A woodworking pilgrimage

When woodworkers talk about places they HAVE to visit, some constantly come up in discussion. The Gamble House. The Hancock Shaker Village.  The USS Constitution.

And, then there is the cabinet shop at Williamsburg, Virginia.  Yes, the cabinet shop that Roy Underhill helped restore back in the 1970s. The one that was originally established in the early 1700s that uses period authentic tools to build period authentic furniture. That one comes up time and again as a place where woodworkers would love to go and spend some time completely immersed in the aura of the place.

Yes, it totally lives up to the expectations.

While walking in to the historic park, you have the opportunity to look at some very rough house-building carpentry. A group of three reenactors are out working on different aspects of creating shingles and clapboards for homes, barns and other outbuildings.

Splitting shingles from a large cypress log
Riving oak clapboards with a froe
Shaving split shingles with a drawknife at a shaving horse

Once past this fascinating demonstration, and much deeper into the historical park, is the little white house down a hill a ways that you just might pass by if you weren’t carefully looking for it. There lies the cabinet shop itself in all of its modest glory.

The cabinet shop down the hill
Come on in to the cabinet shop!

Once inside, you are indeed transported back in time to the 1780s. It’s a small, crowded shop that is well appointed with several workbenches, plenty of tools and several projects underway.

One of the English pattern workbenches found in the shop
A three-legged candlestand under construction
A rack of molding planes waits to be called into action
An ornate Chinese chair is under construction on one of the benches
A docent talks about the shop to a group of visitors

Was it worth the trip? You had BETTER believe it. Just try not to plan your trip when the temperature is a steamy 104 degrees Fahrenheit…  That will make your trip just a little more enjoyable.

But, even if you do, they do have the cabinet shop totally air conditioned.  Not a bad reason to stay there the whole day.


2 thoughts on “A woodworking pilgrimage”

  1. Great peak at the shop, Tom. I’ll be visiting Colonial Williamsburg in late August, and I’m looking forward to it now, more than ever.

  2. Dude, it looks like we missed each other by either days or weeks…. (not that I studied that chair that Kaare Loftheim is working on for hours or anything! 🙂 )

    We were there on 29 and 30 May. LOML and the boys even let me spend some extended time “just sitting” so I probably ended up spending about 4 hours in the cabinet shop (trying to be quiet and just watch) over those 2 days.

    Glad you had a good time, they even let my boys make a shingle (shake?) or two.


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