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24 avril 2015 5 24 /04 /avril /2015 19:36

Association « Chaumont-sur-Loire au fil du temps » "Chaumont-sur-Loire As Time goes by"

SEASON 2014-2015 Report of the Members’ meeting held on Saturday, March 14, 2015




17th century wood marvel

17th century wood marvel

In the first house we visit on 31 rue de BELLEVUE in Chaumont, Joel introduces us to Patrice BARBEAU and one of his team-member Olivier HORN

The roof structure of this rehabilitation and reconstruction site is now completed. The house is still in the carcass state, which enables us to appreciate the complexity of this craft: all the structure wood parts have been expertly assessed, disassembled, transported to the workshop, high pressure washed in the workshop and reinstalled on site. If need be, some have been replaced by identical parts carefully selected from the company storage.

This very modest little house was in very poor condition indeed and needed a complete upgrade, recalculation of load distribution and levelling in every part of the building! All houses located under the castle must submit their project of renovation to the Architecte des Bâtiments de France ( the residential architect of National Buildings in France ). He has authorized the creation of new openings overlooking the Loire. But only companies with a real know-how can ensure quality craftsmanship.

Within an hour, the group had its share of basic technical terms and profuse explanations; henceforth we shall not mistake beam for joist, hip rafter for raised-heel truss, and tenon for mortise! ... And we know nearly everything about insulation and roof waterproofing.

Our 9 cars caravan came to CHAILLES where we were expected by the owners of an old house. Father and son are woodcraft lovers and they tasked Patrice BARBEAU with the delicate mission of building a staircase with rare to be found wood parts (columns and stair stringers). He took them out of his collection of quality wood pieces he keeps for true fans only. Everything was calculated, cut, collated and jointed in his workshop and then disassembled, transported on site and installed. For this work millimeters are important: no step is similar to the next, no angle that can be calculated with a computer! These people are the craftsmen who dare undertake such a job. Finally the ladies of the group were most appreciative as our hostess confessed that “elbow grease” starts to achieve success – under control of his talented woodworker son she is now becoming a specialist in antiques renovation products!

Later the same line of cars steers towards the Church of St. SEGONDIN. In the MOLINEUF car park our coordinator leads us into an ambush as we do not leave the cars to visit the roof framing of the church but by an unlikely forest track we come to BURY, a private property normally closed to visitors ... The warden was waiting for us there and is a very nice guide.

We agree that only visual memories and Patrice BARBEAU’s explanations will remain in our minds and we make no photographs.

Originally the building, which we are authorized to visit, was possibly a farmhouse. The order taken by Patrice BARBEAU was underpinning an outbuilding of the castle.

We enter the site through one of the two drawbridges above the moats (which are dried up). The Architecte des Bâtiments de France has not approved the creation of visible openings in the outside walls. The surprise is even greater as you get inside the courtyard: huge picture windows display the proportions, materials, and colors of the building, especially the repair work made on the framing! Six huge poles out of the company's collections are displayed in this place well worthy of them and vice versa! Shore towers were used to support a roof that will remain in place during the rebuilding work, and once again the same carefulness.

Analysis and inspection

Analysis and inspection

All present wood pieces are analyzed, cleaned, replaced if necessary with vintage wood, the same controls and recalculation of load distribution, levelling of out of plumb elements, refitting horizontal and vertical “barbaric” inconsistencies! Nothing is plumb even though everything is perfect! Seen from outside in the picture windows all the wood parts are highlighted and we value the craftsmanship, knowledge, skill, and calculations extreme complexity, a permanent issue in this craftwork ... The roof is fully restored with impressive discrepancies in slope, angles, and never straight lines...

We are not on this site to "tour" BURY (which has never been allowed by the owners) but the organizers of the meeting thoroughly studied the CISSE VALLEY bulletin and data from the years 1972, 74 and 76 in which Ms. Tissier de Mallerais (one of the best specialists of the French Renaissance period) delivers all essential information to know this location and its history. We give one or two dates and key events linked to Florimond Robertet and his widow who in 1533 offered the oak wood to make the beams to be taken from the forest of the Count of Blois. (« fait don d’arbres de chesne à faire poultres à prendre es forestz du comte de Bloys »)

The story of BURY continues, Patrice BARBEAU and his companions may have laid their hands on the trees and replaced the beams which lady BURY has seen and offered 500 years ago...

The trip from the castle to the priory at ORCHAISE is only 4 km. The owner whose thoughtfulness and hospitality are known throughout the region greeted us personally. In his workshop Patrice BARBEAU designed, carried out and jointed the first flight of stairs from the ground floor to the first floor. This staircase is linked to the existing one on the second floor. We are here in a building of which the first written documents date back 500 years, before BURY! Is it only a matter of coincidence, if last summer, this carpenter’s boss Patrice took Yann his 12 years old son on his first full-scale construction site to help him place the first steps? Yann was with us during the visit, and rather proud ! Everyone is conniving to share this enlightened vision : the same gazes in the artisans eyes who guide us as in the owners of this website and in the group who marvels ... We shall especially remember a most unusual method of cutting and assembling wood pieces end for end. These pieces vertically assembled however are able to endure considerable loads without distorting are especially adapted to staircase construction.

Patrice BARBEAU presents his workshop and store space

Patrice BARBEAU presents his workshop and store space

Then we go to the workshop in MOLINEUF where we meet his father in his business, his family and some of his companions. We visited the huge store space dedicated to the old collections of wood parts of all size, all age and shapes and of exceptional scarcity ... and we shall remember a very rare sample of “Clef de Jupiter” (Jupiter key) secret wood assembly, which allows very long spans, over 16 m

The workshop was prepared for us as a business presentation hall and achievements are on display: Core and scrolls hollowed out.

Enormous steps being restored almost ready to be mounted in the customer’s house, English style railings, 18th century round posts, personal collection of old tools, sharpener and wooden barrel builder tools, Saint Gilles screws, scroll saws or plating machines...

However to stay in this business and remain on the market


Need a knowledge, mastery and practice of current business management techniques also, which makes life more and more difficult for them. The best performing machines must be readily accessible to companions especially on installation and assembly sites to save time, spare physical strain and enhance workers security. A large number of machines are here: band saws, planer-jointers, mortising machines, panel saws, chain saws, band mills, portable band saws, transport and lifting appliances on small trucks or trailers with a 12 meters transport capacity.

And last but not least, In BARBEAU’s workshop we were in a lively and friendly environment. Ms. Barbeau proves she has a strong grip and knows how to use a corkscrew.

We send a big thank-you to all who greeted and welcomed us with such kindness, sincerity and availability. Compliance with the highest carefulness concerning the places we visited prohibits to mention any names. We met three generations of BARBEAUs and we thank them all for this successful gathering we enjoyed so much.

Very special and warmest thanks to Jean-Pierre ESSIQUE father of one of our members who so kindly has made the first existing translation in English of our texts. He allows a large diffusion around the world of the passion we try to share in our association.

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