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Thread: Back from Vermont

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Inside the Beltway

    Back from Vermont

    Hey, folks,

    Back from Vermont, after a week at MIL's. Not really a woodworking vacation, but did get to do some stuff. Went to the Shaker museum in New Hampshire. They had some pretty cool stuff, although it's a small fraction of what used to be there. The big house is still standing:

    Also, went to a place oddly named "The fort at No. 4"

    The website doesn't say much, but you can see the old joinery methods, and they had a working model of a human-powered lathe (think organ-style floorpedal and belt-driven overhead flywheel). Was also surprised they had some actual 18th century workbench holddowns, which anyone with a workbench would recognize today. They also had some cool reproduction drawknife benches.

    But here's the strangest thing. I'm in the middle of fixing up the basement here. The brick hearth had an old piece of cheap pine atop the hearth, as a kind of shelf. Doorlink wondered if we couldn't get an old barn beam to replace it, so I spent an hour tramping around the falling down barn on her mother's property. Found a good 8/4 12" x 12' piece, which used to be part of the bull stall. Sadly, family politics made me look elsewhere. Off we went to a guy who specializes in tearing down old barns, and reconstructing them. Yes, he had lintels. Looked under the tarp, and found one 11 1/2' long. Close enough to make it work. But he had so many rich flatlanders coming around looking for the same thing that he wanted 200 bucks for it. Too rich for my blood

    We gave up, and went to a glass foundry, where Doorlink got some wineglasses she's been wanting forever, but cost a fortune inside the beltway. Meanwhile, I was thinking "here we are in Vermont, there must be a sawmill around... an 8/4 piece of roughsawn maple or even cherry might be cheap". Doorlink asked the people at the foundry about sawmills, and she, Granny, James and I were soon on the road to White River Junction. Found the mill/lumberyard specializing in local hardwoods. Nice place. They sell a lot of wood to flatlanders. At premium prices. A piece of maple that would suit my needs would cost even more than the beam. Darn.

    Then the guy waves be to the back of the lot. Whispers something about african mahogany. I'm skeptical, to say the least. But he points me to a 14' piece of 8/4, about 10" wide. I look at it, and it's one of the most beautiful pieces of wood I've ever seen. Probably not mahogany, and likely not from africa either (don't forget, we're in the backwoods of New Hampshire). But he only wants half the cost of the beam for it, and he'll throw in another piece for next to nothing, an 8/4 about 6' long that I can cut in half and use for uprights.

    Needless to say, I get the things on top of the minivan before you can say "Burkina Faso Warlord profiteering." I still have no idea what it really is, but it's now sitting on the floor of my shop, awaiting finishing.

    Oh, and MIL has ten forested acres. All different species: maple, ash, cherry, you name it. Enough wood to keep me in turning stock for years. And hey, I've got no gas-powered chainsaw in DC. Doorlink rolled her eyes, but got into the minivan for a trip to the depot. Two hours lately, I was the proud posessor of a low-end 18" poulan. Not the best, but good enough for government work, as they say. Spent the rest of the morning clearing saplings near the house, and felling a few dead leaners, to pay for what I'd do in the afternoon, when her brother and I went tramping the back acres looking for a likely candidate. Found a goodlooking specimen near a stream. It took a while to bring it down. After I cut four turning blanks, I helped her brother cut some of the rest for firewood. Loaded up the truck, and brought a few leaves back to the house for ID. Turns out it's linden, also known as basswood (or, in England, lime, as in coleridge's poem "This lime tree bower my prison" a poem that should be beloved of woodworkers (

    "Henceforth I shall know
    That Nature ne'er deserts the wise and pure ;
    No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,
    No waste so vacant, but may well employ
    Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
    Awake to Love and Beauty ! "

    Limes have an interesting historical and cultural significance, of which I was completely ignorant:

    In any case, putting aside the old opium-addicted poet, it turns out one of Lime's recommended uses is for turning... so in blind luck and ignorance we actually picked the best thing on the hillside to fell. As I said, I got four chunks... even though my eyes may have been too big for my lathe... two of the chunks are a full 19" in diameter. Yes there will be pictures to come... as soon as I can figure what I can actually mount on the lathe...


    Last edited by Bill Lantry; 08-19-2007 at 06:23 PM.

  2. #2
    Congrats on the haul Bill!

    One of my favorite sayings when I stumble onto something by blind luck is:

    God looks after fools, babies and drunks.....some of us are lucky enough to qualify in all 3 classificaitons...


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