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Tools, Techniques & Traditions: A Forum at OSV

Updated: May 15, 2023

As part of the overall initiative to bring woodworking and cabinetmaking back to prominence at Old Sturbridge Village, the Village is hosting an all-day Woodworking Forum “Tools, Techniques and Traditions” on Saturday, October 19. The Forum is one of the activities leading up to the construction of the new Cabinetmakers Shop on the OSV Common. The Shop, fundraising for which was initiated by an anonymous matching grant from an EAIA member, is scheduled to open in time for the Village’s 75th Anniversary in 2021.

The Forum will be characterized by scholarly presentation based on research through primary sources as well as hands-on activities, both of which are unique strengths of the Village….and are of great interest to EAIA’s membership.

The program will start with a keynote address from Brock Jobe, Professor Emeritus, Winterthur Museum, entitled Setting Up Shop: An Introduction to the Work Spaces of Woodworkers in America, 1750-1850”. Based on his extensive research, Brock will explore the working environments of cabinetmakers, their daily routine, and the challenges they faced to earn a living wage.

Following the keynote address there will be concurrent 1 ½ hour hands-on workshops in the morning followed by lunch at the Village’s historic Bullard Tavern. The concurrent hands-on workshops will repeat in the afternoon.

Workshops include:

19th Century Cabinetmaking: Tools and Techniques Chris Nasisse, Furniture Maker, The Green Woodshop; Cabinetmaker, Old Sturbridge Village. This workshop includes an introduction to the tools and methods used in a period shop, guided instruction and time for lots of hands-on work with bench and molding planes, drawknife and shaving horse, foot-powered treadle lathe and other traditional woodworking techniques.

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Alden Spooner Chest - OSV Collection

Furniture Up Close: An Examination of the Work of Alden Spooner Brock Jobe, noted furniture scholar, will lead an up-close examination of furniture in the Old Sturbridge Village collections made by Athol, MA cabinetmaker Alden Spooner. Included will be an important chest made by Spooner which was recently acquired by the Village.

Tool Marks Tell Stories Mike Updegraff, Editorial Assistant, Mortise & Tenon Magazine, will explore the significance of tool marks on period furniture, demonstrate how they were made, and discuss the skill and efficiency needed to produce furniture in a period shop.

Forge a Holdfast Derek Heidemann, Coordinator of Historical Crafts, Old Sturbridge Village, will lead a hands-on session in the Village’s Museum Education Blacksmith Studio to explore the relationship between woodworkers and blacksmiths particularly with respect to toolmaking by leading the participants in forging their own holdfast. Derek should be familiar to many EAIA members as he delivered presentations and lead hands-on workshops at 3 recent EAIA events.

Woodworking and Cabinetmaking Primary Sources in the Old Sturbridge Village Research Library Amy Hietala, Librarian, Old Sturbridge Village, will lead a session on the pattern books, account books, business records and correspondence. These are just some of the unique cabinetmaking-related materials held in the Old Sturbridge Village Research Library. She’ll provide an up-close look at records connected to Samuel Wing, Solomon Sibley, Nathan Lumbard and more.

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Dewey & Bulkley Invoice - OSV Archives

The Forum will provide a uniquely informative and hands-on experience with woodworking and cabinetmaking of the period of the Village. It’s also a continuation of the great initiative to re-establish cabinetmaking interpretation at the Old Sturbridge Village of which EAIA can be very proud to be a part.

Details of the Forum and on-line registration are available on the Old Sturbridge Village website here. Old Sturbridge Village expects the workshops to fill up quickly and will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis so register early if you’re interested in this fascinating immersive experience in woodworking and cabinetmaking of the early 19th Century.

Bob Roemer, EAIA Director and OSV Trustee


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