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.


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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