Exploring the Old Sturbridge Village Collections

I can't even tell you how incredible Wednesday and Thursday was for Mike and I. We were invited down to Old Sturbridge Village by assistant curator Shelley Cathcart to spend the day exploring the collections of many thousands of tools and furniture in storage. We, of course, leapt at the opportunity. After an early morning departure and five hours on the road, we spent the entire day digging through shelves of artifacts from New England cabinetmakers' shops working between 1790 and 1840. There were many moments crouched under tables with flashlights and times with objects laid out on blankets for closer examination.

Besides the standard tools made by established toolmakers, there were so many that were shop made. It is exactly the idiosyncratic whimsy of these pieces that interests Mike and I. We saw lots of ingenious ways to utilize crooks from branches and salvaged remnants of old tools to make new ones. We joked that these pieces seemed so “Estonian” because of the similarities of the tools documented in Woodworking in Estonia. We talked the whole way back home about how we are both feeling inspired and can’t wait to explore many of these paths of further exploration. There is definitely now a list of tools we will be making inspired by our trip. You are sure to hear about it when we do.

After a brief Thursday morning meeting at OSV, Mike and I got on the road to wander the Art of the Americas Wing at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The exhibit is huge and does a great job highlighting the masterpieces of American furniture from each period. Notwithstanding the hair-pulling Boston traffic, I recommend you schedule a trip to see these masterpieces on display.

After the MFA, we stopped in at Brendan Gaffney's shop in Biddeford, Maine. He showed off the pile of sectors he's been finessing to the finish line. The breadth of knowledge and attention to detail that Brendan brings to his work is inspiring and his interest in avant garde music, cartography, ancient measurement, and woodworking make every visit with him a trip. When I visit him at his shop, he hands me strange exotic wood samples I've never heard of and says, "Here, smell this. It's horrible!" This time, he had many miscellaneous shop items he wanted Mike and I to smell. What a delightfully hilarious visit. 

For as much fun as we had, we were relieved to finally got back home to our wives and kids in the dark of night. What a whirlwind these two days have been. Now it’s time for some decompression - We’ve spent so much time absorbing what we were seeing and now it’s time to process it all. What a gift this trip was. Thank you, Shelley for inviting us! We so look forward to coming back sometime soon!


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