Mahogany kitchen benches go in this week

Nat of NMT Woodworking shows some of the mahogany benches he built for our kitchen.

Nat of NMT Woodworking shows some of the mahogany benches he built for our kitchen.

Meanwhile, Nat and the lads at NMT Woodworking in South Portland, Maine, have been busy.

Living space at Graves Light is at a premium – none mores than the kitchen on Level 6. That’s the old Watch Room, a circular room of bronze and steel that sits on top of the granite tower and just below the glass Lamp Room.

The NMT crew created this custom mahogany bench seat to fit against the curved wall.

They built it for serious chowder eating. The marine-grade mahogany is able to withstand extreme temperatures and salt air.

You can see how the curvature matches that of the bronze kitchen stove that our man Wyatt designed over the winter.

Nat will be installing the bench system this week, weather permitting, as always. So stay tuned.

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Engineer who removed original Fresnel lens returns to Graves

Engineer Ron Fiore explains to Dave how he devised the system to remove the original Fresnel Lens from Graves.

On the deck of Graves Light for the first time since 1975, engineer Ron Fiore explains to Dave how he devised the system to remove the original Fresnel Lens from Graves.

Well, the best part of this whole lighthouse experience continues to be all the great people we meet.

Today we met Ron Fiore, the structural engineer who devised the method of removing the gigantic First Order Fresnel lens back in 1975.

That lens blasted out a 3.2 million candlepower beam for 70 years straight. The lamp required a full-time crew to operate and maintain, so the Coast Guard had it taken out and replaced with an automated electric beacon.

Ron told us all the details about how he built a custom crane to gently lower the priceless lens – it weighed 2 tons and measured 12 feet tall and 9 feet across – down one story into the watch room.

Then he and the crew removed part of a wall to slide the lens past the sloping tower and drop it 60 feet to the dock, where a Coast Guard boat plucked it onto the deck. 

Legendary New England maritime history author Edward Rowe Snow made an appearance, instructing the crew to wave (as he was filming the feat) but the workers were too busy – and scared – to respond.

The next year Ron and his wife visited the lens again, this time at the Smithsonian!

The Fresnel lens was made in France by Barbier, Benard & Turenne in 1904, and was installed in 1905. After the 1975 removal, the Coast Guard installed an automated electric beacon, powered from land by an underwater cable. That cable broke, so in 2001 the Coast Guard installed the present solar-powered lamp, the Hydrosphere Vega VRB-25, made in the U.K.

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Next project: Installing an electrical system 4 miles out to sea

Art Graves drills into the cast iron ceiling to prepare installation of restored ship's lanterns.

Art Graves drills into the cast iron ceiling to prepare installation of restored ship’s lanterns.

Power up! The next big project is running the wires for lights and outlets.

Graves Light has no electric power of its own, except for the solar-powered lamp to guide ships to Boston.

Since it’s an unforgiving environment atop a stone ledge four miles out to sea, every connector, fixture and device must be marine-rated.

Here we have Art Graves (yes – that’s his real name) drilling into the cast iron ceiling to mount the antique ship’s lamps we restored over the winter.

Refurbished bronze ship lanterns will provide electric light to Graves.

Refurbished bronze ship lanterns will provide electric light to Graves.

Soon we’ll install bronze lamps salvaged from old ships as interior lighting at Graves.

We cleaned up and reserved the lamps over the winter, so they’re ready to go.

Tough drilling overhead!

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Short stories of Graves Light on WATD 95.9FM 5-part podcast

WATD podcastsVeteran broadcaster Dave Skill created a 5-part podcast series about the purchase and restoration of Graves Light.

The feature series, called “Light at the end of the . . . harbor: The restoration of Graves Light,” aired April 11-15 on WATD radio, 95.9 FM.

Each podcast is roughly two minutes long, featuring two Daves: The broadcaster with his folksy storytelling, and Keeper Dave of Graves Light.

Click here to listen to the podcasts.

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New USCG ladder now on Graves Light wharf

Installing a new USCG ladder on the Graves Light wharf.

Installing a new USCG ladder on the Graves Light wharf.

A great weather weekend on April 9-10 found us “on station” with friends. Lots of springtime projects on our list, and one of the most important is installing the ladder at the end of the wharf.

Here’s Cap’n Pat and Chris readying the USCG ladder (which we’ve half-installed) after they secured our trusty aluminum ladder and hoist. Sure makes loading materials and people easier!

Plenty of seals frolicking in the cove today, too.

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Custom building a lighthouse kitchen stove

With his high school engineering education and his own imagination, Wyatt designs the stove.

With his high school engineering education and his own imagination, Wyatt designs the stove for a small space with curved walls.

Without any flat interior walls, a lighthouse needs custom-made everything. Since kitchen space is the most precious, and the sea air corrosive of steel, conventional appliances just won’t work.

Wyatt's bronze stovetop, after it came back from the metal shop.

Wyatt’s bronze stovetop, fresh from the metal shop.

Luckily, Wyatt is studying engineering in high school. After drawing out the exact curve of the interior wall of the watch room, Wyatt whipped up a curved stovetop design on his computer.

We sent Wyatt’s design to a metal shop, which crafted a stovetop out of 1/2-inch thick bronze, using a water jet cutter.

The rest is up to us. We’re modifying propane barbecue burners to fit under the top and will design a curved faceplate for the knobs.

Can you smell a delicious chowder simmering this summer?

The stovetop design, from computer to metal shop.

The stovetop design: Wyatt measured the curve from the lighthouse radius, for fabrication from a sheet of half-inch-thick bronze.

 

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On-shore basement project: Building a lighthouse desk

Winter is a great time for on-shore basement projects for the lighthouse.

We converted an old oak desk into a keeper’s desk. First, we crafted a new top to fit the curved inner walls of the tower. We secured it to the two base drawer units with brass fasteners (no rusty steel in the lighthouse environment) and stained it to match.

The desk is installed on the 4th level, which will be the master bedroom. Next, we’ll start building a space-saving Murphy bed, whose mattress can be stored vertically when not in use, and pulled down flat for the evening.

 

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Diver’s discovery helps us complete our interior doors

Chris, of Boston Scuba, discovered an original Graves Light porcelain door knob on the bottom of Boston Harbor.

Chris, of Boston Scuba, discovered an original Graves Light porcelain door knob on the bottom of Boston Harbor.

Discovering the original from under water let us install authentic replacements.

Discovering the original from under water let us install authentic replacements from a wrecking company..

Some of the clues to the faithful reconstruction of the interior of Graves Light have come from the bottom of Boston Harbor.

Chris, a diver from Boston Scuba, found yet another artifact offshore at The Graves.

Pictured in his hand is a heavily weathered porcelain door knob.

We had already restored the surviving interior door and built two copies on Nantucket, but we didn’t know what the original knobs looked like. Now we do.

So we found four antique sets of knobs at a local wrecking company. Voila! The doors are now complete. Thanks, Chris!

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Glass jewels for lantern room get cast on Nantucket

Getting the glass jewels ready for the Watch Room skylights/Lantern Room floor panels.

Alison MacDonald of ACKfire studios gets the replacement glass jewels ready for the Watch Room skylights/Lantern Room floor panels.

We’re getting down to the fine details now. The missing glass jewels that form the skylights for the Watch Room ceiling and the floor pieces for the Lantern Room are now being cast.

The Nantucket artisans at Ackfire Studios are hard at work right now creating replacements for the missing heavy glass jewels embedded in the round bronze skylight frames.

Alison MacDonald of Ackfire visited Graves Light in April to examine the job and take measurements.

Now, the colored glass disks have been cut and are being cast in tiny molds within a large kiln.

We love our local artist community! Here is the Ackfire crew cutting individual discs of glass which will be melted and formed in these little molds.

The resulting glass jewels will be glazed into the lantern floor this month.

These glass pieces are reproductions of the missing original glass from the 1903 architectural design, and are copied from the remaining originals.

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Drone’s-eye view of Graves Light

Randy Clark took this picture via drone while helping with carpentry at Graves.

Randy Clark took this picture via drone while helping with carpentry at Graves.

Our pal Randy Clark took this nifty shot of master carpenter Karl Phillips sanding the new mahogany railing prior to installing it on the 4th level stairwell.

Look closely and you can see some of the work we’ve done:

  • Power-washed the stone exterior, which used to be streaked with black soot and grime;
  • Replaced the mortar between the stone blocks;
  • Removed the block-glass windows and restored the original appearance with oak casement windows (that Karl Phillips built);
  • Cleaned and painted the iron railing around the watch deck;
  • Cleaned and painted the bronze circular wall, as shown (in black), on the watch deck;
  • Installed vintage brass portholes in the bronze wall of the watch deck, to provide natural light in the interior;
  • Cleaned and re-caulked the original curved glass panes of the lantern deck;
  • Installed an exact replica of the interior mahogany staircase railings (which Karl is shown sanding on the outside deck).

A photographer by trade, Randy also swung a hammer to fix the shed while piloting his new drone. Thanks Randy!

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