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The Spinning Wheel - De-Constructing an Original

Well, it seems my brother had been keeping great great granddad's old spinning wheel - I had forgotten the box that it was in when I left the homestead, and he had been storing it for me. After reading the last piece I did on spinning wheels, he must have read it and remembered he had it -and got it out in the mail to me - because it arrived a week or so afterwards:

Old spinning wheel

It's missing some pieces, but there's a good majority of it still there. The legs and pedal are gone, and it's missing the two pieces that hold the bobbin/axle.

It's an interesting piece to me on several counts... First, it was made by great great grandad... Second, it's a study in wooden machinery - everything has a purpose and yet it's still elegantly constructed. Third, it's an example of true frontier craftsmanship. I'm not sure of the exact date, my best guess would have been somewhere near the 1870 to 1890 range, in the Dakotas. This would have been made with the most meager set of tools, and quite far out in the country... I think I remember reading the nearest flour mill at the time was a full day away.

Spinning Wheels - no not the song

Though it does show a little of the environment I grew up in - these were the first thing I thought they were singing about the first time I heard that song...

No, I'm talking about the real thing, which are used for making yarn from raw materials such as wool or cotton:

Old Wheel

This one is an antique, made sometime in the later half of the 1800's, and was built by the brother of this man - my great great grandfather:

Early Dovetails

A question on dovetails on WoodCentral led to a discussion of their history, and one of the posters produced a link to a photo of a box with some of (if not the) earliest examples of dovetails on record:

 Roman Dovetails
 Ancient Roman box, dated from the 2nd or 3rd century, currently located in Limesmuseaum Aalen (German language site) in Baden Württemberg.
See the original link (Google translation) to the photo on

It's a fascinating piece, I think most would agree.  I love this sort of old research...  and there's some real sophistication in the design of this box - though I guess sophistication shouldn't be a surprise when you review artworks of the period.  Helenistic statues display the foremost sophistication, for example...  But I digress

The poster also included an informative link to another German site on Roman woodworking tools I also found very interesting.

This box some fairly sophisticated woodworking - and obviously the dovetails' design is well developed at this point.   It's pretty obvious to me that they've been around for (literally) thousands of years...  Interesting that the idea of craftsmanship hasn't really changed all that much in all this time, isn't it?  There is a legacy to woodworking that goes back hundreds of generations, which is something that is easy to forget in the "we do it so much better now" frame of mind.

 It reminds me of some of the items that have been passed down to me..,.  One of my most treasured came from the old country with my grandparents - it's a traveling/storage box known as a "koffort":

New Woodworking Blog Feeds

I've successfully added a new feature to the Norse Woodsmith website - blog feeds directly from some of my favorite woodworking bloggers - including Chris Schwarz, Adam Cherubni, Alice Frampton (Alf, at the Cornish Workshop), Gary Robert's Toolemera blog, and others.  There are links to their latest blogs at the bottom of the page, and a link to a list view of posts arranged by individual blogger) or, if you prefer, the latest posts in their entirety by following the links in the "Community" pull down menu above.

Workbenches: from Design & Theory to Construction & Use by Chris Schwarz

The editor for both Popular Woodworking and Woodworking magazines, Chris Schwarz, has published his first book: Workbenches: from Design and Theory to Construction and Use. Over the years I've become a fan of Mr. Schwarz's; he's helping bring the hand tool element back to the over "powered" woodworking magazines of the last two decades. For the last many years, magazines have disappointed me again and again with their over-"powered" approach to absolutely everything.


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