's ‘YIMBY' State Senator
IN NOVEMBER, VOTERS in San Francisco reelected California Sen. Scott Wiener, a Democrat, over his opponent, democratic socialist Jackie Fielder.
CALIFORNIA COULD GET $150B FROM FEDERAL VIRUS RELIEF BILL
In January, state lawmakers agreed to use $2.6 billion in prior federal relief funding to pay off up to 80% of some tenant's unpaid rent. Ting said he’d like the state to also help pay off-unpaid commercial rents to prevent small business evictions.
COMIC-CON TO REMAIN VIRTUAL IN 2021, CITES FINANCIAL STRAIN
San Diego Comic-Con will remain virtual for the July event, but organizers are planning for a smaller-scale gathering later this year.
FEDERAL JUDGE SAYS CALIFORNIA CAN ENFORCE NET NEUTRALITY LAW
A federal judge this week ruled that California can for the first time enforce its tough net neutrality law, clearing the way for the state to ban internet providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites and applications that don’t pay for premium service.
CLARKSON TEETERING ON THE EDGE!
Tells lawyers: Do what it takes to get Brandon out of my life!