TBT: The History…and Science of the Electric Generator

Oh no! The power went out and you just finished filling your deep freeze with fudgsicles! You slam the freezer door shut hoping the power comes back on before your favorite dessert melts into packaged puddles. You check the fuse box; no blown fuses. You run outside to see if anyone else in the neighborhood has power. Nope, the whole area is in a blackout. Plus, your iphone battery died on the way back from the grocery store so you can’t even complain about the blackout to all your friends on facebook! And you were going to bake and decorate a cake for your food blog tonight and then invite some friends over to watch the game. Oh electricity! How we love and loathe you!!!

Electricity is probably the greatest discovery in all of history, however, we’ve become so dependent on it that it feels like we can’t survive without it. While saving your fudgsicles from impending doom and not being able to post about it on facebook is not a life or death scenario, owning a generator can mean the different between life and death for some people, especially those who live in rural areas with harsh winters. If the real scenario were that you live 20 miles from any town, in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of a record breaking winter and an ice storm comes rolling through, knocking out your power for days or even weeks, you better hope you own an electric generator or you might become a fudgsicle yourself. Read more »

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#TBT: The History of the Air Compressor

The air compressor, like many inventions, is the result of many years of scientific evolution and discoveries. We could begin the air compressor’s history with the human lung, the use of the wind power, the creation of metallurgy, or the invention of the long-lived bellow, but we’re going to start with the invention of the vacuum pump in the year 1650. A vacuum pump is a device that removes gas molecules from a sealed container and leaves behind a partial vacuum, or a space completely devoid of matter. German physicist and engineer, Otto Von Guericke is responsible for this invention. Von Guericke used his vacuum pump to experiment with air pressure and demonstrate how air worked with combustion. His experiments led the way for the future of compressed air.

Early Air Compressors

In 1762, English engineer John Smeaton invented a blowing cylinder that was driven by a water wheel. In 1776, English industrialist John Wilkinson installed a blasting engine in his machine shop that could produce 14.5 pounds of air pressure per square inch. In 1829, a compound air compressor was patented. In 1872, the compressor was improved with the use of water jets that cooled the cylinders. This greatly improved the systems efficiency, and in turn, emphasized the importance of controlling the temperature and moisture of the air that is being compressed.

Air Compressors in Construction

During the construction of the Mont Cenis Tunnel in the Swiss Alps in 1857, workers diligently drilled away at the rock manually at a speed of nine inches per day. At this rate, the project would take 30 years to complete. Compressed air was introduced to the drilling process in 1861, speeding up the drilling to 14.89 feet per day. Thanks to compressed air, the project was completed in 14 years.

The Introduction of Pneumatics

With all the contributions that compressed air had made up until this point in history, it’s no wonder that the next development was the use of pneumatic tools. Air compressors allowed power to transfer power from one point to another, which then led to the invention of pneumatic tubes in which the air would flow, creating this power. The first pneumatic tool to be recorded was the rock drill, invented by Simon Ingersoll of Ingersoll Rand in 1871. Ingersoll Rand also provided air compressors for the construction of Mount Rushmore in 1927 and for the first ever atomic submarine in 1954.

20th Century Developments

As technology continued to advance, so did the air compressor. Some air compressors needed to meet bigger and more complicated construction projects and some needed to be highly portable, and so the air compressor began to evolve into a variety of types. Today, there are three basic types of air compressors; reciprocating, rotary screw, and rotary centrifugal. These types can be specified even further depending on the number of compression stages, the cooling method (air, water or oil), the drive method (motor, engine, steam, other), and type of lubrication (oil, oil-free).

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#TBT The History of the Measuring Tape


On July 14, 1868, the design of a spring measuring tape in a circular case was patented by a man named, Alvin J. Fellows of New Haven, Connecticut. Although this was the first United States patent for a spring tape measure, Fellows’ patent was actually an improvement to an earlier design. The invention was originally patented in Sheffield, England by a man named James Chesterman in 1829.

Chesterman was in the business of making “flat wire” for the fashion industry. Dressmakers used loops of it to hold the shape of the crinoline hoop skirts that were trending at the time. A fluffed-out, layered hoop skirt could use as much as 180 feet of the wire.

Chesterman had developed a heat-treating process that made the flat wire stronger and easier to produce in continuous, unbroken lengths. But as fashion trends change, the hoop skirts were soon out of style, which left the Chesterman with a large surplus of metal tape.

Chesterman decided to put graduated marks on very long steel tapes so he could market them to surveyors as a lightweight “Steel Band Measuring Chain.” In contrast to heavy, bulky surveyors’ chains, he said that his product “has equal strength, greater correctness, is easier to clean, and to coil and uncoil, and is very much lighter and more compact.” Lightweight or not, Chesterman’s tapes had a hefty price. They sold in the United States for $17 — about $300 in today’s money.

Fellows’ improvement to it was a new way to attach the spring clip, allowing the tape to be locked in any position until the clip was released. Because it was expensive, this type of measuring tape did not immediately replace folding wooden rulers but it was the basis for the locking steel tape measures used today.

Check out a full selection of tape measures from ToolBarn today.

Tape Measure patent, Alvin J. Fellows, New Haven, CT

Tape Measure patent, Alvin J. Fellows, New Haven, CT


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#TBT The History of Craftsman Tools

Craftsman tools have always had a rich heritage of performance and trust. They certainly back it up with their incredible Craftsman Hand Tool Lifetime Warranty. “If for any reason your Craftsman hand tool ever fails to provide complete satisfaction, return it to any Sears store or other Craftsman outlet in the United States for free repair or replacement.” They won’t even ask to see your receipt! How did Craftsman rise to the top of their industry and gain such confidence in their hand tools? For that, you can thank Tom Dunlap.

Craftsman was not Sears’ first line of tools. Sears sold under the brand names Trojan and Fulton. These brands were cheaply made, ugly and made out of cast iron that bent and deformed easily. But these tools fit the budgets of the farmers who made up the majority of Sears’ hand tool customers at the time. In 1927, Sears hired Arthur Barrows to lead the company’s hardware department. Barrows wanted to create a brand name for Sears that stood out among the other manufacturers. There was a company at the time by the name of Marion-Craftsman Tool Company. Barrows liked the name Craftsman and offered Marion-Craftsman $500 for the rights to use the Craftsman name on Sears’ products.

Sears eventually promoted Barrows to become the West Coast Manager and hired Tom Dunlap to take over the hardware department. America was in the middle of transitioning into the age of automobiles and Dunlap recognized that Sears needed a line of tools that would meet the demands of the automotive industry. So Dunlap set his sights on upgrading the quality of Sears’ tools.

To improve the look of Craftsman tools, Dunlap added chrome plating on wrenches and sockets and high impact plastic handles on screwdrivers. This improved the finish, color, trim and overall look of the tool. Dunlap faced great skepticism about his idea but it proved ingenious when the company saw sales increase six times following year.

Craftsman has expanded their line greatly over time, but the high quality standards have remained the same. Craftsman has been rated number one among many consumer reports over the years and they just may continue to be a crowd favorite into the future.

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21 Scroll Saw Tips and Tricks

  1. Lighting. Good lighting will allow you see the lines better and give you the cleanest possible cut. You can purchase lights separately that can be mounted directly onto the scroll saw.
  2. Magnifying glass. For extra precision, you can purchase a magnifying glass that can also be mounted directly onto the saw.
  3. Check your teeth. Run your thumb up the front of the blade to assure the teeth are pointed down and to the front of the saw. Small blades actually can turn 180 degrees as you tension the blade.
  4. Check your blades. Blades should be properly secured, sharp and not dull or bent, which can create uneven cuts. When blades are stored for long periods of time they tend to rust. Spray them with a light coat of oil or with WD40 to prevent rusting.
  5. Change your blades. Most blades, with heavy usage, only last about 30 minutes before they become dull or break. Keep an extra supply of blades close at hand. Attach a magnetic strip to your saw stand and place the blades on the strip for easy access.
  6. Blade tension. Too much or too little blade tension causes blades to break frequently. Apply only enough tension to hold the blade with no more than 1/8″ flex from side to side. When you pluck the blade like a guitar string, you should hear a nice, clear ping.
  7. Work higher. You can double the life of your blade by creating a higher working surface to take advantage of the blade’s unused portion.
  8. Use a reverse tooth blade. On a reverse tooth blade, the last three teeth at the bottom of the blade are going in the opposite direction than all others. This change in direction helps eliminate burrs on the bottom of your piece.
  9. Cut dry wood. It is important to cut dry wood and to cut with a dry blade. Wet wood will slowly but surely wear down your saw blades and shorten its life.
  10. Prevent warping. Store wood in a dry place, on a flat surface with a heavy piece of wood on top. To reverse a warped piece of wood, dampen its surface with a rag and set it on a flat surface with a heavy weight on top for a week or so. If you do cut out a pattern from a warped piece of wood, it will usually straighten out when you assemble it with other pieces.
  11. V-block. Use a v-block when cutting rounded wood. This helps hold the wood and keeps it from rolling into the blade, which can cause it to break or jam up.
  12. Use grain direction to your advantage. Examine your pattern and consider the grain patterns that would work best to convey a particular effect or highlight to your piece.
  13. Shape multiple pieces at the same time. Use double-sided tape to keep pieces together while you sand. This will ensure smooth transitions between pieces as you contour.
  14. Don’t finish sand with worn sandpaper. When the grit is gone, rubbing sandpaper on the wood will only burnish it. However, you can still use the worn paper to sand sharp or fragile parts.
  15. Oily rags are dangerous. Rags soaked in mineral spirits and other volatile liquids can spontaneously burst into flames. Dispose of the rags in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and don’t forget your gloves and safety glasses.
  16. How to check for a 90-degree cutting angle. When stack cutting, make sure your blade is cutting straight up and down. To test this, take a piece of scrap wood and make a short cut in it. Pull the wood back from the blade. Place the wood behind the blade, turning the piece so the cut is facing the back of the blade. Slide the wood into the back of the blade so it goes into the cut. If the blade fits smoothly, your blade is square to the table. If the blade doesn’t, you’ll need to adjust the table until the fit is smooth.
  17. Prevent wood splitting. If you’re using a drill press to drill a thin piece of wood, place a scrap piece underneath your project piece for reinforcement and to prevent splitting. If you’re drilling holes through thicker wood, drill down until the point of the bit just breaks through the bottom surface of the wood and then stop. Turn the wood over and finish drilling from the other side. This will prevent splintering when the wood breaks through.
  18. Don’t discard your cutouts. For any detailed fretwork project that has large cutout areas, save the pieces you have cut out and place them back in the cutout, but don’t glue them down. This will give extra support to the fragile pieces while you work on the rest of the piece.
  19. Prevent your wood from burning. To prevent hardwood from burning while you cut it, put clear packaging tape over the top of the pattern. The tape lubricates the blade and keeps the wood from burning.
  20. Let the saw do the work. It’s natural to want to push the wood into the blade. This leads to stressed muscles and broken blades. Less pushing always makes for easier cutting.
  21. Relax and have fun! Completing a project will always take longer than you think. Taking your time is the best way to decrease cutting errors. But if you do make a mistake, it just becomes a part of the piece. It’s an original, handcrafted piece, after all. It should look handcrafted!

Ready to get started on your own scroll saw project? Purchase your scroll saw and scroll saw accessories at www.toolbarn.com. 

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Great Gifts for Dad

Father’s Day is right around the corner. If your dad is Mr. Fix-It, how about getting him some new hand tools? Check out the suggestions below for some useful gifts you can give him.

For the DIY dad:

If dad is the kind of guy who enjoys taking on home repairs, spring for a quality hand tool set. They include various hand tools for nearly every repair and enough to get you started on a lot of simple DIY projects. If you have some money to spend and want to get your dad something high quality and useful, this adjustable screwdriver set is nice. A pry bar set would be great for dads who do a lot of heavy duty projects or demo work. You could also opt for a quality hammer. If budget is a concern, check out this Grayvik hammer that’s cheaper, but still durable and expertly designed. If your dad does a lot of hammering repairs and projects, this would be an excellent gift. A tape measure is another possible gift idea. It’s practical, and he will get a lot of use out of it if he does a lot of DIY projects. Tool belts and tool cases are always a thoughtful gift idea, especially for the dad who has a lot of hand tools.












For the woodworking dad:

If your dad enjoys working on wood projects, there are tons of different things you can get him. Everything from vises to clamps to chisels would be a useful gift. If you know what kind of wood he prefers to work on, you can even purchase a load of it as a gift. If he’s into projects, an instructional DVD is perfect. Each one specializes in a different woodworking project. Plus, they are step-by-step and easy to follow.












For the dad who loves the outdoors:

There are all sorts of gifts suitable for the outdoorsy dad. You can’t go wrong with a durable gear bag. It’s ideal portable storage for any outing because it can hold everything you need for an outing. Something like this is a nice option, as it affords plenty of storage space and is easy to transport. A cooler bag is also convenient because they help keep snacks and drinks cool outdoors. Multi-tools are a useful gift. They are versatile, handy and can be in used in a number of outdoor situations, whether you’re working on a minor repair or setting up something. This Gerber multi-tool, for instance, features pliers, wire cutters, knife, mini-saw, Phillips driver and flat driver, and it’s easy to handle. If your dad does a lot of work outdoors, a quality pair of work gloves is a good idea. Don’t forget outdoor cookware. If he enjoys camping, giving him a portable cooker or grilling utensils is a thoughtful gesture.












For the dad who enjoys working on cars:

Tool bags and tool belts are great for helping your dad stay organized while he works on a project. There are also tool sets designed specifically for mechanics that make great gifts for dads who enjoys auto work, like this one. If you have a good chunk of change you want to spend, opt for an impact wrench. All-purpose lubricant is another practical item that any mechanic finds useful. Adjustable wrenches are another good gift option. They are a smart buy because they conveniently adjust to various sizes, which is preferable to constantly switching wrenches while working.












If all else fails or if you don’t know exactly what to get, you can always give him a gift card. That way, he can buy what he wants. Ready to shop for dad? Visit toolbarn.com to find the perfect gift.

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#TBT The History of NASCAR

The history of NASCAR stems back to the time of Prohibition, moonshine, and its runners, who were the daredevils brave enough to transport the bootlegged moonshine from here to there. Running moonshine successfully meant outrunning the law, and outrunning the law meant having a souped-up car that was faster than theirs. For bragging rights and to gain notoriety, runners would hold unofficial races on nearby highways. Eventually, someone came up with the ingenious idea to cut a race track out of a cow pasture, and the sport of racing was born.

By the end of the 1940s, those highway and cow pasture car races evolved into an organized sport, largely due to the efforts of one man, William France, Sr., or Big Bill France, as he’s more commonly known. France was a mechanic that moved to Daytona Beach, Florida from Washington, D.C. in 1935 to escape the Great Depression. Upon moving, he was well aware that Daytona Beach was known for its racing and land speed record attempts. France entered the 1936 Daytona race event and finished fifth. He took over running the course in 1938 and even promoted a few races before World War II.

France knew that people enjoyed watching stock cars races, but he also knew that the sport would not survive unless a formal sanction was created. During that time, drivers were frequently victimized by dishonest promoters who would leave events without paying the drivers. On December 14, 1947 France organized a meeting including the most influential drivers, car owners, mechanics, and promoters. The meeting took place at the Streamline Hotel in Daytona Beach, Florida. The group discussed forming standardized rules, regular schedules, and an organized championship. That very meeting ended with the formation of the National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing; NASCAR. Two months later, on February 15, 1948, the first official NASCAR race was held on the beach in Daytona. A week later, NASCAR was incorporated and Big Bill France was appointed as its leader.

There are still some old moonshiners involved with NASCAR today, including ex-racer, Junior Johnson, but the sport’s illicit past has transformed into a well-respected spectator event, second only to the National Football League.


Bill France Sr., left, talks racing – or business – with Johnny Mantz and Alvin Hawkins at Bowman Gray Stadium. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

Bill France Sr., left, talks racing – or business – with Johnny Mantz and Alvin Hawkins at Bowman Gray Stadium. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

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7 Lawn Care Tools that Make Your Job Easier


1. Electric Lawn Edger & Trencher

The Worx® WG895 7-1/2″ electric lawn edger and trencher is a 2-in-1 tool that is designed to keep you lawn perfectly edged.  The blade can be adjusted to three blade depths so you can easily get your desired look and the easy to use cutting path indicator allows you to see where you are trenching.

Worx® WG895 7-1/2" Electric lawn edger and trencher.

Worx® WG895 7-1/2″ Electric lawn edger and trencher.

2. Self Propelled Mower with Blade Stop

Honda’s HRR216K9VYA Self Propelled Mower is a great choice for anyone looking for a self-propelled lawn mower with the reliability of a Honda engine. This unit features a 160cc engine with automatic choke for easy starts and a Smart Drive system that makes controlling speed a breeze. Roto-Stop® allows you to stop the blades safely and step away from the mower without stopping the engine.

Honda's HRR216K9VYA Self Propelled Mower

Honda’s HRR216K9VYA Self Propelled Mower

3. Hedge Trimmer

Black & Decker’s TR017 17″ Hedge Trimmer is great for trimming small shrubbery, this is the ideal trimmer, featuring a lightweight and compact design.

Black & Decker's TR017 17" Hedge Trimmer

Black & Decker’s TR017 17″ Hedge Trimmer

4. Grass String Trimmer/Edger Kit

The WORX WG165 GT 2-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger provides a wide range of quick and intuitive adjustments to perfectly fit your individual comfort and perform tasks you couldn’t do with any other string trimmer. This kit comes with the string trimmer, one 24V Lithium-Ion battery, a 3 to 5 hour charger, two spools of string, and a wall mount hanger.

The WORX WG165 GT 2-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger

The WORX WG165 GT 2-in-1 String Trimmer/Edger

5. Leaf/Yard Blower

This Makita BHX2500CA Leaf/Yard Blower makes yard work a cinch. Powered by a fuel efficient 24.5 cc 4-stroke commercial duty engine, it has a mechanical automatic engine decompression for quicker, easier starts.

Makita BHX2500CA Leaf/Yard Blower

Makita BHX2500CA Leaf/Yard Blower

6. Gorge Folding Shovel

Gerber’s 22-41578 Gorge Folding Shovel features a fast, easy-to-use push button slide mechanism, a glass-filled nylon handle with rubberized overgrip, and a hammer mode for pounding in tent stakes.

Gerber's 22-41578 Gorge Folding Shovel

Gerber’s 22-41578 Gorge Folding Shovel

7. Cordless Grass Shear

This Makita LXMU02Z Cordless Grass Shear makes lawn work is a cinch. Its powerful motor delivers 1,250 SPM for faster cutting.

Makita LXMU02Z Cordless Grass Shear

Makita LXMU02Z Cordless Grass Shear


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Cleaning Up Your Yard

mowingWith spring in full swing and summer right around the corner, it’s time to give your yard the care and attention it didn’t get during the winter. Where should you start?

The first thing you should do is look for any spots of unmelted snow on the grass of your yard, if you live in a region that has had snow recently. Spread the snow out so the snow melts faster. Allaboutlawns.com says it’s important to do this to avoid snow mold, which causes patches of dead and matted grass. The mold occurs when parts of your lawn are thawed but still buried by snow, often from drifts or piles of shoveled snow.

Then wait until your lawn has completely dried. It’s not good to work on your yard if it’s still soggy from melted snow, so wait until it starts to look dry, and it feels sturdy and dry when you walk on it. If it feels damp, wait a few days, then walk on it again to check if it’s dry.

Rake the yard and remove as many of the dead leaves, sticks, pine needles, bits of trash and any other debris you see. Collect them in garbage bags or a yard waste bag, if you want to invest in a reusable yard receptacle for the warmer months. If there are leaves all over your walkway and driveway, take a leaf blower and clear them. If you don’t want to throw away leaves and would rather put them to good use, consider purchasing a leaf mulcher. It turns leaf yard waste into rich mulch that you can use to fertilize a garden, flowerbed or other plants you may have.

If you have a dog that relieves himself on your lawn, scan your grass for any dead spots caused by urine or feces. They usually look like yellowy-brown patches. Remove those dead grass patches, then cover them with dirt and apply seed. To prevent additional waste stains in your yard, designate a separate area on your lawn for your dog to use. This minimizes the area that you have to pick up after. To keep more dead spots from forming, immediately clean up the waste and urine after your dog uses the bathroom, and use a hose to thoroughly rinse the spot. You could also train him to go on the dirt or the sidewalk instead, then clean it up immediately.

Aerate your lawn. It helps improve air circulation and increases the amount of water your lawn can retain. The best way to do this is with a lawn cultivator or aerator.

For lush and healthy-looking grass, don’t forget to apply fertilizer. The easiest way to do this is with a lawn spreader. There are a variety of types and sizes available, depending on the size of your lawn. You can purchase a smaller one if you live in a regular-size residential area or a larger one if you are on a large plot of land.

After your yard has had time to grow a bit, mow it. You could also do some trimming along the sides of your yard, with either an edge or string trimmer, to ensure that the length of your grass is uniform. If you have hedges, bushes and trees that are overgrown or need a routine cutting,  trim them as well.

As mentioned above, dead grass can be an annoying problem for any homeowner who strives to take good care of their lawn. But there are some simple and easy things you can do to get rid of the those pesky spots. Follow these simple steps:

1. Locate all the areas of dead grass in your yard. Walk through your lawn and do a thorough scan of the grass so you can find all brown/yellow spots.

2. Pull all weeds. Weeds can easily overrun your yard and kill your grass if you don’t contain them. It’s tough work, but worthwhile if you want to preserve your yard. So take the time and get rid of any weeds you notice.

3. Mow your grass. Lawn mowers, like this and this are great models to use for almost any small to mid-sized yard. Before you work directly on those dead spots, trim the lawn and any grass surrounding those dead patches. That way the new grass seeds can reach the soil once you plant them.

4. Remove the dead grass by raking it away. Loosen the soil under the dead grass, then smooth it.

5. Plant grass seed. Depending on how big the area of dead grass is, you can either distribute the fertilizer by hand or with a lawn spreader. An area of dead grass that measures several feet or larger would probably need a lawn spreader, that way the seed spreads evenly. If the patches are only a few inches in size, you can do it by hand.

6. Loosely cover the seeds with soil. Remember to water the newly planted patch carefully. Start with watering it three times a day, then when grass begins to sprout, cut down to once a day. Give it a few weeks, and your grass will start to fill out, and look healthier and more uniform with the new grass.

A number of things can cause grass to die, so it’s important that you pay attention to how you care for your lawn. Over-fertilizing and over-watering your grass can damage and possibly kill it. Be mindful of the amount of fertilizer you use, and only use the recommended amount. Likewise, it’s also important that you don’t water your lawn too much. As harmful as it is to not water your grass enough, it’s just as detrimental if you flood it, so be sure to only give your lawn as much water as it needs, never more.

Be sure to remove all grass clippings when you mow. The excess grass can smother freshly sprouting grass. A good idea would be to attach a bag to your mower or use a mower with a rear bag for easy clean-up of the trimmed grass.

Employing all of these tips will help ensure you have a presentable and tidy-looking yard for spring and summer.

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#TBT History of Roofing


The History of Roofing

The roof over your head, as simple as it may seem, is a product of building evolution. Roofs have allowed us to live more comfortably in extreme climates, they provide us with shelter from the weather, and they can add an element of beauty to your home. In fact, many roofs have become a part of an architectural masterpiece such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Russia, the Taj Majal, in India or the Sydney Opera House in Australia.


Skin, Sod, Thatch

The first roofing material known to man was a large wooly mammoth skin dating back to Siberia around 40,000 BC. Needless to say, roofing materials have come a long way since 40,000 BC, however, a roof can only be as good as the materials that are available. In fact, a lot can be learned about a civilization by studying its building materials. Shelters were once made from materials only found within the surroundings, hence, the advent of the sod roof. To apply a sod roof, patches of earth and grass were laid on top of the home. The thatching process, popular around 735 AD, was a slightly more advanced technique. Grass and reeds were woven together to form a more solid covering. Unfortunately, thatch coverings were not especially weather proof and could become an extreme fire hazard.


Clay Tiles

Clay tiles were first used in China around 10,000 BC. Clay tiles were a material thought to be fireproof and weather resistant. It took a great deal of time, but the use of clay tiles eventually spread to Egypt, Greece and Rome. They became the main source of roofing material by 1212 AD, when King John of England issued a building law that would eliminate flammable roofing, namely thatch roofing. It was during this time in history that the mass production of roofing materials is believed to have started.

claytile clay-roof-tile


Evidence of roofing slates have been found among the ruins of mid-17th century Jamestown. Slate was popular for its durability, fireproof qualities, and its aesthetic beauty. Slate was available in many colors such as red, green, purple, and blue-gray, so it was a great material for the decorative patterns on many 19th century roofs. However, the cost of slate was very high and the time required to obtain the slate was very lengthy as it was imported from Wales. Slate was used well into the 20th century, especially on many Tudor revival style buildings of the 1920s.

slateroof3 tudorslateroof multicolor_slate_roof

Composite Roofing, Roll Roofing, Asphalt Shingles

The first composite roofing material was a material that consisted of a woven fabric covered in tar and sand, which was seen in London in the 1840s. This eventually led to the invention of roll roofing, which was a felt dipped in tar and covered with fine gravel. Roll roofing was the first true composition roofing, created by the S.M and C.M Warren Company, and later lead to the development of asphalt shingles. The first asphalt shingle was developed by Henry M. Reynolds, but it was F.C Overby who, in 1914, added a crushed slate to the shingles to give them the weight needed to withstand the elements.  The most popular roofing material today is the standard three-tab asphalt shingle. It’s one of the least-expensive roofing options and is available in a wide selection of colors.

Composite-Asphalt-Shingles RollRoofing

Metal Roofing

Another roofing material that developed alongside the asphalt shingle was metal. Lead and copper were used to cover roof surfaces where wood, tile, or slate shingles would be more difficult because of the roof’s pitch or shape. Lead was mostly used for protective flashing. Flat-seamed copper was used on many domes and cupolas. Copper sheets were imported from England until the end of the 18th century when facilities for rolling sheet metal were developed in America. Zinc came into use in the 1820s. Although a less expensive substitute for lead, zinc’s advantages were controversial, and it was never widely used in the United States. Tin shingles were commonly embossed to imitate wood or tile and were popular as an inexpensive, textured roofing material. Tin roofing was widely used in Canada in the 18th century, but it was not as common in the United States until later. Sheet iron was first manufactured by Robert Morris, who had a rolling mill near Trenton, New Jersey. Morris even used metal on the roof of his own home in Philadelphia in 1794. By the 1850s the material was used on post offices, train depots and factories. In 1857 a metal roof was installed on the U.S. Mint in New Orleans. The Mint was said to be fireproofed with a 20-gauge galvanized, corrugated iron roof on iron trusses. With the growing concerns about environmental waste, metal roofing has become even more efficient, and the best part is that it can be recycled, reused or re-purposed.



Wood Shingles

Wood shingles have been popular in all periods of building history. The size, shape and amount of detail in the shingle differed according to the geographical area. Inhabitants and builders within particular regions developed certain preferences for the local species of wood. In New England and the Delaware Valley, white pine was often used: in the South, cypress and oak; in the far west, red cedar or redwood. Commonly in urban areas, wooden roofs were replaced with more fire resistant materials, but in rural areas this was not a major concern. wood_shingles Weathered_wood_shingles maxresdefault


As materials used for roofing have changed and evolved over time, so have the tools. For centuries roofing tools were very primitive, including a simple hammer and a pile of nails. Today, roofing is its own specialized industry with its own specialized set of tools. Of course, hammersand nails are still used today to shingle a standard roof, but the selection of specialized hammers has vastly broadened. The use of pneumatic nailers is especially popular among professional roofers and the do-it-yourselfers alike because of the ability to nail rapidly. Proper removal equipment is essential for tearing off the old shingles quickly and efficiently and safety equipment such as harnesses and protective glasses are a must. There have been numerous roofing materials used throughout history, and it is certain that there will be many more to add to the list as building practices continue to evolve. As long as people are in need of homes they will be in need of roofs. With the growing energy costs, roofing materials will continue to become even more efficient, cost effective, and energy friendly.

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