Late in 2015, Joshua Farnsworth(Wood and Shop) and I traveled to Hancock Shaker Village to film the openings of a couple videos. While there, I measured and photographed the two projects in detail with the intention of reproducing them as accurately as possible.
While I was holed up in the brick dwelling that day measuring and taking pictures of the projects, Josh wandered around the village taking pictures and video.
When we got back to the hotel that night we looked over the pictures we had taken. Josh’s stuff was great. He has a good eye, and Hancock is a beautiful place. My pictures, on the other hand, looked pretty lame in comparison. The photos were of the insides and undersides of the two projects. Mostly, tool marks of all kinds, intersections of joints, writing, mistakes (yes, the Shakers screwed up, too) nails, screws and layout lines. Most people would not even know what the pictures were of. I was trying to photograph how the pieces were made.
As time goes on, I find these ugly photos provide more and more information on a project than I realized. Whenever I look back over these pictures I always see things I did not notice when measuring the actual artifact.
Today as I was reviewing the ugly pictures I had taken on my last trip to Hancock of a chest of drawers that I am preparing to build, a little tidbit of information showed up.
I said all that to say this: If documenting a piece of furniture, take the time to measure accurately and take good overall photos of the piece. Most of all, take lots of high-resolution photos of the insides and undersides of the piece. When it comes time to build, you will find yourself referencing the ugly photos more than anything else.
The table we will be building is one that I came up with using design elements from several vintage tables. One cool thing about this design is that the table breaks down for storage or transport (more about that here).
We will build the tables from locally sourced white pine and oak. The length and width of the table will be somewhat variable at around 6′ in length and 32″ to 34″ in width. It is a five-day class, the cost is $750 plus a $200 material fee. The sign-up page for the class can be found here.
The 2018 class schedule is now live at The Woodwright’s School website. Roy Underhill has been diligently working on the new calendar of classes for the upcoming year and it is finally complete. Most of the regular classes are back with many new classes added as well. You can check it out here.
As most of you know, if there is a class you are interested in get signed up ASAP, they fill up quickly.
In October 2011 my uncle and I headed down to Old Salem one Monday afternoon to go see the workbenches they have in storage. Christopher Schwarz had visited a few months before and written a blog post about the benches there; I could not just take his word for how great they were, I had to see them in person. The museum is closed on Mondays and my friend Chet Tomlinson, who is an interpreter there, came in on his day off to show us around. At the time I was building a Roubo workbench and was really curious to see the benches in there collection. I took lots of photos of the workbenches (and dozens of other things!), the conversation was great, and the three hours we were there flew by in what seemed like five minutes.
In the days after the trip I looked thru the pictures I had taken many times and kept coming back to the photos of the portable workbench. A few weeks later I went back to Salem, poor Chet came in on his day off again so I could get some measurements of the portable bench. After the Roubo bench was complete the first project I used it for was to build the portable Moravian bench and wrote about the build on WK Fine Tools. A year or so later we started doing a class at the Woodwright’s School on building the bench. Another year later I filmed the video on building the bench with Joshua Farnsworth.
I wish I could say that I had foresight to know that this little workbench would be as popular of a project as it has become, but I did not. The response to the article and the video over the past several years was totally unexpected.
The interest in the bench has also had an effect at Old Salem. Visitors have been asking about the original bench, where it is, if they could see it. The original has been in storage all this time up until a few days ago. The bench is now on display for the foreseeable future at the new joiners shop at the J. Blum House. If you are in the area, even if you don’t have any interest in the bench, Old Salem is well worth a visit.