More Benches On Which to Work

With all the chatter about workbenches in the past few weeks, I would be remiss in not sharing my recent finds. One was at last an auction last week. The other, more curiously. at the local high-end antiques shop.

First is this well used specimen claimed to be from the early 19th century. It is a nice long bench.

Long and loaded for auction.

Long and loaded for auction.

It has a front apron for supporting long boards.

With properly spaced holes.

With properly spaced holes. The auction was also selling a miniature anvil and plumb bob collection.

A leg vise.

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Gratuitious close up.

Gratuitous close up.

Different bench stop:

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Alternate view.

Alternate view.

A few views from below:

From the right.

From the right.

From the left.

From the left.

View from below of the bench stop.

View from below of the bench stop.

The front half of this bench is 3″ laminated boards and the back half is a 4/4 board.

Similar to a bench I found in January.

Similar to a bench I found in January.

The other bench is a an antiques dealer. I see these benches and always wonder if they were a worker’s bench or a gentleman’s bench?

IMG_6509

Worker or dilletante?

Worker or dilettante?

IMG_6510

Tail vise.

Shoulder vise.

Shoulder vise.

Bench is made (or marketed) by Selle.

I couldn't find anything one Selle on a quick search. Let me know if you know anything, I don't.

I couldn’t find anything on Selle after a quick search. Let me know if you know something, I don’t.

And like most benches, it has legs:

with through tenons and wedges.

with through tenons and wedges.

This one reminds me of some Hammacher Schlemmer benches I’ve seen. Fairly close to a generic workbench. Only $2600, planes not included.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana. 8,139 Residents. 6 Antique Shops.

I’m not sure if either number is accurate but it’s the best I could up with on short notice. For the purposes of this blog, it really doesn’t matter. Forget I said anything.

On a recent trip to Baton Rouge I had some time to go exploring. Last year I went east. This year I went west. And east. Breaux Bridge, Crawfish Capital of the World, is a small town about 50 miles west of Baton Rouge, named for the footbridge built by Firmin Breaux in 1799. Firmin Breaux was one of the largest land owners in the area at the time.

What it’s really about is the antiques. I didn’t have time to try any of the local eateries or entertainment venues. I am a man on a mission. I’m not sure why, but I am.

What did I find? You’ve already seen some of it. There was this A. R. Brown octagonal cabinet:

I've shared this cabinet before.

I’ve shared this cabinet before.

At the same shop was this unusual reversing church pew:

I assume it's a church pew.

I assume it’s a church pew.

But why reversing. I have seen this feature on trolleys and streetcars. I have seen some colonial era churches that had pulpits at either end. Flip the back to become a kneeler?

It reverses.

It reverses. Nice brass work.

While we are touching on religion, I helped someone find Jesus.

Head of Christ, Warner Sallman, 1941. With glitter.

Head of Christ, Warner Sallman, 1941. With glitter. Print. 1 of 500,000,000. (Publisher’s estimate) Frame is unique.

This person expressed interest when a similar print was seen in the background in another blog. Some fond (?) elementary school memories if I recall. I e-mailed them a picture and they stated they wanted it. Image was $18. Shipping was $60.

I hope their intentions are honorable.

I don't know much here but they claim it's German.

I don’t know much here but they claim it’s German.

This is claimed to be antique and English.

This is claimed to be antique and English. More pictures on Flickr.

I do know where this piece originated:

I liked it but not enough to buy and ship it.

I liked it but not enough to buy and ship it.

I don't understand why, but I like finding labels.

I don’t understand why, but I like finding labels. A phone number but no area code.

Click HERE to see these and more from my visit to Breaux Bridge.

A New Gamble House Book

The Gamble House was the Pasadena home of David B. Gamble of Proctor and Gamble fame. It was designed by brothers Charles Sumner Greene and Henry Mather Greene of the architectural firm Greene and Greene and constructed 1908–09. It is an American Arts & Crafts Masterpiece.

I have toured the house several times, the last being a few years back when Woodworking in America was in Pasadena. The Popular Woodworking crew arranged a private after hours tour and dinner. Only slight problem was that the Gamble House is dark on a bright California afternoon. Some relatively small windows, big overhangs and period-correct lighting doesn’t help. At night it was really dark. But well worth the effort not have a docent trying to keep you on their schedule. Photography was permitted.

Another positive was that I got to have dinner with Bob Lang. At least I think it was Bob Lang. Did I mention it was dark?

I saw an article in the L.A. Times the other day that there has just been a new 200 page book (with pictures) about the Gamble House, the first publication on the house since its 2004 restoration. Read the L.A. Times article if only for the pictures.

Below are two Gamble House pictures that came from some earnest, hardworking photographers via a Google image search..

A really good photographer took this one.

A really good photographer took this one.

This one too. I think they were using a different lens.

This one too. I think they were using a different lens.

If you make it to the Los Angeles area, you should take a tour. It is well worth the effort and money.

I haven’t seen the book yet but knowing the subject, it is probably worth the $60 list price. And Christmas is coming.

Look, I’m promoting a book and it’s not from Lost Art Press.

The Old Courthouse

As mentioned in the last blog, I recently visited the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. I had to stopy by the Old Courthouse for tickets. The Courthouse itself is quite an interesting place. Built between 1839 and 1862, it was where Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom* and Virginia Minor fought for women’s right to vote. During construction, the Museum of Western Expansion is closed. Some of the exhibits have been set up at the Old Courthouse .

If in town, you should visit the Old Courthouse:

It looks like this only straighter.

It looks like this only straighter.

Impressive interior:

Lots of wood doors and trim:

Lots of wood doors and trim.

And wooden hinges:

Actually, the doors, trim and hinges are all grain painted.

Actually, the doors, trim and hinges are all grain painted/faux grained.

There was a time when stairways were interesting:

An elegant short stairway.

An elegant short stairway to an observation level.

And a stairwell:

Stairs that go up and down.

Please Watch Your Steps.

Like all good official 19th century buildings, it has a dome:

A semi-successful panoramic picture of the interior of the dome.

A semi-successful panoramic picture of the interior of the dome.

There are two restored courtrooms:

One of the restored courtrooms.

One of the restored courtrooms.

And some historic furniture in the displays:

The historic Missouri chair.

The historic Missouri chair.

Also the balance of my Prairie schooner pictures:

There's more where this one came from.

There’s more where this one came from.

To see all my worthy Old Courthouse pictures, click HERE.

Did I mention it was near the Arch?

Yep, over yonder is the Arch.

Yep, over yonder is the Arch.

*Although the US Supreme Court ruled in 1857 that Dred Scott being of African descent could not be a citizen, he and his family were manumitted (freed) later that year. Interesting case. This ruling was one of the reasons for the 14th Amendment.

This Would Be Quicker If I Didn’t Bother With Research

Really, I do research. Not PhD dissertation level research. Or peer-reviewed professional journal research. But more than two Wikipedia articles research. Unless they are really well written articles.

Why? Because of you. You people know stuff. You have proven that time and again. I don’t mind being thought an idiot but I don’t need to be proven one. In writing. By my own words.

That and I like learning new things. I see something I don’t know or don’t understand and I want to know and understand. It bothers me not to know something. Not enough to lose sleep but enough to waste invest some time

While in St. Louis for my brother’s wedding, we decided to go visit the Gateway Arch. My last visit was about 20 years ago, my first in 1983. Major reconstruction in going on around the Arch so the ticket/visitors center is in the nearby Old Courthouse. The Courthouse itself is quite an interesting place. Built between 1839 and 1862, it was where Dred and Harriet Scott sued for their freedom and Virginia Minor fought for women’s right to vote. During construction, the Museum of Western Expansion is closed. Some of the exhibits have been set up at the Old Courthouse. More on the Courthouse tomorrow.

One of the displays was this covered wagon that turned out to be more interesting that I thought:

A covered wagon.

A covered wagon.

Also known as a Prarie Schooner.

Also called a Prairie Schooner.

Commonly used during the westward expansion.

Commonly used during the westward expansion.

Rear view.

Rear view.

And a tail gate.

And a tail gate.

And now, the research.

This is not a Conestoga wagon.

Conestoga wagons were larger, typically 18′ long by 4′ wide and 11′ high. They could carry up to six tons. These larger freight wagons were mostly used in the East where roads were better. (Note: Better does not necessarily mean good.)

A Conestoga wagon.

A Conestoga wagon.

Prairie schooners (see images above) were smaller, 10′ by 3.5′. They could carry up to a ton and a half although less was better considering the lack of roads they encountered.

The undercarriage of covered wagons are not like this:

Not a covered wagon.

Not a covered wagon.

The undercarriage or running gear of a covered wagon was much more valuable than the bed. Some farmers had interchangeable, specialized beds they could mount on the running gear.

Typical running gear looked something like this:

This is the running gear of a covered wagon.

This is the running gear of a covered wagon.

And another view of the rear axle.

And another view of the rear axle.

You see the rear axle. Above it is the bolster to which the bed is attached. The pole running down the center of the running gear is the reach. The reach’s main function was to attach the front to the rear axles.

Coming off either side of the reach to the axles are the hounds, a horizontal bar or brace, usually one of a pair, for strengthening the running gear of a horse-drawn wagon or the like. The reach is clamped between the bolster and the axle. The rear ends of the hounds are bolted between the axle and the bolster.

On some of these wagons, the rear axle assembly could be moved forward and back allowing for various wheel bases. Useful when changing out the beds.

Front Axle – like the rear only different:

The front axle.

The front axle.

Unlike the rear axle, the front axle is connected to the bolster and the reach by the king pin allowing it to do that whole turning thing. Apparently, turning was important. The front axle hounds continue on through beyond the axle and are connected well behind the axle by the sway bar:

On the left, the front axle hounds are joined via the sway bar.

On the left, the front axle hounds are joined via the sway bar.

While not furniture, I think the wagon is and interesting piece of applied woodworking and history. That’s almost as good as furniture.

Here are a couple of wheel images for good measure:

A view of the hub and spokes. Named for the way airlines now run their routes.

A view of the hub and spokes. Named for the way airlines now run their routes.

A closeup of the hub and axle nut.

A closeup of the hub and axle nut.

Did I mention this is near the Gateway Arch?

Yep, over yonder is the Arch.

Yep, over yonder is the Arch.

Don’t Like Cutting Half-blind Dovetails? No Problem.

You need to make drawers for that Georgian chest on chest you have been promising for a while. Problem is you really dislike hand cutting half-blind dovetails.

Good news, you don’t have to if you were planning on veneering the drawer fronts:

Through dovetails on drawer fronts.

Through dovetails on drawer fronts.

And closer view:

As long as the wood doesn't move too much...

As long as the wood doesn’t move too much…

It the wood moves or shrinks, this may happen:

Reading the dovetail through the veneer. From a box in my private collection.

Reading the dovetail through the veneer. From a box in my private collection.

The drawer in question is from this chest:

I didn't buy this one.

I didn’t buy this one.

With great legs:

A turners dream. Left one is just like it.

A turners dream. Left one is just like it.

Hardware is nice, too.

If you like stamped brass.

If you like stamped brass.

There are some surly blacksmiths that sneer at stamped brass.

There are some surly blacksmiths that sneer at stamped brass.

They have a point but...

They have a point but…

It Seemed So Simple At First

Every once in a while you find something that isn’t as simple as it looks. Not extraordinary or amazing but still interesting in its own right. This is such a piece:

Looks fairly straightforward.

Looks fairly straightforward.

Seems to be a simple church pew. Then you look a little closer and see the first slightly odd thing.

Slightly more interesting.

Slightly more interesting.

Back leg appears shorter giving the pew a backward tilt. Having a phone with too many apps, I determined that the sides were 8° from vertical. Might be a reasonable way to get an angled seat without too much effort. Then I looked at the seat:

Again, not simple.

Again, not simple.

The seat is not perpendicular to the front edge of the sides. The seat is 4° from horizontal and 4° from perpendicular to front edge of the sides.

Surely the back is parallel to the edge of the sides. No, it’s not.

Even less simple.

Even less simple.

The back is 14° from vertical and 6° from the edge of the back, 10° from perpendicular to the seat. Not a complex pew but not trivial. Some thought required before cutting your dadoes and grooves.

Not the simplest way to achieve a pew but one with some visual interest.

Bend It Like Thonet

Sometimes you have no idea where a blog is going to take you.

I am in St. Louis for my brother’s wedding. He is getting married for the first time at 46. I’m not sure what it means but we’re just glad it is happening.

This afternoon we visited the St. Louis Art Museum. I had asked what museums in town had furniture and several people mentioned the museum. For the record, they have lots of furniture.

I’ll get to the furniture in a few days but this one item caught my eye:

Not furniture but furniture related.

Not furniture but furniture related.

It is Spiral by Austrian furniture manufacturer Gebrüder Thornet in 1885. It is bent from a single 28′ ash board. It seems to exist to show their extraordinary wood bending capabilities. Don’t believe me, it says so in the museum:

It's in the museum, it must be true.

It’s in the museum, it must be true.

The name Michael Thonet seemed vaguely familiar so I did a bet of rummaging around online and discovered that Mr. Thonet was a German-Austrian furniture maker of the mid 19th century. He was making furniture using bent and glued wooden slats. Hoping to improve manufacturing efficiencies, he developed new methods of steam bending. One of his innovations was use of a metal strap on the outer surface of the bend to keep the wood from splintering. He started making a series of numbered chair, the most famous and iconic being Thonet Chair #14, the coffee house chair, in 1859:

Still in production.

Still in production. 50 million sold by the 1930’s.

To some, he is a hero because his innovations allowed for the industrial production of a chair for the first time. To others he is a villain because his innovations allowed for the industrial production of a chair for the first time. It all depends on your opinion of the industrial production furniture.

Part of the genius of these chairs, aside from being made from only six major components, is that the chair shipped flat. They claim that 36 chairs could be shipped flat in a cubic meter of space. An enormous saving in space. It costs a lot of money to ship air.

Mr. Michael Thonet and his chair.

Mr. Michael Thonet and his chair.

Rather than wasting more time retyping other people’s work, let me offer the following links:

A NY Times article entited: No. 14: The chair that has seated millions.

An Fast Company story called: How Do You Make The World’s Most Popular Chair?

A House Appeal blog: UNCHANGING STYLE & DESIGN: THE BENTWOOD CHAIR, N.14

and finally

The Thonet company website: Thonet GmbH

I have free time Sunday afternoon and most of the day Monday. Any suggestions of suitable diversions would be greatly appreciated. Already going to The Frank Lloyd Wright House in Ebsworth Park on Saturday.

A. R. Brown Gets Around.

Or at least his cabinets do.

This is another case of finding three related things that I had never observed before in a short period of time. They were probably out there but I didn’t notice them. And I usually check out labels. No, my ego tells me I never saw one before.

First one I found was at an interesting antiques shop in Breaux Bridge, Louisiana:

A forty drawer, revolving, octagonal cabinet.

A forty drawer, revolving, octagonal cabinet.

With different depth drawers.

With different depth drawers.

Drawers on opposing sides are half the depth of the cabinet meeting in the center. Drawers on the perpendicular sides depth is limited by the longer drawers.

And a maker’s brass plate:

Only upside down. Looks like is always been upside down.

Only upside down. Looks like is always been upside down.

The plate reads:

A. R. BROWN
ERWIN, TENN.
PATENTED MAY 7, 1901

Five days and 60 miles east I found this one at the “mercantile” building at the Rural Life Museum in Baton Rouge:

An eighty drawer cabinet.

An eighty drawer cabinet.

Same design concept:

Different length drawers but twice as many.

Same drawer design but twice as many.

This manufacturer’s plate is on right-side up:

You can read this one.

You can read this one.

Then back home, sixteen days later and 884 miles north-east at the summer Country Store Auction, there was this behemoth:

Now 112 drawers.

Now 112 drawers.

Squaring the octagonal allow another four columns of drawers to be added. Drawers are of different sizes on all four sides. Click here for an eBay listing of a similar cabinet with more pictures.

Same drawer arrangements.

Same drawer arrangements.

With a slightly different plate:

Same text, squared off shape.

Same text, squared off shape with decorations.

A. R. (Albert Rosencrans) Brown was an interesting character, entrepreneur and civic leader. Brown was born in Knox County, Tennessee in 1863 and was orphaned in 1865. In 1894, he arrived in Erwin, Tennessee, where he opened a hardware and mercantile store, A. R. Brown and Company. He organized and was president of the First National Bank of Erwin; served as president of Unicoi Bank and Trust Company, Erwin Water Company, Erwin Manufacturing Company, Erwin Cemetery Company, Erwin Inn Corporation and Unaka Academy; served as secretary-treasurer of the Erwin Development Company; served as vice-president of Unicoi Telephone Company. He died in a traffic accident  in 1937.

Below is a page from The Iron Age (1900) that has a description of Brown’s Perfection Bolt Case with a top view of the internals of one of their cabinets:

From a Google Books scan.

From a Google Books scan.

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