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Issue Three T.O.C. - On the Trail of Two Cabinetmakers: Reconstructing the Careers of Samuel Wing and Tilly Mead
Editor’s Note: This post is written by Shelley Cathcart, Assistant Curator at Old Sturbridge Village. Shelley and her co-author, Amy Griffin (American Foundation Curatorial Fellow), have been researching the cabinet and chair making of two New England craftsmen. We are excited to publish this fresh research in M&T Issue Three, titled "On the Trail of Two Cabinetmakers: Reconstructing the Careers of Samuel Wing and Tilly Mead". We are confident this essay will help to advance our understanding of rural American cabinetmaking before the Industrial Revolution.
Interior of Samuel Wing’s Workshop, Sandwich, Massachusetts. November 1964
A new exhibition at Old Sturbridge Village, Planed, Grained, & Dovetailed: Cabinetmaking in Rural New England, explores the tools, products and livelihoods of rural cabinetmakers in the early 19th century. Stories of individual craftsmen or local partnerships are examined to reveal the man behind the workbench, his processes, products, and clientele. Inside the gallery the careers of two rural Massachusetts craftsmen – Samuel Wing (1774-1854) of Sandwich and Tilly Mead (1794-1849) of Hardwick – are compared through surviving material and physical evidence to situate the men in the canon of New England furniture makers. Both navigated the trade in ways that were typical during the first half of the 19th century. Like most rural craftsmen, they were primarily farmers with diverse sources of income, facing pressures of increased factory production with the advent of the Industrial Revolution. By exploring the narrative through a comparison of source material they left behind, it reveals unique approaches to the creation and maintenance of professional identity as a rural cabinetmaker.
Over fifty years ago Old Sturbridge Village was gifted the contents of Samuel Wing’s workshop, unveiling a vast material record of pre-industrial tools, patterns, furniture parts, and finished products. Account books, letters, and receipts reveal the versatility and entrepreneurial spirit of this coastal craftsman and chronicle the demands of his clientele. Interior images taken upon donation of Wing’s shop invite scholars to explore the interior and mechanics of an early 19th-century rural craftsman’s workshop. Even though Wing only practiced the trade for about 15 years, he left sufficient physical evidence to determine his production methods, style preferences, and technical strengths. Yet, the artifacts reveal few details about Wing’s personal life. The synthesis of documentary and material resources demonstrates his superior ability as a craftsman, but fails to reveal it as a means of self-definition.
The story of Hardwick’s Tilly Mead, depicted in a portrait by eminent decorative painter John Ritto Penniman, challenges researchers to recognize the contributions of a cabinetmaker whose surviving work is scarce. In lieu of a body of furniture, Mead left a trail of land transactions, patterns and graphic materials, some papers, architectural resources, and significant social connections. This evidence supports vivid conclusions about Mead’s personality and his aspirations in the thriving but competitive field of fancy painted furniture, but offer only hints of his actual products. Mead’s lively but meager career represents one cabinetmaker’s response to the fluid but unstable state of the trade in mid-19th century New England.
Letter from Ebenezer Swift, dated May 18, 1799, cites the demands of local clientele, imploring Mr. Wing to “give them chairs a good Green coler [sic]…& do get them dun [sic] as soon as you can…”
Juxtaposing the evidence available on these two craftsmen introduces specificity and nuance to general characterizations of New England cabinetmakers. In bringing their careers into the light, we find cause to re-evaluate assumptions about the knowledge, aspirations, and resourcefulness of rural artisans. At the same time, both men confronted industrial and economic changes that transformed the trade, forcing all cabinetmakers to reconsider their status. Adding unconventional sources to traditional furniture study enriches and refines our ever-evolving understanding of the cabinetmaking tradition in Massachusetts and the individuals who shaped it.
- Shelley Cathcart, Assistant Curator, Old Sturbridge Village
Stay tuned for the next Issue Three article announcement tomorrow….
Just a reminder that Yann Giguère is hosting the 4th annual NYC KEZ. It’s a full day of Japanese tool fun, with plenty of opportunity to try these tools hands on. There is a planing contest for those who are interested, and classes throughout that week as well as a one day workshop on Friday. Click on the link above for the full schedule.
Tickets are limited, but still available. I’ll be there Friday and Saturday, and hope to see you there, too.
Wednesday 21st June 2017 So, there I was in Israel. It’s cool and rain fell. That never happens in June, every one said at once in English. A full class of people smiling and welcoming one another and me. There was as usual that heightened sense of enthusiasm that permeates the whole atmosphere before classes …
|first step tonight is take this|
|and attach it on top of this|
|got it centered and marked on the back|
I think I got lucky in that the weather is lending a helping hand. The top is sticking to the bookcase. Not like it was glued but enough that it takes a good bump to get it to move. The plan is to drill the holes and then get two screws in place, one at the back and one at the front. And try my hardest to keep the top from moving as I do all these dance steps.
I had thought of positioning the top and putting a couple of nails in it to hold it. Then I could get the screws installed but then I would have to deal with the nail holes. Another step and potentially another day added to getting the bookcase finished.
|picking the right screw|
|I'll start the holes from underneath going into the top|
|I think this will work|
|cove molding is last|
|love them ribs|
|shooting it clean and smooth|
|the back heel needs to be trimmed a wee bit|
|shaved with the block plane|
|left them long|
|rough sawn and left proud|
|taped off the inside on all four edges|
|painted the front of these yesterday|
What was the highest scoring College football game?
answer - Georgia Tech beating up Cumberland 222-0 in 1916. Ouch.
Today, we begin releasing the table of contents for Issue Three. Each day we will describe one article from the upcoming issue to give you all taste of what’s to come. On Friday at Lie-Nielsen, we released the list of articles and heard lots of excited feedback about this upcoming issue. Mike and I keep pinching ourselves as we continue to get such talented and passionate authors. Stay tuned here at the blog as we announce each of the 12 articles that will be in Issue Three.
Without further ado… here is the first article:
“The Spring Pole Lathe: Design, Construction, and Use” by: Joshua Klein
Of all the work that I’ve demonstrated over the years there’s one thing that never fails to captivate an audience: the spring pole lathe. Every time I am working at this foot-powered lathe, people seem genuinely astonished that such a simple device can produce elegant craftsmanship. I’m usually asked if I invented the idea. The answer is, of course, “Absolutely not”. This reciprocal lathe using a cord wrapped around the workpiece has been in use for many centuries.
This is my second spring pole lathe. The first was a softwood lathe I built from the wonderful design by Roy Underhill. It worked for most smaller projects but I eventually wanted longer rails and more mass. When designing this new lathe, I combed through numerous resources. I relied primarily on Roubo’s discussion (translated by Don McConnell) as well as the Dominy example at Winterthur in combination with many other historic paintings and images.
This lathe is built of white oak and features drawbore mortise-and-tenon joinery. This build is more like timber framing than furniture making. Even though I prefer meat-powered tools for my furniture making, I show in this article how a cordless drill with Forstner bits made quick work of the large mortises.
If you have been interested in trying out a spring pole lathe but haven’t known where to start, this article was written for you. There is a wonderful satisfaction in turning beautiful beads, coves, and balusters all powered with the pump of your foot. This article also addresses common myths about pole lathes such as how exhausting it must be to pump the treadle and how it is only good for green wood. Neither of those things are true.
I hope this build gives you the final bit of confidence it takes to build your own spring pole lathe. There is nothing quite like hearing the wind in the trees carrying the “SCRIT, SCRIT” of the bevel engaging at each rotation. On top of that, the refreshingly humane surface it creates is nothing like the 10 million RPM electric sandpapered perfection machines offer us.
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Issue Three article announcement…
Last December when I started this series on the Maslow CNC, my goal was to evaluate the $350 kit with a focus on how it might fit into a hobbyist woodworker’s world — the kind of machine a woodworker in a home shop who might want to try a bit of digital woodworking at a low price. With that in mind, I look at the Maslow CNC and come up […]
The post How does the Maslow CNC fit in the Woodworking World? appeared first on Popular Woodworking Magazine.
Read the other installments in the “Sharpen This” series via this link.
When you learn to sharpen, I think it’s essential to do something that is normally a bad idea: Close your mind.
Let’s say you are 5 years old and starting school. The teacher says you need to learn to read, write and speak, and that you can use any and all of the words and phrases from every language on the planet.
It’s unlikely you’d be able to communicate with anyone in your class or your community. You learned the German word for “eating” and the Persian word for “sauce.” But your friend learned the Cherokee and Finnish words.
Instead, the quickest path to finding out where the bathroom is or how to microwave a burrito is to learn a language that allows you to navigate your world. Then you can figure out which other languages you might like to learn.
Sharpening is like that. Every sharpening system is has its own logic, history and subtleties. And while every system works brilliantly, mixing and matching bits from multiple systems is likely to confuse and confound.
Pick one system. It doesn’t matter if it’s oilstones, waterstones, diamonds or sandpaper. Ignore every other system out there. If someone tries to tell you that a different system is better, plug your ears and start shouting “nunga, nunga, nunga.”
Here’s why: About 70 percent of the people willing to talk about sharpening in detail are those who are new to it. They simply love their new system. It makes edges that can shave them bald with little effort whatsoever.
About 29 percent of the people willing to talk about sharpening in detail are trying to sell you sharpening equipment. Most of this equipment works fine, but you don’t need all of it (any more than you need all the handplanes in the Lee Valley catalog to make a box).
And the final 1 percent of people willing to talk about sharpening are idiots like me. I don’t think one system is particularly better than any other. I don’t sell sharpening equipment. I’ll be happy to teach you to sharpen, but you have to promise me you’ll master one sharpening system and use it exclusively for one year before changing your routine or buying different equipment.
I call this “sharpening monogamy,” and I think it’s the fastest route to the sharpest edges.
So step one is to pick one system and sign that pre-nuptial agreement, but don’t buy anything yet. First you need to understand what sharp looks like (and what dull looks like). And you need to figure out the three grits in your system of choice that will grind, hone and polish your tools.
Only then should you get out your wallet
— Christopher Schwarz
P.S. These sharpening columns are generally not going to allow comments. Why? Well, I think this column pretty much lays out why. If you’d like to take me to task on my approach, I recommend posting your thoughts on your blog.
P.P.S. And if you think this is a “free speech” thing, please read this first.
Filed under: Sharpen This, Uncategorized
I’ve just begun on Issue 2 and after much success of Issue 1 with a record download of 1500 and still counting, I’m hoping I can do an even better job in Issue 2. HANDWORK has gained a fantastic contributing author Greg Merritt who will cover a great topic which I’ll leave you guessing till it’s out. Brian and Joshua are another two great authors I look forward in working with again, their contribution towards the magazine are greatly appreciated.
Once more I do not have a timeline on when it will be released as I’m trying to fit this work in between jobs that pays the bills just barely and my shop time that consumes what’s left of my savings.
I’m also considering writing a book, it’s 1:23am and I’ve only just scratched the surface of my first article. I will be getting up in 6 hours to do it all again, luckily for me I have a few days off work not that I can bloody afford to have a single day off work but I’m dedicated to this project, it’s a good thing and a worthwhile effort and the best part is you all enjoyed reading HANDWORK and that’s worth every effort.
Good night and take care.
No Southern-fried Southern boy wants to be called a Yankee, but we share the characteristics of shrewdness and thrift. Thus, each month we include a money-saving tip. It’s OK if you call me “cheap.”
This little modification will make your portable air tank infinitely more useful: Where it originally came with an attached hose, turn the air-flow shutoff to the closed position, then remove the hose at the fitting, using a tubing wrench. Save the hose.
Using the appropriate-sized brass nipple, attach a female quick disconnect to the tank. Be sure to cover the threads with Teflon tape or pipe dope, because you don’t want any air being wasted through leaks.
Now, install a male quick disconnect on the supplied hose. You did save the hose, didn’t you?!
Congratulations, you just increased the utility and versatility of your little tank!
Jim Randolph is a veterinarian in Long Beach, Mississippi. His earlier careers as lawn mower, dairy farmer, automobile mechanic, microwave communications electronics instructor and journeyman carpenter all influence his approach to woodworking. His favorite projects are furniture built for his wife, Brenda, and for their children and grandchildren. His and Brenda’s home, nicknamed Sticks-In-The-Mud, is built on pilings (sticks) near the wetlands (mud) on a bayou off Jourdan River. His shop is in the lower level of their home.Questions and comments on woodworking may be written below in the comments section. Questions about pet care should be directed to his blog on pet care, www.MyPetsDoctor.com. We regret that, because of high volume, not all inquiries can be answered personally.
The post Tips from Sticks in the Mud – July 2017 – Tip #2– Modifying a Portable Air Tank appeared first on Woodworking Blog.
There are two clerks there with a helper. Only the clerks can wait on people and the time I was there the outgoing mail was getting picked up. So, one clerk waiting on people and another doing outgoing mail. You'd think that they would do the mail after the counter is closed so all that mail can go too?
I checked Staples for printing out my camera manual and the cost for that was 32 cents a page for a tally of $42.88. To have it spiral bound would take an additional 2-3 days and cost about $6 more. Duplex and collating would add an additional cost too. My wife offered to print it out (duplex and collated) and then bring it to the Staples by her work and have it spiral bound. Maybe this weekend I'll be able to read up on how to operate my new TG-5.
|waiting for me when I got home from the post office|
|from doz's olde tyme stanley totes & knobs|
|low knobs rule|
|doz's tote looks 100% better|
|these two are for me|
I've been eyeballing these on Josh's site for a couple of weeks and I almost pulled the trigger on them several times but didn't. I was surprised that they lasted this long without someone else snapping them up. When he put these in the reduced and leftover page I just had to buy them. Both are in a large size with one being a beader and the other an astragal.
|a #5 bead plane|
|bead on the left and astragal on the right|
|got super lucky again|
|the beader doesn't have a rabbet in the middle part of the plane|
|got lucky with the iron too (beader)|
|went two for two|
|ready to reclaim some real estate|
I'm still not done with the saw donkeys though. I can paint the sides and back with it on the the deck but it will be easier to paint the beaded frame if I put it back on the saw donkeys.
|the blanket will protect the bottom of the base|
|back and sides painted|
|the new shelf|
No woodworking tonight and it looks like until I get the painting done there won't be much of it. The painted parts are hogging all the available space in the shop. As much as I want this to be done, I also don't want to cut corners to save time to complete this. This is the hard part of a project for me. No woodworking and a lot of finishing that has way too much hurry up and wait.
Who was James George Snyder Jr?
answer - Jimmy the Greek, the famous odds maker
“The central concern [of my own work] is encouragement – encouraging people to seek, to experiment, to design, to create and to dream.”
– Wm. S. Coperthwaite, A Handmade Life
There are few events that I look forward to more than Lie-Nielsen’s Open House. Every year, Tom Lie-Nielsen opens his doors and invites his fellow toolmakers to showcase their work. The list of guest demonstrators is always long and impressive. Hoards of people come out to this small town of Warren, Maine for a most unique fellowship with these hand tool fanatics. Visitors are able to handle and use the most amazing tools in the world all in one place. It would be easy to write a blog post all about the incredible craftsmanship at this event but, this time, I won’t. As Mike and I talked for two days straight with hundreds of passionate woodworkers, something even more incredible overshadowed our experience: the encouragement this community offers.
Over and over we had conversations with people that told us their lives were touched and profoundly changed by this hand tool community. They expressed appreciation for those who labor to teach craft skills and those who make tools to empower their creative work. I talked with some that told stories about specific years talking to specific people that forever changed the course of their life. I almost saw tears in a few eyes. (That is not hyperbole.)
It is humbling to be invited to participate in such an encouraging and supportive community of artisans. At events like these, there is no posturing, no one-upmanship. We all give and we all receive.
So, thank you, Tom, for your courageous and humble example of encouraging others. Over the years I’ve watched you, it has become clear that you share Coperthwaite’s central concern to build others up. This corner of the world is better place because of your generosity. We are all grateful and indebted.
I’ve never properly used a drafting table but I have fond memories of snooping around the offices when I went to work with my dad and playing with my uncle’s motorized drafting table. I mean, come on, a table that was controlled with pedals was pretty amazing to a young kid! Since the days of motorized drafting tables have passed, a multitude of software options have come to market. Many packages […]
Two doors bereft of the cupboard they once belonged to lay askew on a burn pile. Disposal takes many forms for many reasons, but one man’s discard often thrives in another’s. Whereas some can’t be bothered, others don’t know the value or whether indeed anyone might want the discard. Time too might be the issue …
Read the full post Disseminating Those Anonymous English Master Makers on Paul Sellers' Blog.
Turning the remainder of the three legs for this little stool went fairly quickly. Helped in part by and early start and a cool morning. A welcome change from the heat that is the norm for this time of year.
The boring of the mortise holes went quickly as well using the same method that I used on the previous stools. I did add one extra step however. These legs are small in diameter and the lead screw on the auger bit resulted in a shallow hole. Luckily my forstner bit is the same diameter as my auger bit (not always the case) and I was able to deepen the mortise holes to the required depth.
The dry-fit went well and I took a break while the hide glue was heating up.
There was a brief moment of panic before the glue up however. The joinery was so tight that I wasn’t sure I would be able to dismantle the dry-fit stool. After considerable effort and application of force, I managed to get everything apart and begin the glue-up. Thankfully that went smoothly and I soon had an assembled stool.
It’s been a while since I painted anything and this stool lends itself to having a bit of color. I like wood tones as much as anyone, but its nice to have a splash of color here and there. Management has a chosen accent color that runs throughout the entire house, coral. The most recent addition of coral was the old fan from the magic attic that I refurbished.
An older piece is this little chest of drawers that I made and painted with salmon milk paint and top coated with clear shellac.
Since I still have plenty of salmon milk paint powder left from the chest of drawer project, that is what I’m painting this little stool with. After letting the glue set for a few hours I mixed up some paint and gave the stool a total of three coats.
Next I’ll rub out the surface and give it a top coat. I’m waffling between using shellac or Tried & True.
Part 1 Greg Merritt
Ben from the US sent me these pictures of his wall mounted tools cabinet which is nearing completion. He has cut some very neat dovetails using the magnetic guide as well as some clean looking sliding dovetails.
Ben is currently pondering the best way to attached the doors which are going to be very heavy. I've had success with three butt hinges per side on a similar cabinet as well as good quality piano hinges (continuous hinges). Any other suggestions would be appreciated at this stage of construction.
Ben also has a website http://schmolzewoodworks.com/ where shows the process of making this fine bench plus many other interesting projects.
Recently, a woodworker who’s about to start building a set of cabinets for her own kitchen asked me how I apply heat-sensitive edge banding to doors and drawer faces when working with architectural veneers. She’d done some similar work before but had problems with tear-out during trimming. Here’s my technique, a hybrid between the system used at the first shop where I encountered this type of veneer work and some […]
Two years ago I wrote about some unusual homemade winding sticks I encountered in North Carolina (read the article here). Instead of using inlay to help broadcast a board’s twisted state to your eyes, these used a pair of half-moon cutouts. They worked brilliantly, perhaps better than any other set I’ve used before. This summer I made myself a quick pair while in Germany. These were made with a Forstner […]
After years of working with professional and amateur woodworkers all over the world I have concluded that people who are hostile to handwork tend to badmouth it for a simple reason: They cannot really and truly sharpen.
They might be able to rub a chisel on a rock so their chisels can chop out wood left behind by a router or saw, but beyond that, they are lost.
Think about it: What if your table saw tried to kill you every time you turned it on? (Oh, wait, that’s what it really does do.) OK, imagine if your table saw’s blade had only two teeth on it. You’d hate that saw. You’d tell your students to avoid it. You’d say it was no way to make furniture.
Fixing this ornery saw takes about five minutes, tops: Remove the old blade and replace it with a sharp one. The same goes for a dull chisel or plane blade. Five minutes on the stones (or strop, if you are so inclined) and you are back to perfect.
But if you are unwilling to take a half-hour lesson and perform a few practice sessions to learn to sharpen, then you are going to be forever left with tools that are frustrating, slow, damaging to the wood and awkward.
And that is – I think – the source of hostility to handwork. It’s not that these naysayers think their machines are so fantastic. It’s that they are unwilling to admit they cannot sharpen at a high level.
This is not a supposition. I’ve concluded this after looking at a lot of people’s edges and comparing it to their work and what they say. (The only outliers to my observation are the few people who really can sharpen, but their public personas are based on bashing handwork – yes, these people exist.)
I say all this because today marks a turning point on this blog. Until today, I avoided writing much about sharpening because it is a sticky wicket. There is more misinformation floating around about sharpening than any other woodworking topic (the topic of finishing is a close second).
I have started a new category on this blog: Sharpen This. Articles in this category will show you how I sharpen every tool in my chest: planes, chisels, scrapers, travishers, scorps, moulding planes, awls, spade bits, screwdrivers and so forth. I’ll also attempt to disarm the consumerist economy that has sprung up to capitalize on our craft’s fear of this simple process.
You don’t need a lot of equipment to sharpen. All the systems work. The trick is to pick one system (what I call “sharpening monogamy”) and practice.
And if you are willing to humble yourself before a teacher, admit you cannot sharpen and take a lesson, you can get fixed up with everything you need to know in less than half an hour. (Pro tip: Attend a Lie-Nielsen Hand Tool Event and they will gladly give you a complete and free lesson.)
But if you won’t do this and you continue bash handwork, then I have only two words (and an obscene gesture) for you: Sharpen this.
— Christopher Schwarz
Filed under: Sharpen This, Uncategorized