Dreary days tend to make me dreary; it’s like I never fully wake up. Today has been one of the best rainy days I have ever had, fully awake and hitting on all cylinders.
I am visiting Hancock Shaker Village working on documenting several more pieces in their collection. Since my last visit, about 200 items that had been in a traveling exhibit the past few years have returned.
So, I have spent the entire day hidden away in the Brick Dwelling measuring and photographing some of my favorite furniture. It has been absolutely wonderful.
We’ve had two late cancellations for the June 16-20, 2017, class on building a Moravian workbench at Roy Underhill’s school in Pittsboro, N.C.. If you are free that week and interested in building one heck of a workbench, you can sign up here.
A few months ago I purchased an old hardware cabinet at an antique store a few miles north of Wilmington, NC. It is not really a very large cabinet considering it contains 55 drawers – 37″ tall x 31-1/2″ wide x 8″ deep.
The story that the antique shop owner told was that it had once been in a hardware store in Warsaw, NC. The cabinet was behind the cash register for easy access by the store owner for some of the smaller items the store carried. I have been to the town of Warsaw a couple of times since and tried to trace the cabinet’s trail but have hit dead ends on every lead. So, its origin is a mystery.
The construction of the cabinet is pretty simple, other than the shear quantity of joints involved. The case and drawers are all held together with nails, not a dovetail to be found (sorry Mr. Firley).
There are several interesting things about it though, joinery aside. Most of the cabinet and the drawers came from recycled crating and cigar boxes. There is something interesting to see every time you pull out a drawer: old labels of all kinds, tax stamps and writing.
Of course, there are also the hand-painted labels on each drawer front. This to me is the coolest part of the cabinet. Whoever painted them obviously was skilled, but there are subtle differences in style of the numbers and letters between drawers and sometimes on the same drawer.
As far as when it was made, my guess is around 1900 from the cigar box labels and tax stamps that I have been able to date.
I just recently finished up a three-part article at WK Fine Tools building a copy of this cabinet (yes, I am still mostly sane after 113 dados). It is available here.
In the years since I wrote about and hosted a video on building the knockdown workbench from the collection at Old Salem, N.C., folks have sent me hundreds of photos of the benches they have built. I absolutely love getting these. I am always interested to see the different vise set-ups, materials and alterations different people have done with the design.
I few days ago, Luther Shealy sent some photos of a Moravian work bench he has nearly completed. Shealy is in the U.S. Army stationed in South Korea. He had to leave his Roubo bench behind when he was deployed overseas.
Fortunately the Army base has a morale and welfare shop the servicemen can use, and he decided to build a bench for use while in Korea. He was able to source the pine parts of the bench on location, but the oak part proved to be problem. Undeterred, Shealy had friends back home mail him enough white oak for the short stretchers. He brought the oak vise chop over in his luggage; that must have been interesting trip thru TSA!
I very much admire Shealy’s determination to make this happen in a less-than-ideal situation.
When I built my Roubo bench several years back, I added the customary shelf between the stretchers. I mostly use this area for clamp storage more than tools. For whatever reason, it also tends to also attract scraps of wood, unused tools and bits of debris. About once a year I go thru the mess and clean it out.
My Moravian bench does not have a shelf, nor have I ever really missed it not having one. Today while cleaning the pile of accumulated junk from under the Roubo (again), I was thinking that maybe a shelf is more trouble than it is worth.