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A Visit to Old Economy Village

I have been meaning to pay a visit to Old Economy Village for a while.  This was the third home of the Harmony Society.  The Harmonists were a religious society, founded by George Rapp, that separated from the Lutheran Church in the late 1700s.  Eventually, Rapp emigrated to the United States and was jointed by 800 of his followers.  They established three communities, first in Harmony, Pennsylvania, then in New Harmony, Indiana, and finally in Old Economy, Pennsylvania.

By 1825 they had constructed textile factories powered and heated by steam engines. They built shops for blacksmiths, tanners, hatters, wagon makers, cabinetmakers and turners, linen weavers, potters, and tin smiths, as well as developing a centralized steam laundry and a centralized dairy for the community

– History of Old Economy Village

They have a wonderful museum in their visitors center with a number of artifacts from the village.  After touring the visitors center museum, I headed over to the village itself.  There were a number of period re-enactors and demonstrators on hand.  While touring the granary and watching a rope-making demonstration, my eyes wandered and noticed this frame and panel tool chest.  I was informed by the staff that the tool chest was not from the period the society was in existence.

Sitting behind a number of chairs for visitors was an old Moravian-style workbench. This guy had square dog holes (as all workbenches I observed had), as well as a leg vice that was sloped with the leg. The legs on the tail-vise end of the bench were not splayed out.

The cabinet shop had a number of tools laid out to see.  I didn’t get a photo of it, sadly.  I guess that means I’ll need to take another trip up.  Of note was a large treadle lathe that appeared to require standing on a platform.  In addition, the demonstrator in the shop had one of the thinnest holdfasts I have ever seen.  It was made by one of the blacksmiths at the village.  Two things stuck out about it.  First, the work bench did not have any holdfast holes.  Instead, he had a wooden insert that he could drop into one of the square dog holes.  Second, in spite of its rather thin shaft, it held down a workpiece fairly well.

Thin holdfast

There was a small chest in the visitor center museum that I found interesting.  The base is a scallop.  Furthermore, it appears that the front is joined to the sides with a few half-lap joints.  The back looks to be nailed or screwed on.


Giant dividers

And of course, the museum had the largest set of dividers I have ever seen.  Each leg was at least three feet long.  A notation indicated that they were used for “drawing circles and arcs for the construction of buildings, wagon wheels, and other round structures.”

I only had a chance to tour through a handful of buildings in the village.  Another trip will need to happen in the near future.

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Preparing for the Next Project

Since I have finished the dutch tool chest last week, I’ve been thinking about the next project that I would like to make.

My goal for this project will be to:

  1. Learn at least one new technique; and,
  2. Make something that I will want to use on a regular basis in my home; and,
  3. Give a home to some rescued items.

I’ve been spending time looking at a number of traditional furniture styles with an eye toward the Shakers.  In particular, I think that I’d like to make something along the lines of a traditional candle stand.

However, I think I would like to add some inlay to this table.  I have a set of chess pieces that were rescued from a basement. They are currently sitting wrapped in old newspaper and need a more permanent and appropriate home.

Shaker Sewing Table
Shaker-inspired sewing stand from Christian Becksvoort.  Appearing in Fine Woodworking Issue #261

I’d like to base this on the table made by Christian Becksvoort in the May/June 2017 issue of Fine Woodworking.  However, I will be adding an inlayed/veneered chess board to the top of the table.  The drawers will act as storage for the chess pieces.

There are a few skills and techniques that I think this project will require.  This includes cutting sliding dovetails and veneering. I have some ambrosia maple boards in the shop that might be perfect for the top. More later…

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Dutch Tool Chest

Since starting to do more traditional woodworking over the past year, I have built up (amassed) a set of hand tools. They had no home in my workshop. Some were on a pegboard, others on shelves, under my workbench, in boxes, etc. I think I spent more time moving things around to make room and hunting for tools than actually making anything.

The chest is based upon plans from the October 2013 issue of Popular Woodworking: I made it out of BORG 1×12 pine boards. The lower unit is based on .

The upper unit stores all of my hand tools. The lower unit stores a number of the handheld power tools I use, including a router, random orbital sander, and a jigsaw (thought I can’t remember the last time I used the jigsaw for anything). These had been scattered around the shop in various tool bags. Using the lower unit for these adds good weight to the bottom and keeps the shop organized.

The hinges and lifts are from Lee Valley. The hasp, casters, and the cabinet lock for the lower unit are from the BORG. The finish is Lexington Green milk paint from Old Fashioned Milk Paint. Two coats, sanded 320 in between and topped with paste wax. The top silhouette is from a photo my wife took of our two cats sitting in a window.

I still have a few finishing touches to do on it, including an upper saw till for panel saws and some storage for pencils, marking knife, and similar. I may add chest lifts to the lower unit as well.

Addendum: The chest and bottom casters. However the floor of my workshop is most definitely not. Shims are added to keep everything appropriately upright.