North Wing Addition Update: Pencil Rods and Cat Heads

One of the most complicated operations of constructing the new North Wing is shoring the wall which is in between the Museum and the addition. The wall is an old one made from brick and concrete block. Brick walls are very strong as long as the forces on them are vertical (straight down from the top). If the forces are horizontal (side to side), the bricks need to be held in place. Such a horizontal force might be wind load: big walls can act as a very large sail and catch a lot of wind load in extreme weather.

The first step in shoring is to add strength to the wall by adding stiffbacks.

The first step is to add strength to the wall by adding stiffbacks.

The stiffback channels are lowered through holes in the roof and second floor and attached to the wall.

Composite mesh sleeves

Composite mesh sleeves for hollow masonry and brick material.

In this case, stiffbacks are channels. Holes are drilled in the channels and into the brick and block behind. Inserted into these holes is a plastic sleeve with plastic mesh. It is slightly smaller than the hole.

The sleeve is filled with epoxy, and a length of all-thread rod is inserted. When the epoxy sets the washer and nut can be installed and the channel secured tightly to the wall.

steel members are secured into concrete with wedge anchors

Other steel members are secured into concrete with wedge anchors. The anchor is so tightly installed in the concrete it can support a very large load.

The wedge anchor is inserted into the finished hole.  The washer and nut are placed over the anchor.  The wedge anchor is hammered into the hole.  The wedge spreads the end.

The wedge anchor is inserted into the finished hole. The washer and nut are placed over the anchor. The wedge anchor is hammered into the hole. The wedge spreads the end.

Stiffbacks are against the walls, and the other side of the shoring is secured to existing columns.  Plates were welded to the columns to accept the diagonal bracing. The plates at the bottom of the columns will be encased in concrete. Angle bracing is extensive and prevents movement from front to back, side to side and up and down. In order to make sure the base of the columns do not move, additional weight is added to the bottom of the columns. Six cubic yards of concrete each weighing between 2,500 and 4,000 pounds were poured at the base to produce a deadweight of between 15,000 and 24,000 lbs. This is only a fraction of the amount of concrete that will be poured this winter forming the walls of the new addition, which is why the shoring is so important.

The forms are plywood supported with 2x4s.  Vertical 2x4s are studs.  Horizontal 2x4s are wales.

The forms are plywood supported with 2x4s. Vertical 2x4s are studs. Horizontal 2x4s are wales.

Because the concrete exerts a powerful force pushing the form outward, steel wire is used to hold the form together. Typically, snap-ties are used in standardized wall thicknesses like 8” or 12”. In our case, the form is much thicker, and we are using a special thick wire called pencil rod.

Pencil rod is inserted in between studs on opposite sides of the form, threaded through cast iron escutcheons called catheads. The pencil rod is secured by a set screw. The carpenters secure a cathead to one end of the pencil rod. A second cat head is placed loosely on the opposite side of the form. The pencil rod is pulled tight by hand. A tightener is also place over that end.

The pencil rod is inserted from right to left through this tightener. The lever clamps down on the rod and then the hand screw tightens the rod. Then the second cat head set screw is then secured. The wires are bent down for safety.

The pencil rod is inserted from right to left through this tightener. The lever clamps down on the rod and then the hand screw tightens the rod. Then the second cat head set screw is then secured. The wires are bent down for safety.

The carpenters pour three forms at a time. In order to reduce the outward pressure on the forms, each form is poured one third full from the first truck load. That way the concrete can begin to set before it is all added. The second truck adds a second third to all forms and so on.

The concrete truck does not enter the building, to prevent the possibility of a buildup of fumes in the area and also to make sure no fumes enter the Museum.  A large forklift uses a half-yard concrete hopper to deliver the concrete to the form.

The concrete is placed (the forms are filled) and vibrated to eliminate voids.  Later the forms are stripped and the ends of the pencil rods removed.

The concrete is placed (the forms are filled) and vibrated to eliminate voids. Later the forms are stripped and the ends of the pencil rods removed.

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John Cowden works with special projects at The Corning Museum of Glass and supported the Hot Glass Show Innovation theater construction project in his retirement. Cowden was a supervisor and narrator at the Hot Glass Show from 1999 to 2011. Before joining the Museum, Cowden had more than 10 years of experience in the field of glassworking, primarily using cold working techniques, processes such as slumping, making molds, grinding, and polishing, where time is not a pressure.

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Cat heads? I've never...