Buzz Brake and Steilacoom’s Dieter Mielimonka study the cedar bolt before splitting more shakes.
Re-roofing the Wagon Shop at the Steilacoom Historical Museum July 19 won’t result in a commercial roofer showing up and slapping new shingles onto the historic building.
Instead, this historic structure will get cedar shakes from ancient wood hand-split by hundreds of individuals from Steilacoom and surrounding areas. And, the roofing itself will be done by volunteers, doing the work the way it was done when cedar shakes were all split by hand.
Perry (Buzz) Brake and his brother Jack are supervising the project that has given countless individuals an opportunity to see and participate in the age-old skill of splitting shakes by hand. He explained that to make the building more historically correct – and provide a longer lasting roof – a decision was made to re-roof using shakes rather than shingles. And the shakes would be created from “bolts” of cedar from ancient trees preserved in a swamp near Moclips for hundreds and hundreds of years.
Using splitting tools – froes – from the Nathaniel Orr era, the shakes have been split by Steilacoom residents and visitors on weekends. The weekly spitting events have been a big hit with those passing by the Wagon Shop and others who came specifically to participate.
Now, Buzz Brake said enough shakes will be ready by July 19 for the roofing to get underway at the old Wagon Shop on Main Street in Steilacoom. The first shake will go on at 9 am and the goal is to finish half of the roof on that day.
Watchers will be invited to split a shake, sign it, and watch it be put on the roof, thus becoming a part of Steilacoom’s history! By intentionally slowing down production, enough cedar bolts have been saved to continue splitting on weekends (including Independence Day) from noon to 4 p.m. through July 12.