Working Drawings

Working drawings: different from architectural drawings are used for fabrication or assembly. They are intended to be used one time in the shop, and be lost in the process. This makes pattern making before the days of large format scanning and photocopy very expensive and time consuming. We can now digitize each pattern before it is cut and resurrect it again as needed.

Training: National Parks Service

In 2015 I left Rhode Island, and Casa Buena Builders to bring seamed roofing to the english-speaking world. I had been studying at night, bringing my skills up with folding and joinery; while working full-time in historic preservation, remodeling, and slate roofing. My favorite project of the tour that year was this seminar I was invited to give at the HPTC (Historic Preservation Training Center) headquarters in Frederick, MD.

Almost all of these techniques were completely foreign to the seasoned pros from the National Parks Service. I hope to one-day have all of these rules codified in English, and accepted at least internally within organizations like NPS. We may never be able to regulate the entire market like the better countries but within institutions and even preservation districts it is possible. I know all properties benefit from having roofs that are designed to last as long as the building.

This handout (PDF link) below demonstrates how to layout and cut the valley seam, from the ground as long as you know the two pitches of the intersection roof faces. This is very important with metal roof seaming. Much like in timber framing: the piece must be fully fabricated to exact specifications before they are assembled. In the same way: we do most of our design and layout on the drawing board, and on the cutting bench. There is very little “in place” fabrication, only folding assemblies.

“The Plaza” condo assn. at St. James Court

Posted 10th November 2008 by Kurtis

I’ve been working with the residents of this condo building for some time now to navigate the waters of the local landmarks ordinance with the intention of removing these hideous and poorly built entryway awnings.  These things were assumed by the landmarks committee “experts” to be original, and therefore in need of preservation. I’m not sure if they ever did any true survey or research work to come to this conclusion because there was evidence all-over a classical portico that preceded the current installation.

These things are corroded through and besides being an eyesore, they are a burden to maintain and would be impossible to recreate with the condo association’s budget.


In this photo it is easy to see the “ghost lines” of the former entryway surround with a flat roof. The sheet metal rectangle against the wall is also covering a limestone lintel that would have fit perfectly inside the original surround.

This is my design proposal which includes eliminating the rusty heaps and building a proper portico with a doric entablature.  The original wrought iron supports are retained and used as a partial load bearing aspect of the system.  The corbels do transfer some of the load, but more importantly they visually transfer the load and make the whole thing seem more believable.

After much back-n-forth with the “experts” at landmarks, we got our approval and demolition began! Further inspection upon demolition revealed even more clues.  A cast stone lintel, previously covered by the barrel vault, flanks the doorway.  The new design frames the stone lintel.

Posted 31st March 2009 by Kurtis

Things are starting to shape up on the Court.  We finished the trim carpentry on one of the two structures today.  Here are some photos of the progress:

Corbels installed…

View of the ceiling from the inside.

Round built-in gutters

This was my first traveling job, in Hodgenville, KY. This gutter was a mess! Mostly due to lack of maintenance. If it had been kept up it likely would have survived a lot longer.

Most of the time, when you see built-in gutters done by modern craftspeople, they cut a profile pan into segments. You can see this below on the pictures of the lower gutters which were re-done at some point in the 70s. I chose to use a different design, after modeling this and finding the forces of expansion/contraction were working in the opposite direction. With a linear gutter, it expands to the ends however with this assembly it’s technically moving in/out.

There was some carpentry repair required. Lucky for us most of the lookouts were in-tact.
The gutter is made in segments, with a seam similar to what you see on the bottom of a metal bucket, connecting each segment.
January in 2009 was COLD!

Slate Repair

One of the great things about slate roofs, is their ability to be repaired, without throwing out the whole assembly. In 2008 Louisville was hit with a major wind storm which caused some gargoyles to fall off the secondary tower on St. Boniface Catholic Church.

This was how we found it. Giant 24×12 peach bottom slates all mostly still in-tact!

The going price for salvage slates was very steep. For visible areas: it is always best to source salvaged slates of the same quarry type so that the weathering matches. Since that was not available in this case, we purchased new slate at a much cheaper rate, and grafted old slates from an area behind the tower that is not visible from anywhere on the ground. This provided a very good match for the visible repair area.

Cornice work: porch restoration, built-in gutters, and architectural design

This was my first project involving carpentry. I had done the built-in gutters on my own house, and labored for another contractor in the district to gain some experience the year prior so I felt confident.

The porch was a mess! It had been wrapped in vinyl and aluminum trim. This stuff only makes things worse, as it holds leaks in when they occur.

If the original roofers had used Euro methods, and the porch had never been wrapped it is likely that this entire assembly could have been saved. Instead we found ourselves replacing the main beam, and all of the “lookouts”.

After the lookouts are installed, and the gutter pitched: it was time to design the new cornice. It was duplicated from the original using measured drawings.


The dentils were removed when the aluminum trim was installed, so this was the only element that needed new design. I picked the proportions based on a simplified/composite order.

The fairing strips are used to make the beam the same width as the column necks (another classical detail most modern builders miss). Since we were using new lumber, the nominal thickness compared to the old beams required this spacing to keep everything consistent.

In progress: fully trimmed out now on the front, making our way around the side.
Up top, new box gutters (built-in gutters) and a rubber roof. Not my first choice for material but budget constraints prevailed.

I could kick myself a few times for never getting finish photos… Not shown in the photos was the arrival of the new appropriate columns, and capitols.

Google view from 2018, shows the whole composition. What an inviting porch!

Decorative Copper: Euro gutters, cross finial, and chimney caps

I put an ad on craiglist, left my day job, and plunged head first into into contracting. My next commission was in a romantic revival suburb: “Senaca Park” in East Louisville.

Using the skills I had learned through study of Neubecker, I designed this cross from scratch. The previous finial was a duplication so there was not as much pattern-making involved.
Some other work on this house included Eurocraft gutters, and a few window pans.
My first chimney cap was also part of the commission: I used stainless steel for the internal framing which is wrapped in copper, and features batten-cap panels.

Later that year, I would do 2 more chimney caps, in the neighborhood for current KY governor Matt Bevin. I do not care for Mr. Bevin as a governor but as a client he was OK.

Addition chimney with some questionable brickwork
Original house, featuring traditional masonry

Decorative Copper: Victorian

My first commission, nearly 12 years ago in Louisville, KY. I had spent the year prior studying Neubecker and working on my own house: a Sear’s Kit bungalow from 1927.

The “space shit” finial in progress

After completing the ridge cresting/finial project I got my first experience repairing slate roofing. This tower featured “peach bottom” slates that had been damaged by painters and misguided repairs over time.

Before: the old finial and damage to the slates.
Repaired turret slate with new flashing for the post caps. We left the slates with old paint spills because the replacement slates cost almost 5 dollars a piece and they were sound.
A very young Kurtis, fitting the viola finial.

French Style

This roof was the second stop on my tour that started in 2015. The client, Sarah Polzin is a director of training for the National Parks service. We had been introduced through my demonstrations for Preservation Trades Network.

Traditional metal roofing in the french style: This is the built-in gutter, with a pleated corner. The pleats allow the sheet to turn a corner without cutting/soldering. The downspout seam is also hand-formed similar to the seam in the bottom of a metal bucket.

Roof tailoring, in progress

Once the gutter is formed, and placed the pans go in, and starts the process of hand-hammering.

Rounded seam connects the roof corner to inside corner of gutter continuously.
Folded hips and up stands carry the whole roof surface with no laps, caps, goop, or sealant.
in progress: folding the final curbs.
The mouths now turned down, everything flowing correctly.
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