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Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada


Shingles by Susann Myers, 
Restoration Architect, Fortress of Louisbourg,
June 9, 2003



In the 18th-century, handmade roofing shingles were made by sawing logs into shingle-length blocks, riving (splitting) them into shingle slabs with a maul and froe, then dressing them on a shaving horse with a drawknife, to produce the tapering and a smooth finish. Shingles were made as smooth as practicable so as to lay flat and tight on one another, and so as not to hold water (the drawknife closed off the pores in the wood). The minor irregularities left by hand-finishing can be seen in a section of original 18th-century shingles that was excavated at Louisbourg and is on display in the Carrerot House. For our reconstructed buildings at the Fortress of Louisbourg, we unfortunately cannot afford to have shingles riven and dressed by hand. We buy Eastern White Cedar circular-sawn shingles and remove the marks of the circular saw by passing them through a planer. This produces a shingle which, you are right, is slightly too smooth for an 18th-century handmade shingle, but the difference is a subtle one. The 18th-century shingles used at Louisbourg were not rough shakes, but very finished-looking shingles with uniform tapers. As can be seen from Cox's article, the 18th-c. shingles excavated at Louisbourg are generally approx. 16" long and 3/8" thick at the butt, tapering to a feather end.