Monthly Archives: April 2011

Antique Fairbanks Beam Scale


This is the first project I took on under the Housewright name.

This scale is on display at in the lobby at 540 Beatty Street as a heritage feature.  Originally there were two scales; one located at the loading bay and the other at the rear of the main floor.  They were stored on site throughout construction, and as such had accumulated a layer of concrete slurry and other dust.  There was also some damage to some pieces and some missing.  However, there were only enough useable parts to build one complete scale–but they had to be assembled.  I was able to find enough information to assemble so that it could be functional again.

I cleaned all parts with a brass wire brush and mild detergent.  Previous to work on the building, the wood cross member had sustained water damage.  On the top-side the varnish had failed some time ago and the wood had some water related damage.  I had to use a scraper to remove the damaged wood (testing showed the wood was too far gone to absorbed any finishes).  Some patina was lost, obviously.  The original branding, visible in the photo, was still in excellent condition.

After cleaning, much of the paint and finish were lost.  I applied a black semi-gloss oil paint directly over the remaining paint on the cast iron pieces to protect it from rust.  The brass needed no such treatment.  I am on the fence on the wood finish I used:  clear  polyurethane.  Polyurethane will make any future restoration difficult, as it will want to take any other finish (including the lettering) should removal be required.  Keeping in mind that the scale sits in a high traffic area (directly beside the entrance to the main elevator), and has no other protection, plans or requirements for maintenance in place, this treatment recovers some virtue.  It will give excellent protection and can be re-coated to renew the protection.

Overall, I was happy with the project, as was the general contractor and the consultant.



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Statement of Significance

I have fielded a couple of questions about Statements of Significance.  Guidelines for Writing Effective Statements of Significance is a good introduction on what goes into an SOS and how to write one.

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Simon Fraser University, Burnaby Campus

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Statement of Significance


Simon Fraser University’s Burnaby Campus sits atop Burnaby Mountain with views of much of the Lower Mainland.  It is a complex of stark modern design and exposed concrete construction amid acres of parkland. 


The historic value lies largely in the number of significant persons associated with SFU.  Architect Arthur Erickson is arguably Canada’s most famous architect, and this was one of his first major commissions.  The design was characteristic of the period, and became signature of Erickson’s work.  As well, a number of other significant figures in British Columbia’s history have been involved in the school, including founders WAC Bennett and Gordon Shrum, and alumni Terry Fox, Margaret Trudeau, Lui Passaglia, David Usher, and a several prominent political figures.

The establishment of the university played a pivotal role in the development of post-secondary education in British Columbia, and events that took place during its formative years have had influence on other province’s education programs and operations.  Further, it was a significant step in the evolution of Burnaby from a suburb of Vancouver to a city on its own right.

SFU’s educational/academic value is in its maintained building style which has been continued from its inception, the association of historical significant people who pass through its doors—as students, faculty, leaders and honorary persons— and its growing collection of art and artefacts from BC’s history.

The ongoing growth of the school is testament to its economic value.  The growing student population is a contributing factor.  Enrolment generates income directly from students and also ensures funding from provincial and federal governments.  Employees and secondary businesses add to the local economy.  The land value with the new UniverCity development adds value to the university and the city as well.

 Character-Defining Elements

  • Example of modern brutalist architecture, having the characteristic harsh angular geometries and exposed rough concrete, structural members, and utilities. 
  • Use was made of the existing contours, and enhanced by utilizing terraces that placed an emphasis on horizontal expansion rather than vertical. 
  • Omission of tall, multi-story buildings.
  • Covered walk-ways connecting all the buildings.
  • Lecture theatres grouped together.
  • Building looks complete while readily permits future expansion.

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Japanese Timber Framing

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Last summer (2010) I volunteered at Harvest Haven Health in Lethbridge AB.  For 2-weeks I worked on a projected led by two Master Carpenters from Japan (Yoshitomo Takahashi and Akihiro Kitami) and attended by a number of other timber framers.

I was there for the last two weeks and was invloved in the assembly and raising.  There wasn’t as much instruction as I had hoped, but I was able to see a number of demonstrations, sound out a number of processes, and try my hand at a number of tools outside my usual activities (chainsaw mills, portable mortiser, carving attachments for grinders, and an assortment of specialty planes and chisels).  Work included some fairly advanced layout, cutting scarfs, mortise and tenons, assembly, erection (knocking the dust off my rigging training), and pegging.  The highlight for me, skill-wise, was the scribed mortise and tenon using logs (photo of completed joint included).

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Thank you!

Thanks for all those people who have accepted our invitation to visit our site.  Yesterday decimated our previous record day and doubled our total visits.  I encourage if you liked what you saw to spread the word.

W e have a bit of a backlog of posts, from which we will release one every couple of days.  Topics include projects, events, reviews, how tos’, and topics in cultural resource management.  Once we work through that we’ll continue to post on at least a weekly basis.

Also, if you have any questions, please feel free to post them.  We would love to hear from you.

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Photos of Past Projects

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Here is a collection of  commercial buildings Philip worked on with Vintage Woodworks. 

A couple of notes to the pictures:

Federal Motors Building, Window Restoration.  Winner of Heritage BC Award of Honour.

Water St. Buildings, From the left, Al Hambra, The Garage, Cordage, and Terminus Buildings.  Various window and storefront work.  Collectively went on to share the 2010 Lieutenant-Governor of B.C. Award in Architecture.

Wing Sang Building Window and Storefront Project, Window restoration, Combination restored/replaced storefront.  The small red storefront on the left I saw through from condition survey, to design (including CAD shop drawings), to estimate, to installation.

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Please allow me to introduce myself…

My name is Philip Finlayson.  I am a Carpenter by trade, Historian by education.  I started in construction in the late 80s’ while still in high school.  Following high school, my next 10 years were spent picking away at post-secondary academics while continuing in construction.  On concluding my Bachelor of Arts in History at Simon Fraser University, I completed a full apprenticeship in Carpentry in less than three years (time off for experience).  I followed with an apprenticeship in the Joinery/Cabinetmaker trade.

In 2006, I was hired by Vintage Woodworks Inc.  They specialize in wood window restoration, and owner and heritage window expert, Jim Stiven is a prominent heritage figure in British Columbia.  I found myself in a career path where I could combine my academics and my work experience.  Since then I have worked with some of the leading heritage professionals in the Lower Mainland on heritage windows and storefronts, while continuing with general carpentry.  Currently, I hold memberships with Heritage Canada, the Association for Preservation Technologists and the Canadian Association of Heritage Professionals.

In 2008, my work led to me managing a storefront and window restoration of the “Alhambra Hotel” (the link is a little dated but provides the best historical summery I could find) in Vancouver’s historic Gastown.  With my specialized knowledge, I was counted on to take a leading role in design and conservation, and worked hand-in-hand with architects, consultants, the general contractor and ownership, while managing personnel and resources. This project went on to share in the 2010 Lieutenant-Governor of B.C. Award in Architecture.

Last year, I became self-employed, starting Housewright Building & Restoration Ltd.  I have been working along the same lines and still strictly on heritage homes.  My wife and brother have been working with me.

In the Summer of 2011 I was hired by Tekton Project Management, expressly to provide in-house heritage expertise and site supervision for the Kilby Historic Site’s exterior restoration of the Museum and General Store.  That project has been recently completed and has won rave reviews from the stakeholders, including staff, public and the Province of British Columbia Heritage Branch.

My goal is to continue to evolve my role in heritage conservation, with an eye on management and planning for heritage resources.  To that end, I completed a number of architecture courses at BCIT and have been involved in the Vancouver Heritage Foundation’s “Old School” programme both as a student and instructor.  I am currently enrolled in the University of Victoria’s Post-baccalaureate Certificate in Heritage Conservation Planning.

Feel free to browse my CV.

Talk to you again soon.


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Hennessey Residence, 626 10th St, New Westminster.

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This is a house that I worked on last summer which is listed on New Westminster Heritage Register.  Built in 1890, it numbers amongst the city’s oldest existing buildings.  It is a three bedroom 1 ½ story home with a steep sloped cross-gabled roof.  It is a balloon framed with combination cedar shingle and lapped siding.  The original owner, Mr. Alexander M. Hennessey, was a shoemaker on Columbia St. in New Westminster.

 The significance of this building stems from it being an example of early New Westminster vernacular architecture.  It is old, relative to other buildings in the Lower Mainland.  It is representative of a period of development in this neighbourhood and a boom period in local history.  There have been limited alterations and  much of its original fabric is still intact, including nearly all of its original windows (my specialty).  Having records available documenting the history of the building—including photos, ownership and events—personalizes it. 

Further, the house is situated on a large 60” x 120” lot, giving it current economic value.  This was able to trigger a Heritage Revitalization Agreement with the city, permitting a developer to subdivide (increasing density of the lot) and build an addition on the existing house in exchange for restoring the exterior of the home to its nineteenth century condition.

  Historic information courtesy of “Hennessy Residence Conservation Plan” by Donald Luxton& Associates Inc.

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Sustainability and Your Wood Windows

Sustainability and heritage go hand in hand. By preserving the historic elements of your home, such as the windows, not only are you preserving a unique piece of our cultural heritage that would be difficult and expensive to replicate in today’s world, but you are keeping precious resources out of the landfill. Wood windows are made of endlessly repairable components, wood and glass. Glass is easily replaced or reglazed and if the wood is damaged, it can be repaired and in rare cases replaced. Most windows will not require extensive repairs. When your windows have been repaired they will not only look better, they will be weather tight and ready to last for another 50 to 100 years. Try getting that kind of value from a vinyl window. You might be surprised to see how nicely your windows will look after being repaired and repainted even if their condition seems beyond hope.

To explore this topic of sustainability further please check the links on the Vancouver Heritage foundation website and their free downloadable booklet
NEW LIFE OLD BUILDINGS: Your Green Guide to Heritage Conservation

Other links specific to windows
The Repair of Historic Wooden Windows: John H. Myers

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