This past week I taught a class at the Wood and Shop School on building a Shaker candle stand for the first time. The table we made is pretty much a dead copy of one I measured a few years back at Hancock Shaker Village.
I was surprised at how well everyone took to cutting the sliding dovetails that attach the legs to the spindle. The fit and and function of the joinery was top notch.
I have written and done a video on building this table in the past; it is one of my all-time favorite projects. Building this wonderful table with all of its cool little details in a class with a great group students really brought the project full circle for me.
I recently purchased a No. 5 Mt. Lebanon Shaker rocker that was in need of a new seat and back. I have done a few woven-tape seats in the past; it is pretty easy work and kind of fun. One thing that I had not tried previously was a proper stuffing bag that is sandwiched between the tape layers. The modern solution is to use a piece of foam. This is quite alright and works perfectly. Just something about putting a piece of foam in a 120+-year-old chair seems wrong.
On my last trip to Hancock Shaker Village I measured and photographed two of the chair stuffing bags preserved in its collection. One was stuffed with straw, the other had two layers of old quilt inside. Stuffing bags have been documented with wood shavings, horsehair and cotton stuffing. Another thing that was cool is they were made of scrap fabric that was machine-stitched together. Some of the pieces had traces of hand stitching that had been cut loose. These were probably remnants of old clothing.
Making the bag is pretty simple. The main part is the size of the inside of the seat frame with an extra 4″ tacked to the edges that glue to the seat rungs. I used some cheap cotton muslin and an old shirt that had shrunk while hanging in my closet.
After sewing the perimeter of three sides, the bag was stuffed full of straw and then the fourth side was sewn shut.
A thin skim of hide glue holds the bags in place. The seat weave goes over the bags. When complete, the bags are completely hidden.
I am a one-track minded person. Often when my wife and I are watching television she will start talking and I don’t hear her at all. When she finally does get my attention, “Did you hear anything I said?” is her comment. Most of the time I did not. It is not that I am ignoring my better half. The fact is I can talk or I can watch television. I just can’t seem to do both at the same time.
One-track mindedness is not always bad though. Often it allows me to focus on an idea, see it and make it work in my head before I actually try to make whatever it might be. Most of the time the idea works out.
The latest issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, June 2018, features one of these ideas that came to me while on a long boring stretch of I-40 in eastern North Carolina. The knockdown sawhorses I wrote about are made from yellow pine construction lumber, very strong, simple and have no wiggle when assembled. They can also be built with nails or mortise-and-tenon joinery.
The legs attach to the beam with dados and a wedge to hold it all tight. Assembly or disassembly requires just a couple of mallet taps.
There are still a few openings for the Shaker candle stand class at the Wood and Shop School in Earlysville Va., May 10-12. This is a class that I am really looking forward to; the candle stand in question is one of my favorite pieces I have made. The candle stand we will be building is a dead-on copy of one of the three originals in the collection at Hancock Shaker Village. The class will be more than just how to make the table but will cover the research I have done on the three originals as well as a discovery from my most recent visit. This little table is an excellent example of how what looks to be minor details change the entire look of a piece. A good case of “it looks simple but is not.”
Another good reason to join us is Joshua Farnsworth, headmaster of the Wood and Shop School has just completed construction of the workbenches, brand new Roubo and Moravian workbenches for everyone to try out.
Joshua has also installed the latest version of a wagon vise that I make on the benches, they are slick and fast!
If you can’t make the candle stand class, there are many other class offering as well with with a bunch of great instructors, the full schedule is here.
I have been at Hancock Shaker Village the past five days and up to my neck in furniture. What a week it has been.
The hardest part of documenting anything here is trying to stay focused. Every time I go anywhere, in any building, I find items of interest. I am always finding things I have not seen before. Nonetheless, it has been a productive visit.
In the coming days I will be doing some more posts on my latest visit to the far north. In the meantime, back to North Carolina in the morning. Twelve hours alone in a car with Will is no good!