This section is from the book "Modern Buildings, Their Planning, Construction And Equipment Vol5", by G. A. T. Middleton. Also available from Amazon: Modern Buildings.
There can be few worse Clerks of Works than he who makes a pal of the Foreman; and while he who is always appealing to the Architect upon every little question will soon be voted a nuisance, and is not likely to be employed twice in succession by the same man, it is almost as bad for him to take too much upon his shoulders, and, when confronted by a difficulty, to order it to be got over by some method which will alter the design or increase the cost without consulting his superior first.
In his intercourse with the building owner reticence is especially necessary, else it is possible for him to cause a good deal of trouble. He must remember that it is the Architect to whom his reports are primarily to be made, and whom he must consult in cases of difficulty, the employer having no power to order deviations or extras. A fidgety employer will give both the Foreman and the Clerk of Works a good deal of trouble; but while he must be treated respectfully and with attention, it is always well to be careful as to what is said. It is not even advisable to let him know in all cases what it has been necessary to condemn, for much less friction arises if bad work is dealt with directly than if a third person is introduced.
A moderately good education is, of course, a necessity; but there are few men who are at all likely to be appointed to such a position who cannot at least write a readable report and make ordinary calculations. A good knowledge of solid geometry is also exceedingly valuable, if not essential, for the proper reading of the drawings which are supplied, and for making additional ones if it be necessary; though this rarely comes within the actual scope of a Clerk of Works' duties. An acquaintance with ordinary surveying of a simple kind is useful in order to secure proper setting out and the placing of a building in its right position on a site, and he must be capable of using a dumpy level. A knowledge of materials, their method of mixing, and the tests to be applied to them, will have been obtained by practical experience to a large extent; but it is much better if this has been supplemented by a course at a good technical school or college, for it must inevitably happen that from time to time new materials are introduced, or those which are new to the individual man, and he must be able to discriminate at once between the good and the bad, whether he has seen them before or not, or, at any rate he must be capable of placing his hand upon the necessary information without undue delay.
One of the first things that a Clerk of Works has to do when he takes up his appointment is to see that he is provided with a proper office, and the necessary appliances to enable him to conduct his work in tolerable ease and comfort. There is generally a clause at the commencement of the specification describing the office, and how it should be fitted; but even a more general clause carries with it of necessity that it should be so placed as to give him access at all times to all parts of the work; that it should be sufficiently well constructed to be wind and weather proof; that it should contain a stove for warming, and be supplied with a stool and a desk having drawers, all fitted with locks, and large enough to contain drawings and papers. A 5-feet rule is also generally provided by the Contractor, and upon large works it is reasonable also to insist upon having the sole use of a level and staff, though upon smaller works these are shared with the Foreman, and occasionally are not considered to be necessary at all. The Clerk of Works, as a rule, provides his own drawing instruments and 2-feet rule; but he may very well call upon the Builder for a drawing-board, T-square, and set-square, and for ink and ordinary writing-paper. Drawing-paper, if needed, he more generally purchases and charges to the Architect, while report forms and diary are usually supplied to him. Petty expenses, such as those incurred for stamps and travelling, are also charged against the Architect; but fuel for his fire must be provided by the Contractor, and the Clerk of Works should see that his office is always kept clean and warm for his use, so far as the circumstances of the works will permit.
A good form of office is that illustrated herewith in Fig. 176. The internal dimensions should be about 12 by 8 feet, with the door at one end and a fireplace connected to a brick chimney at the other. There should be a writing desk or drawing table along the whole of one side, with drawers underneath and a large window over for drawing purposes, so placed as to enable the Clerk of Works to watch the building from his office. Glass panels in the door are also useful for this purpose. There should be a lavatory basin behind the door, with a waste discharging outside, and with a slate or marble slab adjoining for the purpose of mixing up sample briquettes of cement, etc., for testing. A cupboard against the wall opposite to the desk is also needed for storing various requisites, while a drawing-board, stool, and T-square should be provided, besides a couple of hat and coat hooks, coal-box, shovel, and thermometer. Such an office is generally built of studding, match-boarded inside, and weather-boarded externally, tarred felt being used as the roofing material. There are, however, no fixed rules for this. Stoves often take the place of fireplaces, and occasionally the office has to be of a portable character, and erected upon the scaffolding. It ought to be provided with a boarded floor.
A good supply of stationery and of all essentials should be laid in at the commencement, but not an over-supply; while such things as colours, which may or may not be needed, had better not be obtained until they are actually required. There should, however, be a fair stock of pencils; some of these should be of the carpenter type, and others should be of blue chalk for marking rejected materials.