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TFG Event: Documentation & NDE, a Sunrise Mill Workshop

  • Pennypacker Mills 5 Haldeman Road Schwenksville, PA, 19473 United States (map)

The Timber Framers Guild and TFEC are pleased to announce a series of workshops to be held this spring at the Sunrise Mill in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. The mill complex dates to the third quarter of the 18th century and has at its core a large stone grist mill. Attached to the grist mill was a sash saw mill, added sometime in the early 19th century, which we intend to restore. 

This workshop series is designed to help those interested in developing their skills in the documentation of historic structures.  This workshop is intended for novices who are just finding their way but may also be of use to professional designers, engineers and architects wanting to hone their skills of identifying and interpreting key features of timber frame structures.

The workshops will run consecutively in April and consist of two two-day sessions, bridged by a third day option. The first workshop series will focus on documentation methods, using the current standards of National Historic Register Nominations requirements, the Historic American Building Survey (HABS), and other methods specific to documentation of historic timber framed buildings. Jeffrey Marshall, president of Heritage Conservancy, and Michael Cuba will lead the instruction for this two-day workshop on April 3 and 4. 

A third day of the documentation workshop, on April 5, will be led by Michael Spencer, Associate Professor and Director of the Center for Historic Preservation at the University of Mary Washington. This one day workshop will cover a variety of more recent techniques being used to document historic structures and represent them visually. While many of these techniques build upon traditional field documentation experience, prior experience is not necessary to effectively engage in the workshop. The workshop will begin in the morning where a variety of documentation and visualization techniques including laser scanning, photogrammetry, animation, and virtual reality will be presented via lecture and through case-studies. Later in the day attendees will get a chance to engage with two different types of photogrammetric documentation software, Agisoft’s Metashape (PhotoScan) and FARO’s (formerly Kubit’s) TachyCAD and PhoToPlan.      

There is no required equipment however, those who wish can bring a laptop capable of supporting a free, 30-day trial version of Agisoft’s Metashape. Attendees wishing to install the software on their laptops should do so prior to the workshop and be aware of all software requirements.

Ron Anthony and Jaret Lynch will then lead a two-day nondestructive evaluation workshop using the Sunrise Mill and 18th century Pennypacker barns for field sessions. The workshop will include classroom and field sessions to provide guidance for engineers, timber framers, contractors, and others on the use of diagnostic nondestructive evaluation for timber structures. In the classroom, concepts, theory, applications, and case studies of various nondestructive test methods will be presented. Hands‐on field sessions demonstrating and discussing the diagnostic test methods on existing timber structures will give the participants an opportunity to do testing and interpret the results. The classroom and field sessions will cover the following: 

  • Why do we inspect wood?

    • Common concerns with timber structures

    • Variability in material properties and behavior

  • Wood investigation techniques and issues

    • Capabilities and limitations of inspection methods and technology

    • Visual inspection and probing

    • Moisture measurements

    • Resistance drilling

    •  Stress waves, digital radioscopy, infrared thermography, ground penetrating radar

    • Visual grading for strength assessment

  •  Load tests

  •  Data interpretation, analysis and codes

  • Using nondestructive evaluation to make better decisions

The classroom and meeting space for these workshops will be located at the historic Pennypacker Mills property. There are several affordable lodging options available or free camping on-site for those who would like to rough it. The workshop series is offered with several registration options, including the two workshops and bridge session combined (all five days), documentation only (April 3 and 4), NDE only (April 6 and 7), or the technology workshop (April 5) in combination with either of the other workshops (the technology workshop is not being offered as a stand-alone due to space constraints).

While the research, composition and formatting required for thorough documentation can span weeks and sometimes months, we will focus on the field work of observation and notetaking in a collaborative effort facilitated by Michael Cuba and Jeffrey Marshall.  The ability to identify and accurately record important details of a property are a critical first step to comprehensive documentation.  Attendees will have the opportunity to correspond with the facilitators in the months following the workshop for guidance and feedback in the composition of their assessments.  We will use several historic structures on the Pennypacker and Sunrise Mill properties in addition to a nearby farmstead to allow opportunities for examining a variety of structure types.  Participants who have an interest in documenting a specific structure, perhaps a property from your area witch is threatened or just near and dear, may bring materials to review with the facilitators and choose those structures as the focus of their assessment work following the workshops.

Participants should come equipped with an ample supply of pens and paper for recording their observations.  Laptops may be useful in the classroom but are not necessary, and might prove risky to use in the field.  Additionally, attendees should come equipped with good flashlights, measuring tools and cameras.  Key resource materials will be provided in print while other supplemental resources will be sent out as PDFs or links to websites with current standards (as they are vast and updated from time to time).  Attendees should have sensible footwear, raingear and rugged attire as some sites may be dirty and dusty.

There are several affordable lodging options in the vicinity of Pennypacker Mills, where the main classroom and meeting area will be.  There are also options for onsite camping within the Montgomery county park system.  There will be optional evening lectures offered to the group.  Depending on the interests of those in attendance, we can explore topics like dendrochronology, traditions of decoration of Pennsylvania barns, frame typology or case studies of assessment types.