New brass castings set to restore mahogany handrail

John Nelson at work on the new brass fittings we custom-cast to restore the handrail system.

John Nelson at work on the new brass fittings we custom-cast to restore the handrail system.

Here’s a sneak peek from John Nelson’s metal shop in Portland, Maine.

John is coming down to install a beautiful reproduction of the original railing system, complete with a mahogany handrail.

Over the winter, we designed and cast some of the brass parts for this railing. It will be exciting to see the finished results. Of course we’ll keep everyone posted.

Follow John Nelson on Instagram @nelsonmetalfab, and like his shop, Nelson Metal Fabrication, on Facebook.

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Discovered: Original Fresnel Lens rotation mechanism

Polishing a century of grime from one of the brackets of the original First Order Fresnel lens rotation mechanism.

Polishing a century of grime from one of the brackets of the original First Order Fresnel lens rotation mechanism.

Ever wonder how the giant First Order Fresnel lens rotated to produce that smooth, sweeping beam lf light?

The good guys at the US Coast Guard revealed the secret by sending us the old engineering drawings of parts of the original mechanism, which are still bolted to the 5th level ceiling.

Since that ceiling is being restored, we figured we’d take the mechanism down and clean it up, which we did this week at home.

Here’s how it worked: Every two hours the Keepers wound a 300-lb weight up a 50-foot tube using a hand crank. The weight was connected by a series of pulleys (pictured) and connected to a big clockwork device, which regulated the speed and drove a gear that spun the two-ton lens.

The system was converted to an electric motor long ago, but happily the Coast Guard left all the old stuff in place, which made it possible for us to tell the story.

 

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On the watch deck for second paint party of 2015

The second paint party of the season got underway Memorial Day weekend as the watch deck got a fresh coat of regulation black epoxy paint.

Local harbor seals and early striped bass fishermen all crowded in for a good look at our progress.

We got about four-fifths of it done before we ran out of paint and out of steam. It was hard work.

Hats of to Jack S and the Firehouse Gang. The deck probably┬áhadn’t had a coat of paint in over 20 years.

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Springtime stabilization & restoration begins

Karl Phillips installs a faithful replacement of the original oak window sills.

Karl Phillips installs a faithful replacement of the original oak window sills.

A busy springtime week at Graves Light.

Karl Phillips, our master carpenter, puts the finishing touches on the new oak window sills and paneled surrounds that he made over the winter at his Nantucket workshop.

There are nine of these square windows at Graves Light.

Last year, Karl built exact reproductions of the original casement windows, installing them in time for winter to replace the un-authentic glass block that the Coast Guard had installed for easy maintenance once the original windows deteriorated.

Meanwhile, Mike and Brian Sylvester of CCI, who cleaned and pointed the outside of the tower last season, are now inside the lighthouse. They’re removing the rust that was eating away at the steel floor joists.

As the joists rusted, the expanding iron crushed and split the interior wall, breaking up the curved glazed bricks. About five of the joists need to be excavated from the walls, cleaned and painted, and the brick space around them re-tiled.

The “tiles” are actually glazed bricks. To do the re-tiling, we’re going to steal some curved glazed bricks from under the stairs, to keep the walls original.

 

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Casting call: Making exact copies of original bronze fixtures

Arthur crafts exact copies of lighthouse fixtures out of bronze. He's at Mystic Valley Foundry in Somerville, Mass.

Arthur crafts exact copies of lighthouse fixtures out of bronze. He’s at Mystic Valley Foundry in Somerville, Mass.

In restoring and refurbishing Graves Light, we try to find original items from other lighthouses and ships.

Sometimes, though, finding an exact match proves to be impossible. That was the case of the bronze brackets to hold the wooden handrails in place on the lighthouse’s winding stairs.

We had some original pieces, but couldn’t find a match anywhere.

Arthur at Mystic Valley Foundry in Somerville, Mass., helped us out. He took an original bracket and made 10 exact copies out of bronze.

Here are pictures of Arthur at the foundry, as well as a shot of the 10 copies and the original.

 

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