Issue 07 T.O.C. – A Study of Tool Marks on Unfinished Cabriole Legs


This is part of a blog series which reveals the table of contents of upcoming Issue Seven. As always, we’ll be discussing one article per weekday in order to give you a taste of what is come.

Please note that the subscription window which includes Issue Seven is open now until Sep 24th.

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250 years ago, in Williamsburg, Virginia at the cabinet shop of Anthony Hay, two in-process mahogany cabriole legs were discarded. Whether due to some flaw in the wood discovered during shaping, irredeemable tearout, or a simple mistake from the craftsman, we can only speculate about the words muttered as these expensive pieces flew from the open shop window, ostensibly never to be seen again.  

However, due to the serendipitous location of the Hay Shop at the bottom of a ravine, these legs found a resting place in the soft sediment and were quickly buried. Amazingly, rather than rotting away, they sat undisturbed for two centuries waiting to be discovered by a 20th-century team of archaeologists.

In this article, join author and Colonial Williamsburg cabinetmaker Bill Pavlak as he examines these remarkable artifacts, and the many theories and speculations that surround them. What might we discover about who made these legs, and what kind of furniture they were intended for? What can we learn about the period process of shaping cabriole legs from the rough-shaping tool marks that exist on these surfaces? And what might they have to teach hand-tool woodworkers of today?

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