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frequently asked questions

Woodworkers FAQ sheets cover almost anything and everything you need to know about joinery. Please feel free to download and use them to get answers to all the questions you ever had about joinery. If you need further help send us your inquiry using the form on this page.

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16. LASERCUT PRODUCTS

WHAT'S TO KNOW ABOUT FRETWORKED GABLE PANELS?

Fret sawn ornamental panels were popular between 1875 and 1914 as a focal point above major entries or to embellish projecting front gables. The "Queenslander" on 18 September 1875 promoted 'these touches of ornamental work' to 'very much improve the severely hard lines of the usual run of colonial buildings'. Initially the designs were very intricate, based on foliage and heraldic themes but as labour costs increased earlier this century simpler geometric designs evolved. There are no stock size gable panels. They are all custom cut to your specifications and are not returnable or refundable.

WHAT ARE THE SIZE LIMITATIONS?

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The largest sheet of Weathertex available is 3660 x1220 approximately. Any panels larger than this will require joining of 2 or more sheets. This is traditionally done using a turned finial down the centre or offcutting the triangle corners so that the central pattern remains intact. It is important to understand that original fretwork pediments were cut by hand and their size was limited by the swing necessary to rotate the panel to the fretsaw blade during fabrication. It is rare to find original fretworks larger than approx 600x1000mm because larger timber planks were not available and the logistics of cutting the shapes proved insurmountable. With laser cutting technology larger panels are possible but caution needs to be exercised to achieve an aesthetic result.

ARE ALL DESIGNS THE SAME PRICE?

Yes.

WHAT ARE THE PITFALLS OF LARGE GABLE FRETWORKS?

The issues to consider are:

Proportions

Gable design

Original fretworks were limited by practical issues such as timber size and machinery capability that do not limit modern laser cut products. That does not mean however, that bigger is better. While the size is only limited by the host Weathertex panel (3660x1220), there are ample examples around where the gable panel looks overscaled or disproportionate because its aesthetics were not properly considered. In general, gable panels look best when they are restricted to designs and sizes that could have been hand cut in an earlier era. It is preferable to look at how panel sizes can be reduced or segmented to achieve a result that conceivably could be cut by hand if you are seeking to replicate the charm of original fretworks. If you are unsure whether the proportions of your chosen design will work with the sizes you require, ask for a print out from our sales staff so that you can approve the pattern before it is cut.

Pattern and Scale

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Woodworkers has a range of designs taken from original buildings but the intricacy of the designs needs to be balanced against the scale of the proposed gable to insure they are not overly sparse or overly complex. For example, an FP507 looks simple and elegant when approximately 2metres wide but may look clumsy and crude if scaled up. An FP505 on the other hand, has a lot of detail and may look excessively busy if reduced below that same size. The intricacy of the detail has to be within the capability of being cut by traditional tools (fretsaws) otherwise it may look unrealistic or odd. The strength of the gable also becomes an issue if the elements in it are not interconnected at regular intervals to stabilise the whole pattern. A simple pattern overscaled may not have the strength of a more complex interwoven pattern in larger gables,

Structure and Fixings
Most original fretworks were approximately 32mm thick whereas their laser cut reproductions are only 10mm thick. This means they do not have the structural capacity to span larger than approximately 1200mm without warp or deflection. They therefore need to be supported fully top and bottom and may require intermediate supports to decrease their vulnerability to accidental weather damage.

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FRETWORK VAULTS - 10mm weathertex

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FASCIA PATTERNS - 10mm weathertex

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PALING MOTIF DESIGNS - 19mm LSOP Pine or Cedar

Woodworkers standard feature panel is 116mm wide and pricing reflects this standard size. Other sizes may be available.

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MY GABLE ISN'T SYMMETRICAL. IS THIS A PROBLEM?

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No. Gable fretworks are always cut to be symmetrical but the border allowance can be increased to allow for cutting and fitting to suit uneven openings. Border allowances are usually 70mm but if you identify you have uneven roof pitches or sag this will need to be increased accordingly. It is important to discuss your requirements at the time of ordering as fretworks, once cut, cannot be returned. Only 3 dimensions are used to program laser cut gables "“ vertical height at the centre, width across the base and the border dimension to where the laser cut pattern commences. It is imperative that only these 3 dimensions are used when ordering and not angles, triangle chords or other dimensions that cannot be accommodated in the computer programming. Woodworkers do not site measure gable fretworks and if you are in doubt it is best that you fit a cardboard template and then design a symmetrical gable that is large enough so your template can be trimmed from it once the gable is on site.

WHAT ABOUT FRETWORK VAULTS?

Curved corrugated iron barrel vaults were common in verandah roofs above the main entry, usually faced with intricate foliage fretworks. Laser cut fretwork vaults can be ordered by specifying the radius and heights but are best purchased before the iron is rolled to serve as its template. Vaults are usually programmed based on an accurate circle or a three ringed ellipse. Freeform curves can only be accommodated by cutting a larger border on an existing pattern that is stretched in height or width to approximate the shape on site and then, site trimmed into position.

HOW DO I AVOID OVERSCALING ROOF GABLES?

Roof gables are often the most prominent visual feature of a house and need to be designed skilfully, if their scale is to balance the house and respect its period. Too often giant laser cut pediments are used without forethought, when smaller decorative inserts above collar ties would be better proportioned and more authentic.

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DO YOU MAKE FRETWORKED BARGE BOARDS?

Yes. Most original fretworked barge boards were cut in solid timber 25mm thick which is too thick for most lasers. Woodworkers can provide Weathertex strips 10mm thick that can be applied to the face of timber fascia boards to decorative effect but these should need to be plotted for each application to compress or stretch the pattern to accurately fit. If a more authentic solution is essential, Woodworkers still hand cut fascia patterns in timber using traditional methods. Barge boards are usually supplied to us after temporary site fitting so that the decorative patterns can be applied in our workshops. This process is labour intensive and expensive but yields a truly authentic result.

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WHAT PALING MOTIF OPTIONS ARE AVAILABLE?

balustrade-paling.jpgPaling motifs are generally stocked in LSOP treated pine for painted external balustrade applications in 116 x 19 x 950mm long. Wider and longer palings can be cut to order, which are usually done in Red Cedar or other durable timber that does not require preservative treatment. Red Cedar palings are also used in clear finished applications (e.g. batwing gates) All designs can be cut in double head design for 3 rail balustrade applications.

PALING MOTIF DESIGNS
size length design price
93 x 19mm 950mm single Available from catalogue
116 x 19mm 950mm single
116 x 19mm 950mm double
140 x 19mm 950mm single
140 x 19mm 950mm double
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BREEZEWAYS FRETWORKS

The Woodworkers' Company supplies laser cut fretwork panels in 810 x 405 x 9mm standard size or made to measure as required.

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CEILING ROSETTES

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WHAT ARE BREEZEWAYS?

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Traditionally, fretworked panels were used in tropical houses over the top of internal doors to allow breezes to circulate throughout the house and dissipate heat "“ hence the term "˜breezeway'. Breezeway panels were widely used from the early 1880s to promote air movement within cottages and provide some decorative enrichment to the simple interiors. They were originally designed in swirling patterns based on foliage, fruit, flowers and vines and progressed with time into more geometric patterns, stylised emblems and other federation motifs. They remained popular until the 1920s. Original fretworks were cut by hand on fretsaws, so the complexity of the pattern usually indicates its age. Complex patterns required cheap labour, so that the extravagance of the turn of the century designs gave way to simpler patterns after WW1 when manpower shortages increased costs. Breezeways today are cut by computer controlled laser cutters so that all patterns are the same cost. Woodworkers are able to match existing patterns if required if none of our standard patterns are suitable but substantial programming and template costs will be incurred.

CAN THEY BE MADE TO ANY SIZE?

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Woodworkers stock breezeways in the standard size 810x405x9mm cut from paint grade internal quality materials. This size fits most transome voids and is economical as 9 panels can be cut without waste from a standard panel sheet. There is no problem however cutting other sizes. The price increases to cover the additional wastage and programming costs to alter the cutting software, and size is then only limited to the sheet sizes available (usually 2440x1220). Breezeways can also be cut to order from 9mm cedar plywood when required or other materials on request e.g. pine ply, MDF, Weathertex, ferrous metals (not copper or brass).

HOW DO SIZE CHANGES EFFECT THE DESIGN?

Because the cutting programs have been designed for standard 810x405 panels, the design will be elongated or compressed with any change in panel size. The effect can be dramatic with geometric patterns as it may turn circles (for example) into egg shapes or deform some patterns excessively. Simple foliage patterns are least effected whereas emblems and geometric designs may be unacceptably deformed. Woodworkers will provide a print out of the altered pattern for your approval if requested or if we think deformation is an issue. Where large panels are required it is often preferable to repeat patterns and couple them together rather than stretch a simple pattern.

ARE ALL DESIGNS THE SAME PRICE?

Yes. All prices available from Woodworkers products catalogue.

WHAT ABOUT CEILING ROSETTES?

Ceiling rosettes were originally installed to allow hot air to exit the rooms at night. They also allowed gas and smoke residue from lamplights, gas lights and woodstoves to escape the living quarters and their size grew in more affluent households where more lights and fumes were expected. They were usually mounted in a timber circular bollection mould fixed to the ceiling and commonly backed with insect mesh. Real timber circular moulds tend to warp over time so MDF bollections have replaced them for all paint finished applications.

DO CEILING ROSETTES COME IN STANDARD SIZES?

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Yes. To minimise waste, 3 sizes of circular bollection mould are turned from a single panel of 32mm MDF, giving outer and inner sizes for the bollection mount and 9mm pine ply rosettes as follows

  Bollection size Ceiling rosette size
Large 600mm outer diameter / 463mm inner diameter 475mm
Medium 450mm outer diameter / 300mm inner diameter 315mm
Small 295mm outer diameter / 175mm inner diameter 190mm

Other sizes can be cut on request but set up and programming charges will be incurred. All of our designs have been taken from original rosettes. Our RS9 design for example, with its decorative flange pattern and complex epicenter was reproduced from Windamere House in Ascot, Brisbane.

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