Joshua Klein, a furniture maker and conservator based in Brooklin, Maine, visits the Furniture Study to demonstrate woodturning techniques used in 17th- and 18th-century furniture making, using a traditional foot-powered treadle lathe.

A couple of weeks ago I was invited by the Yale University Art Gallery to do a discussion on colonial wood turning. The occasion happened at their legendary Furniture Study in lieu of their regular public tour. Throughout the discussion, I highlighted the distinctions between the job of the cabinetmaker and also the work of the turner and after that reviewed how turret transforming distinctively completely satisfied the demands of the preindustrial craftsman and customer. To bring this to life, I walked through Moxon’s text on transforming while demonstrating the whole procedure. The guests got to see a billet split, hewed to round, as well as transformed on a foot-powered turret. I’ve written much more regarding that discussion over at my blog site, The Workbench Journal.

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When I arrived to establish up for the presentation, I had gallery assistant Eric Litke, laid out 2 chairs from their collection for contrast. I began my presentation by explaining the improvements as well as similarities. It wasn’t until later on as I was at the turret showing transforming strategies that I commented concerning the tool marks as well as surface area high qualities of period turnings. I described to them that the preindustrial items I see in my preservation workshop often have areas of tear-out and/or riving marks. This “dawking,” as Moxon called it, was no reason for disposing of the ruined piece. The maker merely transformed the imperfection to the bottom or inside during setting up. This method was foregone conclusion, not an anomaly.


I informed the viewers that this was so constant that I would be willing to wager that if we were to examine the transformed chair I discussed earlier we would discover exactly this type of tear-out. That was the last thing we did together. As we walked out of the workshop, we made a semicircle around the chair while Eric laid it on its back. With flashlight in hand, we started checking out. I was eased to find I had not overemphasized my situation. Lightbulbs appeared to go off for folks as we enumerated the “dawks” as well as riving marks. On this particular example, it happens that every solitary part contended least one such major blemish. I additionally showed them the rippled surfaces of the “standard” parts of the switchings. The viewers actually appeared to cherish these monitorings from a specialist’s point of view.

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So just what should we find out from this? I don’t bring this up since I believe we require to celebrate blunders, however I do assume we need to be practical about our assumptions. Truthfully, foot-powered turning is not the very same thing as depending on sandpaper at a motorized lathe. Despite the fact that I am aware it feasible to transform a perfect spindle with foot power, I’m informing you it’s not essential. So if you are just one of those precision-oriented woodworkers, by all means, make chairs to glass-smooth perfection. But if you would like to know exactly how it was done historically, learn how to conceal your blunders.


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