I will be making a trip towards Williamsburg and am planning to visit
I hope that I be pleased with the woodworking content (please provide
guidance--the folk arts museum?) Any related "attractions" in the vicinity?
I presume it still operates as it did--it's essentially self-supporting
for the artisans-in-resident as a commissioned shop building period
reproductions for clients.
At the time I was there he was about 2 years into a 3-yr+ cherry
highboy, in the midst of carving the drawer fronts (of which there were
roughly several thousand it appeared :) )...
The time for finishing a piece was lengthened by quite a bit from what
would have been as a commercial shop of the day, of course, by the need
to interact with the tourists and the time out for the two or three
daily demonstrations, etc., etc., etc., ...
Not so much... Some items made are sold off but many are retained by the
Foundation and used in exhibits. Like any other business there are
departments with budgets and the skilled tradesmen employment levels go up
and down... seasonal and apprentice positions come and go also. Currently
I'd say they are at a low point in terms of the number of skilled crafts
people--we had 6 in the gunsmith shop (Master, 3 journeymen, 2 summer) when
I was there but only 2 now. Many positions disappeared as the cohort of
craftsman that joined in the 60s and 70s retired. They are at the highest
point I've ever seen in terms of actors, first person interpreters, and
shows and demonstrations--which seems to be what the overall public demands
these days. The craft sales revenue is but a small portion of the monies
needed to support the crafts program and the behind the scenes shops that
keep the restored area functioning. Ticket sales, endowment funds, and
grants make up the bulk of the monies used to support the crafts
That's discouraging to hear... :(
I think you misinterpreted slightly what I said/intended...as I
understood it from what he told me, he was essentially self-employed and
produced revenue sufficient to cover his salary plus some level of
support that went to back to the shop...not intending to imply he
produced all the income required to maintain the entire facility.
IIRC, the highboy was a $20K commission piece in '69/'70 time frame
$$...not exactly an inexpensive piece. I don't know how much of that he
got to keep; didn't try to get _that_ nosy! :)
The craftsman are paid a wage and all revenues flow to the foundation... The
productivity of the shops is relatively low compared to what an 18th century
shop could turn out. This as there are a lot of demands on their time to
perform their educational roles. If the income from the sales were the
primary source of income nobody could afford to work there... As it is, many
of the folks have outside businesses and/or consulting roles. That said, I
thought it was a wonderful place to work... academic in nature and I met
people from all over the world. I keep thinking it would be fun to work
Was last there in '73. Spent 3-4 days and didn't see it all.
I'm sure there is more to see these days.
As far as the woodshop is concerned, DUCKDUCKGO.COM
and punch in: "colonial williamsburg woodworking shop".
Knock your self out.
There is plenty to do in the area. I see others mentioned the cabinet
shop, but, don't miss seeing what is right in front of you. Few people
stop to look closely at the furniture, the wood trim and joinery in the
They also used a lot of cordless tools back then too.
When I look at the pictures of the curves on some of that furniture, I
am just overtaken by the "art". It speaks volumes to me. I can
recognize a great curve when I see one too! I sort of think I can see
in the maker's soul...well, at least well enough to be able to tell that
he knew the difference between a good curve from a mediocre one too!
Great curves don't happen by accident.
Pick up a copy of The Gentleman & Cabinet-Maker's Director by Thomas
Chippendale. Dover Press has done reprints of it...
There are drawings of how the various curves and built-ups are created. It
requires studying the drawings as there is little text!
I have the following book, which is 3 books in one and which weighs
about 15 pounds. I've barely scratched the surface of it:
(Amazon.com product link shortened)26954089&sr=8-1&keywords=peter+thomson+and+son
I think I got my copy for $20 including shipping. There is enough in the
book above to entertain anyone for a long time. I can easily recommend
it to anyone who can appreciate the details. It even has some nice
compass work. I think my favorite style is "Elizabethan". Chippendale
is a little over the top for me.
Certainly you need to visit the cabinet shop... they also make musical
instruments in that shop.
There is also now a joiners shop in the building where I worked, the
Ayscough house on Francis St near the Capital... The gunsmith moved over to
the Geddy house foundry building on Duke of Glouster St (near the governor's
All the trades can be seen here:
There is also a lot of original furniture on display in the Dewitt Wallace
I'm not sure what the carpenters are working on these days as I believe the
Anderson Forge project has been completed.
There are related attractions in the area but they are not open to the
public... they are the shops and homes of my friends!
I really like the evening programs and simply walking around the restored
area after dark. It's magical!
John, Thank you for the links and information you provided! Hey, if no
one's attending the cabinet shop, maybe I'll try to build something! ;
) (that's a joke).
I plan to enjoy the trades, and the woodwork in the houses, and the
Are camera's welcome?
I will provide a brief review of my experience upon return in case
anyone is interested.
On Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 8:54:43 AM UTC-5, John Grossbohlin wrote:
Paging down, on this site, a 5" blank, for making 4.5" bun feet, was parti
ally air dried. He had planed the blank and placed the remainder of the bl
ank in a box of the planer shavings, to further slowly air dry. The purpo
se of the slow drying, that way, was to assure the blank didn't dry too fas
t and crack or check.
The blank was a select piece of walnut. I assume, for a high end piece of
furniture, only the best blank samples are used, so great care was taken fo
r the best feet results.
I do quite a bit of air drying. I never thought store a special piece in a
box of shavings, to slow the drying to prevent checking. I suppose this p
ractice may be more along the line of mandatory, with lumber for musical in
struments, as well.
Nice links. Thanks John.
I screwed around for multiple hours trying to post some pictures for you
all. But they were just "too big". Then today I thought of trying to
print my message as a pdf (Aha! And 53MB was reduced to under 5 MB).
I put the pdf file on my website. Most of the photos are from a
temporary furniture collection at the Art Museum at Colonial
Williamsburg, that will be there for 3 more years in case you want to go
see for yourself. The others are of some other items at the museum.
There are a few old homemade banjos as the beginning and a real
one-of-a-kind item appearing last. I hope that you enjoy them. I'm
sorry a couple of them are sideways and that they are not sorted as well
as they might be. I strongly suspect you should be able to find at
least one photo you like--whether it is worth the trouble of searching
for it I will leave up to you! :) Greg G., maybe you can pick up
some design ideas for your table?
On Sunday, April 12, 2015 at 3:22:09 AM UTC-5, Bill wrote:
Pic 11 - I really like that slatback chair, too, to the left of the settee.
I'm gonna build one, just for show. To me, it's a stand-alone impressi
ve piece. These kinds of pieces are more impressive, to me, than a more r
efined side-type chair (as pic 12 below).
Pics 12-15 - About 4 months ago, I picked up a set of 12 very similar anti
que dining chairs (New Orleans residence), severely damaged from Katrina.
They should go well with the walnut trestle table, once repaired, refinish
ed and reupholstered. I think the dark blue upholstery, in your pic, is a
good choice/idea for my chairs.
Pic 31 - I like the simpleness of that inlay on the door panel.... not comp
licated. Very elegant.
Pic 56 - I like the whole general curvy profile of the bottom of the clock
on the left. That general profile can be applied to other large "furniture
I can visualize this bold design on the columns of a mantle-fireplace surr
Thanks for doing that. The .pdf worked well. If you want to reduce the
photo size, use Irfanview (free) as it does the job well.
Anyhow, it is quite the collection of craftsmanship in those pieces.
Far from touring a furniture store today.
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