Hardware and Structure

by Don Friedman on April 20, 2016

When we examine traditional wood and masonry buildings, the line between hardware and structural material is often blurry.

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This is an 1850s loft during an apartment renovation. We’re looking at a wood column and a wood girder; the floor joists above are hidden by the still-being-installed gyp-board ceiling.

There are two pieces of metal visible (click to enlarge the photo): the wrought-iron strap that connects the two girders that meet over the top of the columns, and the cast iron plate that serves as a column capital. It’s not obvious whether these two pieces are simply hardware, making it easier to connect the round column and the two girders, or are part of a system in use at the time, where the cast-iron plate has a stub column that extends through the girder to help seat the column above. That stub column, called a pintle, is part of the transition from a form of instruction dominated by master carpenters and master masons to a form dominated by industrial products, and serves to carry the column from floor to floor without loading the girders in cross-grain compression. If the pintle is there, it’s entirely hidden by the butted girder ends.

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