Full of Footprints

Studying a piece of old furniture is like venturing into the woods after a snowfall. With a fresh coating of powder, the previously invisible activities of the forest are put on full display. That squirrel that steals from your bird feeder? You can finally discover his path – this way, that way; he did some digging there, climbed a tree. You find that a pair of deer came by, a doe and yearling, browsing the firs along the meadow. Something startled them at the far end, and they fled to deeper woods. The information is everywhere, tracks impressed into the frozen crystals. With careful study, it’s even possible to identify particular animals based on their tracks, and to determine what direction the creature’s head was turned as it took a step. Connecting everything together discloses the story of that morning in the forest. In the same way, the surfaces of pre-industrial furniture are full of footprints – tool tracks, layout lines, and rough surfaces (even tree bark). Every mark is a piece of the puzzle, revealing more of the whole picture.

–Michael Updegraff, excerpt from “Tool Marks Tell Stories,” in Issue Eight


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