We made an interesting find today. As we were probing on the north wall at the back of the original house, Jesse Tuttle discovered the profile of what appears to be the original Federal period built-in gutter, cut, or “scribed,” into the shingles at the front of Davis’s 1849 addition.
For centuries, carpenters have used a compass (or a makeshift substitute like a pencil and a scrap of wood) to trace the profile of a given architectural element (e.g. — a molding) onto the surface into which it needs to be attached. The point of the compass follows the molding and the pencil writes, or “scribes” the profile of the molding onto the surface of wall, shingle or element it needs to be fitted into. The receiving element can then be cut exactly using a jigsaw or other small saw following the pencil outline to create a tight fit.
In this case, the shingles were scribed and cut back around the built-in gutter and the entire area was covered with flashing (the nail holes are still visible in the photo above).