Barrie Casement “saw” Manhattan’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral in a unique way
By Kathleen Ryan
It’s a lifelong dream of mine and such a great honor to work on this prestigious building,” said master woodworker Barrie Casement of his work on St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself and hope I don’t wake up!”
St. Patrick’s is the largest Roman Catholic neo-Gothic style cathedral in the United States; it occupies an entire city block and its towers stretch 330′ into the skyline. Each year an estimated five million people visit the 200-year-old basilica.
In 2012, church officials launched a $177 million restoration project. The contract for door restoration fell to Kingswood Millwork, the company where Barrie works. Kingswood is a Canadian company with facilities in Buffalo, N.Y. The small manufacturing and restoration company has worked on a number of historic buildings in New York, including the Corbin and the Dorilton.
Barrie restored the cracked and chipped scrollwork on the confessional doors. “Hats off to the craftsman who did the original work. It was very well done,” he said. Barrie began the restoration by tracing the original design onto a piece of cardstock. Then, he cut the pattern with a sharp knife, traced it onto the panels, and armed his scroll saw with #9 Olson crown-tooth blades.
“When this was done originally they must have had a very large throat on their saw. With my 20″ saw and a solid white oak panel, I was in and out of the same place a number of times to make all the cuts. It took 36 hours just to complete one panel,” he explained.
After Barrie scrolled the upper panels of the doors, he planed them to fit in the grooves of the rails and replicated the moldings that highlight the scrollwork. He also repaired the original doors and joints, fixed age cracks, and repaired intricate carvings atop the framework. “The most nerve-racking part of the job is knowing the number of people who will be looking at my work and comparing it to the original,” said Barrie. “But for me, this is the culmination of a lifelong journey in woodworking, and I can’t think of anything else I would rather be doing.”
See more of Kingswood Millwork’s restoration photos at kingswoodhistoric.com.