Things have been quiet on the blog front the past few weeks. Some folks wondered if I was kidnapped or worse. Thankfully I am safe and sound, though exhausted. I’ve been working 12+ hour days for the last three weeks straight at the day job. My volunteer night job has been developing a new website for the Early American Industries Association which is one of the oldest and most prolific groups of its kind. Any spare moments beyond that have been spent in the shop or preparing the baby’s room.
I’m proud to say that the new EAIA website has been online for a few weeks now and you can check it out here. It offers a new more modern feel and is built on the WordPress platform. My hope is that we can get more folks involved — especially the next generation of tool and early industry aficionados. If you have an interest in blogging or would like to share some related content with the group (even if you are not a member) please contact me here.
If you are not already a member I highly recommend checking out this great organization. The two major publications — The Chronicle and Shavings alone are worth the cost of membership. You can find many other like minded folks who are into traditional hand tools, techniques and the study of industries that helped shape America.
The EAIA is also known for it’s Annual Meeting and regional meetings. They are a great opportunity to visit new areas and museums, get a behind the scenes look at a given venue and socialize/network with like-minded friends. You can see some highlights of last year’s meeting in my earlier blog posts here.
This year’s meeting theme is ‘Tools for the New Frontier: 1790 to 1840’ and will be this coming week in Pittsburgh PA. Highlights will include visiting the Heinz Center, Old Economy Village, the Fort Pitt Museum along with the usual EAIA events of the tool swap, tool auction, whatsits? and many mixer events. If you are interested you can learn more here.
I look forward to seeing many of you at the conference.
P.S. I’ve been busy working out in the workshop and after the conference will be posting some updates on what I’ve been up to. Stay tuned.
Day 3 was the last day of the EAIA 2103 Conference on Cape Cod. It was another busy day full of events. After breakfast we headed off to the Tool Show and Swap where folks setup tables full of tools for sale or trade or a booth with a display to show either a unique collection, research results or other things of interest to the group.
Seeing the prices folks wanted for some items, I’m not convinced they wanted to sell them — but I guess that is why most folks refer to themselves as collectors (or hoarders — as my wife often calls me) and not sellers.
A highlight of the event for me was finally getting to meet Chris Schwarz in person. I’ve conversed with him via email and similar means for several years, but it was nice to get to talk with him in person. I am a big fan of his work, research and writing.
This display was interesting in that it showed a split view of before and after restoration. Having brought many an old plane back to life, it was a nice presentation.
Next up was master tinsmith Bill MicMillen — who you may have seen at other EAIA events, Eastfield Village or Colonial Williamsburg.
Bill gave a nice talk on the “Tinsmith In America: The Trade, Materials, Tradesmen, Tools & Products”. It was interesting to see how the trade came to America, changed and migrated over the years.
Bill went on to demonstrate how to make a tin cup walking us through the various forming and soldering stages.
Bill demonstrated his considerable hand skill in making the cup by hand and also showed how some of the later forming machines changed the way common items were made.
Chris Schwarz gave a talk called ‘Tool Chests Fancy and Simple’ where he explained a bit about the evolution and anatomy of tool chests — from the densely packed and high style H.O. Studley Toolchest, to fare more utilitarian models.
It was also interesting to see some of Chris’ journey from earlier power tool oriented projects to later more traditional projects that focused on traditional joinery and hand tools.
In the evening we took part in the EAIA annual silent auction that benefits the EAIA endowment. There was a nice selection of traditional tools, books and items folks donated and/or made for the auction.
Alyssa and I had a lot of fun in the auction and it took some bidding, but we got some of the items we set our sights on….
Alyssa had her heart set on this nice turned pen made from kingwood and is already putting it to good use.
I won an old book from Winterthur Museum on the Dominy Clock shop which came from Long Island (a few towns out from where I grew up) and was a book I’ve been hunting around for for several years. I look forward to reading it soon and visiting WInterthur later this year as they have an exhibit on 400 years of Massachusetts furniture and has several reproductions made by friends from NBSS.
After the auction we had the annual meeting and banquet. Following dinner, Myles Standish came to regale us with stories of his life and travels and answer any questions the audience had.
Beyond all the events I also got some shiny new toys:
I got the carriage maker’s rule and old hand saws at the Great Planes auction and will put them to good use in the shop.
At the tool swap I got some great books this year. I got a bunch of historic reprints from the Toolemera Press that I had been thinking about for a while. In an antique shop on the Cape I found a nice 1950s set of 4 Audel’s books on masonry. At Plimoth I got one of Peter Follansbee’s DVDs on carving (Which he was kind enough to autograph for me), a DVD version of making a chair from a tree, and a nice book on English Period House Fixtures and Fittings which looks like a nice reference book.
I’ll end with the first thing I got on this trip — picked up during registration — which is a nice Lee Valley Saddle Square which was engraved to commemorate the 80th Anniversary of the EAIA. Similar to Lee Valley dovetail saddle squares I have I’m sure it will earn its place in my tool chest.
I had a great time on this trip and while it was hard to go to work on Monday, I was happy to think about the great time we had and look forward to next year’s event.
Day 2 of the EAIA 2013 Cape Cod conference turned out to be as jam packed as the first day. The weather was perfect and we got to explore some new museums. First stop was the ‘Heritage Museum and Gardens’ which I had never been to before.
The entrance had this trough which looks like it just just out into space and almost looks like it is flowing uphill…
From the side you can see how it ends with a waterfall surrounded by one of the MANY beautiful gardens on site.
There is also a very good replica of the Hancock Shaker Village round barn which is home to the automobile collection and related exhibits.
Inside the barn was an exhibition on automotive design, GM’s motorama exhibitions and the largest collection of Corvette prototypes I’ve ever seen under one roof.
Harley Earl’s 1963 Stingray Corvette convertible that was designed to be painted like the mako shark that hung on the wall of his office. After several attempts to match the color of the shark, the engineering staff stole the shark at night, painted it to match the car, and then said ‘Look the car matches the shark now’
This 1990 prototype corvette was one of the HEAVIEST corvettes ever made and was jam packed with so much new technology it was not feasible as a production vehicle. But its absolutely amazing to me how many of the design cues eventually made it into the car during the much later C5 generation.
Next up was a tour of all the long guns and interesting pistols the museum had in their archives.
There was also a restored carousel that we all got to ride on. It was probably 10+ years since my wife and I last rode a carousel — but even as an adult it was still a lot of fun.
Near the carousel there was a section full of interesting weather vanes and trade signs.
Next up was a visit to the Sandwich Glass Museum which recounts the history of the Sandwich Glass Works.
Inside the visitor center is a nice new and working kiln.
After a video history and lecture on the women of the Sandwich Glass Works we were treated to a glass blowing demonstration.
In the evening we returned to the hotel for the Great Planes tool auction. In a room full of tool collectors and experts the prices for a lot of items seemed to go higher that I would have expected — or at least higher than I was willing to pay, but I got a couple of small items near the end after all the big spenders got a little tired out. I got a nice pair of old Disston hand saws and a 4′ carriage maker’s boxwood folding rule which I can put to good use.
It was another busy day down on the Cape. Up next, Day 3 Demonstrations, Lectures, Silent Auction and Banquet….
For me, one of the highlight’s of this years EAIA conference was a lecture from and later talking with Peter Follansbee of Plimoth Plantation. I met Peter before as some of my classmates from NBSS have worked at the plantation, but on this visit, it was particularly interesting to learn more about what brought him to the plantation and how his work and research have changed over the years.
Peter answered many questions and demonstrated some carving at the bench. In person I find he often has funny anecdotes and snarky comments that are both cutting and entertaining.
I particularly liked the carved book stand (seen below) which could be adjusted for viewing angle, and had small dowels that can keep the book open.
He also demonstrated some light spindle turning at his pole lathe.
In the shop, as always, were examples of the varied sorts of work he carries out. Seen below is a great looking carved English style chair, and behind is a greenwood chair similar to that which is seen in Jennie (John) Alexander Jr’s book on working with green wood which I heard was the inspiration for Peter’s recent book on making joint stool from a tree.
Peter was gracious enough to sign my DVD of his carving, so that also made my day.
Surrounded by a throng of overly eager visitors, Peter took question and demonstrated the use of a froe for splitting wood.
Above you can see some joint stools from his book on that subject along with his own interpretation of the Anarchist’s tool chest based on the recent book by Chris Schwarz. It was neat to see how Peter used (presumably) blacksmith made hinges and painted the chest. (Along with a different panel configuration for the lid). You can learn more about it on Peter’s blog here.
And finally, shown here is an example of some of the high style work Peter produces. When I give my class a tour of the MFA America’s wing each summer I am always happy to show them the original they have on display alongside the reproduction Peter produced for the museum to show how the piece likely looked when it was new. I always find it interesting to see how earlier generations enjoyed color, and changing styles much as folks do today.
It was another great visit to Peter’s shop, and I look forward to seeing what he’s been up to on my next visit to the plantation.
This past weekend Alyssa and I attended our first EAIA annual meeting which was held in Hyannis on Cape Cod. For those not familiar with the EAIA, it is the Early American Industries Association which is an organization that celebrates the trades, crafts, and tools that were a part of American history and have made an impact in all our lives. We were members for a few years, but this was the first event we attended…and now we can’t wait for next year’s events! Below and in some upcoming posts I’ll try to recap some highlights from this years events which kept us busy.
We started out our day with the introductory/orientation film and then an interesting talk by Peter Follansbee who is an expert on 17th century woodworking and quite the interesting character. He talked about his own background, interesting changes at the plantation over the years and research into traditional woodworking of that era.
After that program we were free to explore the plantation and/or take part in some other behind the scenes tours.
My wife and I had been to Plimoth many times over the years, and some of my classmates from NBSS worked at the museum so I did not have high hopes for this part of the event, but I was happy to see some programs and behind the scenes events where I learned some interesting new information. We also got to have lunch ‘Like a Pilgrim’ eating some food prepared as it would have been back in the 17th century — so some traditional turkey, vegetables, desert, condiments, utensils (or lack thereof — I missed my spork), and table manners.
In the Plimoth Maritime Workshop we took part in a lecture on 17th century Shallop boats, how they were used in the colony and how the plantation recreated some of these vessels, issues that came up during construction and how they fared on the open sea.
I love to see this sort of behind the scenes workshop — to see how they setup, how they work, what tools they use etc.
The pungent smell of pine tar on the rigging from the Mayflower II which was in drydock was quite strong, but added to the ambiance — though folks with asthma did not agree with me on that.
We had great weather all weekend. We also took part in a private tour event where one of the curators explained how the plantation uses experimental archaeology and character interpretation to explore the mindset and problems of the time period and also to try and answer some of the questions we have about the times given the incomplete records that survive. Who would have thought that thread + textiles specifically spun to recreate a 17th century coat would help improve sutures used in open heart surgery?
The livestock on the plantation were quite used to humans and friendly; no animatronic squirrels like at Williamsburg (*wink* to my friends at CW with that old joke)
There were also numerous demonstrations from folks working in the historic trades — blacksmithing, woodworking, pottery, textiles, cooking etc.
If you’d like to learn more about Plimoth Plantation or plan a visit of your own, check out their website here.
After dinner and an ice cream social for first time attendees we took part in the annual ‘Whatsit’ session. Folks try and stump the other tool enthusiasts with their recent finds — or figure out what that oddball tool your late relative left you in his will was actually used for. Not surprisingly there is not as much demand for a brass button polisher or ox training yolk as you might think.
It was a beautiful day filled with back to back events. Stay tuned for a bit more on woodworking at the Plimoth Plantation and Day 2 and 3…
A Joiner's Guide To Traditional Woodworking and Preservation