J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

A Housewright’s Workshop in Duxbury

Last week a regional edition of the Boston Globe reported on a discovery in Duxbury, “a largely intact woodworking shop dating from the latter half of the 18th century.”

The small building is on land of the Berrybrook School for little ones, and had been used for storage. In the late 1700s that same land was owned by Luther Sampson (1760-1847), a housewright and joiner who had fought several years in the Revolutionary War.

There are no tools remaining in the shed, but the room’s fixtures show how Sampson and his workers operated:
Framed in original sills, joists, and pineboard walls, the shop’s interior reveals two original work benches, one pitted with marks from hand tools. The second was a “planing bench,” lacking gouges or other tool scars because skilled millwork with wood planes was performed there. The wall above the bench has shelving to hold the planes.

The planing bench also reveals a groove added later to allow craftsmen to install a treadle lathe for turning wood, powered by a foot pedal.

The shop also has its original tool racks for chisels, awls, and brace (hand drill) bits, and a rack near the ceiling for handsaws. Holes in the wall board above the joinery bench and to the right of the window show where awls were stuck to keep them close at hand.

Sketches and hash marks on another wall preserve the living sense of a place where woodworkers spend long hours. Someone painted a sketch of a man standing with his back against a wall, one knee lifted, a hand extended. Much of the outline remains, the colors dulled but visible.

Sketches in pencil appear on another wall, including the outline of a bird probably sketched for a weather vane. Cross-hatchings over a door show the tallying of some quantity. Supplies? Boards? Wainscoting panels completed?

Cuts in the wall board reveal the location and shape of the shop’s fireplace, probably removed in the 19th century in favor of a woodstove.

Painted in black on a joist in the shop’s small storeroom, large digits spell out a date, “1789.” It may be a construction date, but Burrey says some construction techniques suggest an earlier date.
There has been a formal request for Duxbury to designate some of its Community Preservation Act funds for preserving the building and doing some archeological work on the site.

The photo above, by Barry Chin for the Globe, shows the bracket for drill bits attached to one wall. (Hat tip to Emily Murphy for the alert about this article.)

1 comment:

J. L. Bell said...

Revlist brings news that joiner Peter Follansbee has photos of this workshop on hisblog.