Guest Blog: Sash Horns and Other Interesting Facts About Windows

Reprinted with permission from Ferguson Times, August 2018.

As many of you may know, we are working on a project in Joplin, MO, on the restoration of two (and maybe three) homes in the Murphysburg Historic District of Joplin. 

The home we are working on now (built in 1890 by Charles Schifferdecker) is a Romanesque-styled house with a three-story circular tower dominating the southeast corner of the house. In1893, Edward Zelleken built a three-story in the Queen Anne-style. The third house was built in 1900 by Alfred Rogers who spent $20,000 to build a three-story Neoclassical Revival home. 

At present, we are restoring the Schifferdecker house which has many of the elements that we will discuss in this article—the horned sash. 

Earlier sashes always had multiple pieces of glass separated and held in place with muntins. The muntins added the support needed to hold the glass without any sagging in the lower rails. In the mid 1800’s, towards the middle of the Victorian era, the window industry was able to produce large pieces of glass. The muntins were removed and a single piece of glass was installed, but the new glass was too heavy for the lower rails, especially the meeting, or middle rail. These larger pieces of glass would allow more light in the house and this is what the finer homes of the era wanted. 

The stiles, or sides of the horned sash had a four-inch piece of wood protruding down past the meeting rail of the top sash. The tenon for the meeting rails is usually thinner than on the top rail. Since this is a structural joint, it needs to hold the weight of the glass, and a full mortise and tenon are required. To get a good mortice cut into the stile, or side piece to hold that weight, the four-inch length of wood, or horn, was added to back up the tenon. 

So, we have this extra length of wood protruding past the bottom of the sash. Doesn’t that look a little chunky? Not necessarily. In the United States, an ogee was cut below the sash to give the horn a decorative look. 

Another advantage of these sash horns, also known as joggles, is when you bring the top sash all the way to the bottom of the jamb. I find that most of the original top sash of the windows are usually painted shut. If you have windows where the sash is not completely painted shut and both the top and bottom sash work, then when the top sash is brought all the way to the sill, the horn will hold the meeting rail a few inches above the sill so you can use your hands to get under the rail and lift the sash back to its original position. Back in the Victorian days, the top sash was used to help with the air conditioning of the home. With the top sash lowered about three inches and the bottom raised about the same, the cool outside air would come in the bottom sash and the hot air flow out the top. Seeing as warm air rises, tall ceilings and windows would help get people through some of the hotter days like what we have just recently endured. 

While working on the Schifferdecker House, the large windows on the first floor are single hung with a fixed art glass (stained glass) above, but set out about two inches. On these windows, we have noticed that the horns, or joggles, are placed at the top of the lower sash. (See drawing: interior side of window.) The top rail of these window sashes is quite a bit larger than the meeting rail that was described above. While working on these windows, we found that when the window sash is raised, it moves through the top of the jamb into the wall cavity. The horns lift the jamb up into the wall where it slides freely in the cavity built for the sash to slide upwards. This protects the jamb and the sash lock located on the top of the sash. For lack of a better description, we’ll call these pocket windows. 

So, there you have it. Everything you wanted to know about horns or joggles on your window sash! 

Bob McCarty, Painted Effects Contracting, LLC