The Woodwright’s School is already hallowed ground for a lot of woodworkers, but hovering above workshop is Ed Lebetkin’s Antique Tool store….
Before heading up there, I was warned to leave my wallet behind as there would be a lot of temptation at the top of the stairs….Ed’s store is filled with just about every kind of traditional woodworking tool and accessory you could want.
An amazing assortment of chisels, planes of every kind, marking gauges, braces and bits.
One whole wall of the shop is filled with molding planes .
New stuff is always coming and going so you’ll want to visit often — or see about renting a space to camp out and be first to check out the new arrivals. 😉
During my visit I was enamored with an unusual boring machine. The castings on the tilt mechanism look similar to my old Swan boring machine but what made this machine unusual was the mechanism to advance the business end of the unit horizontally via the large knob on the bottom — rather than the whole dance of shimmying yourself and the unit up the timber and re-aligning the auger to make the next hole. The runners and support structure for it was all metal which leads me to believe it was a later design towards the end of that era.
I tried my best to get out without buying anything — especially since the Nashua Live Free or Die Tool Show and Auction is coming up in a couple of weeks, but it’s like Ed knew I was coming. I found a great reprint book on Concord NH furniture makers, a book on the Shaker Barn full of tools at the Shelburne Museum in VT which I wrote about here, a MWTCA reprint of a tool catalog, a nice old Stanley auger bit extension for use with a bit brace, and a Stanley 203 bench clamp. This neat little clamp is something I’ve looked at in the past — and makes a nice addition to any bench with a sliding deadman. I look forward to giving it a try.
I’m looking forward to my next visit. If you’d like to plan a visit to the tool store or contact Ed you can find his contact info on the store’s web page here. Ed’s a great guy. If you meet him, be sure to tell him I sent you. 🙂
For Labor Day weekend this year I flew down to the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, North Carolina to take a 3 day class on making a Jointer Plane with Willard ‘Bill’ Anderson (more on that in an upcoming post).
My flight got in early on Friday and I had the chance to hang out with some friends at the school during the last day of a class on building the Anarchist’s Tool Chest with Chris Schwarz.
The Woodwright’s School is located in downtown Pittsboro which is a scenic town about 20 minutes from Chapel Hill.
Don’t let the sometimes quiet streets fool you, once inside the school you are in a lively space full of folks who as passionate about woodworking as you are. Roy was on hand to help students as they worked their way through the last day of week long class on building a traditional English tool chest based on Chris’ book ‘The Anarchist’s Toolchest’.
One of the attractions to Roy’s school is its focus on only using traditional English/American hand tools — there were no whining power tools, no Dozuki saws and no plastic handles to be seen — or at least none that I saw when Roy was making his rounds. 😉
If you ever read Roy’s book on public speaking you’ll get why Khruschev’s shoe is an interesting trophy. Beyond the witty stories and advice on how to keep a crowd engaged and entertained, the last chapter on the morning after a presentation was the one that resonated the most with me. Applying the advice therein has improved several lectures I have to make each year.
Traditional woodworking can feel like a very small world at times — the gentleman in the photo above was also in the class I took earlier this summer on making a Name Stamp with Peter Ross at Roy’s school — even though I was 700+ miles from home I happy to see that I could still run into people I knew.
Loitering in the back of the classroom is a corner cupboard you may recognize from Roy’s show. I heard his wife has been waiting on it for a while — which made me feel a tiny bit better about the dresser I owe my wife Alyssa — which reminds me I need to get working on that again….
It was also great to spend some time hanging out with my friends Chris Schwarz and Megan Fitzpatrick including a stroll through Ed’s tool shop above the school.
No toolchest is ever completely filled and Ed’s shop has a huge collection of traditional tools on par with some of the best regional tool shows. I tried my best to be good and save my pennies for the Nashua tool show later this month, but I did find some new toys.
I had fun chatting with everyone, examining some interesting tools and helping to sweep up before a trip to the City Tap — which is a awesome bar just behind the school with great food and drinks.
On my way out of the school I saw my old friend Otto Salomon and various other proper woodworking models from the Teacher’s Handbook of Sloyd.
It seems the Woodwright’s School is full of new and old friends that are literally popping out of the woodworking.
If you’d like to learn more about the school, make some new friends, meet up with old friends, or sign up for a class you can check out the school’s website here.
Tool chests come in all shapes and sizes — from the hand built traditional joiner’s chest, to a mail order gentleman’s chest, to the plastic fantastic junk you find in big box stores today. Depending on what kind of work you do the number of tools you have in your chest may vary, but at some point I think all traditional craftsmen (and craftswomen) wonder how many tools they can actually fit inside their primary chest.
How many tools can you fit into your tool chest? Don’t worry, if you want to cram in a few extra items before we start counting I’m willing to wait.
How many tools did you to fit in your chest? How about 500 tools?! That’s right, the tool chest shown here once belonged to Alexander Forbes who was a cabinet maker and Pullman car builder from Cleveland Ohio contained over 500 traditional woodworking tools.
This tool chest is currently on display at the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware and is part of the 400 Years of Massachusetts Furniture display at the museum.
On the wall behind the chest you will see over 100 tools on display from this chest that dates to about 1880. The tools look like they are in exceptionally good shape and would be right at home on my own workbench. This set is representative of the kinds of tools a cabinetmaker would use to make many of the pieces on display in this exhibit.
Don’t let the painted and time worn exterior finish fool you, the interior of the chest was well laid out and carefully constructed with mahogany tills proudly inlaid and showing off the woodworking skills of Alexander Forbes. He apparently also had incredible spacial relation skills to fit that many tools into that fairly average sized chest and to it in such a way that the tills etc do not get beat up in the process. Having said that I assume he likely only crammed all the tools in there for longer trips; I would think for efficiency purposes he’d likely partially unpack/deploy tools just to make enough room in the chest to access all the tools he’d need on a daily basis.
The display also went to great lengths to explain how craftsmen learned their trade, how they used various woods and how many pieces were constructed.
Prominently on display was the partial dressing table shown above which was put together by Steve Brown who is an instructor in the Cabinet and Furniture Making program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston. This carefully constructed sample piece concisely shows the progressive steps it took to make a piece like the period dressing table shown to the left of the tool-chest I’ve been admiring.
Moving beyond the intro, the display shows representative samples of ‘Boston’ style furniture in the collection and the wide variety of the objects created by Massachusetts Bay craftsmen during the last 400 years.
From simple utilitarian stools to high style chest pieces you get a feel for the design elements that representative of the work coming out of Boston and the surrounding area. You will need to visit the exhibit in person to fully experience the depth and variety of style I am talking about.
Beyond this exhibition which runs through October 6, 2013, there is a LOT more to see and explore at Winterthur. They offer several tours to parts of the house that are not part of the regular admission, including customized tours you can request, so I highly encourage you to schedule some tours of the other floors when you visit. In the fall I heard thy will also have an exhibit on the costumes of Downton Abbey which will be interesting to see along with all the great furniture, architectural elements (many rooms are furnished with the interior trim that was salvaged from historic homes around the country), and beautiful gardens.
If you’d like to learn more about Winterthur, please check out their website here. And if you’d like to learn more about ‘400 Years of Massachusetts Furniture’ which is a series of events throughout the year at a consortium of museums and cultural institutions you can learn more about it here. At the least you’ll learn how to efficiently pack tools in your tool chest….
Can’t get enough of 17th and 18th century hand tools? C’Mon I know I’m not the only one…..
In a rather unassuming barn deep inside of the Shelburne Museum in Shelburne VT you’ll find a treasure trove of antique tools on display. The collection has a large display of classic woodworking tools and many specialty trades like coopering, timber framing, bookbinding, locksmithing, shoemaking, blacksmithing and many other common trades of yore. Sounds almost like a listing of the majors we have at NBSS. 🙂
Every time we go, it’s always the first thing I want to go look at, and while it may seem a lost world to many, I’m always giddy to see how many tools from the same time period I’m regularly using in my own shop. It’s one of the best collections of traditional woodworking tool’s I’ve seen and it’s all on display.
In addition, the Shelburne also has great period houses, a paddlewheel steamship, lighthouse, classical and modern art, a huge collection of old toys, wagons/buggies/sleighs, rotating exhibits and events. If you are ever in the Burlington VT area I highly recommend you spend a day at the museum.
You can find out more about the Shelburne Museum here.
A Joiner's Guide To Traditional Woodworking and Preservation