Monday, May 2, 2011

Stop Pulleying My Leg....

The past couple of weeks I have been a lady of leisure, traveling around this great country to see how the little people live. That might be stretching the truth just a bit. I haven’t traveled all around the country just to Western New York and then to the Gulf Coast of Florida. However if you count all the states I flew over between Newark Airport and Tampa Airport then you can see why I made the claim that I did. It’s not important where I traveled or why I traveled. What’s important is what was constantly on my mind while I traveled. Some of you may have just hazarded a guess - ‘Freedom from the four kids.’ You will be surprised to find out that, no, that wasn’t the thought constantly on my mind. No more guesses? Boy, you’re really going to kick yourself when I tell you the answer...window pulleys.

The secret is out. While I have not posted anything in the past few weeks, I have been thinking constantly about window pulleys which are the topic of this week’s post. As you are all aware, the restoration workers, #3 and #4, have been steadily working on reinstalling restored windows in the house and thus far, almost all of the windows in the house are back where they are supposed to be. As of last week, they were preparing the exterior storms for installation. Lots of wonderful window work going on. So what’s the big deal with window pulleys? Nothing much I have to admit, except that the window restoration work has allowed all and sundry to take a look at the existing pulleys before they are covered back up with the windows, not to be seen again until the next time the museum undertakes a restoration project. Which will hopefully be a lifetime or two from now. This post is just to take a moment and smell the roses, or, more appropriately, view the pulleys, before I dive into exterior storm installation and sill work for my blog post next week.

#3 and #4 have come across three different types of window pulleys in use in the windows at Cherry Hill. The first type is a wood pulley. The pulley mechanism which the cord for the sash weight winds around is made of wood. The wooden pulleys are the oldest found in any of the windows at the museum and are most likely the original pulleys.

Okay - so this is not a picture of a wooden pulley.  It is a picture of a string attached to a wooden pulley that is no longer visible now that the restored window has been reinstalled.

Another type of pulley found in the HCH windows is iron. This is probably stating the obvious but the pulley mechanism is made of…wait for it….iron.

An example of iron pulleys.

The third type of pulley is the strap pulley. #3, in trying to help my simple mind understand, compared this pulley to a measuring tape. The strap is pulled out from the pulley mechanism like measuring tape is pulled out. And while it might not snap back into place as fast as a measuring tape can, the strap does retract back into the pulley.
The small hinge for the strap is just visible in this picture.
A more easily recognizable stra.p pulley
This is a window in the dining room.  The original pulleys were removed and replaced with "newer" salvaged pulleys.

This is one of the pulleys removed from the dining room window.  You can just make out that the label notes this pulley is "For Upper Sash."
The other pulley removed from the dining room window with its strap pulled out.  Note the resemblance to a tape measure.  What you can't see are the grease marks these pulleys leave in the acid free tissue wrap.  There is a distinct odor of some sort of mechanical grease.
One of the dining room window pulleys.  As you can see - it's patent date of October 30, 1888 gives us a rough estimate of when this pulley was probably installed by the family. 

#3 and #4 will be using whichever pulley system is already in place when they reinstall the restored windows.

And when you’re talking about window pulleys, you can’t forget about the sash weights. (Actually I did, until just now.) Basic window mechanics work on a weight and pulley system – you just never get to see the objects themselves. #3 showed me one of the older sash weights used in the windows. When I asked him, (with stars in my eyes, impressed with his seemingly magical knowledge), how he knew its relative age, he explained that he could guess the age of the lead sash weight given its crudely shaped, rough edged appearance. No machinery used to produce that weight my friends!

Lead sash weight

Obviously the different pulley systems represent different points in the house’s history when window work was undertaken by the family. It’s neat to see, for instance, the window in the Director’s office which has the iron pulley system as well as the strap pulley system in place.

It's a little difficult to make out but in addition to the strap pulley, there is also an iron pulley towards the top of the picture.

When I was looking at that particular window it reminded me of my husband's home improvement projects at my own house. He occasionally comes across something that makes him pause, scratch his head and ask, “Why did they do that?” For a moment looking at the window in the Director’s office, I wished that I could part the veil of time that separates the present from the past and ask those ghosts of Cherry Hill past the really important questions like, “Why didn’t you remove the old pulley system before putting in a new one?” And of course, “Where did you bury the money, the Director really wants to know.”

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