Bow drill. < This reciprocal-action drill was used for drilling small holes. The bow string, wrapped tightly around the drum, spun the drill as the bow was pulled back and forth.
Sash planes. ^
Molding planes were used to create the molding profiles on double-hung sash. The two planes on the left were single-purpose: One cut the rabbet, the other cut the molding profile. The "stick-and-rabbet" planes at right performed Ixjth operations at once.
To sharpen their saws, most woodworkers owned various sized files to suit different saw teeth. The teeth were bent, or "set" using saw "wrests" like those shown here.
Chisel evolution. ►
From the mid- / 7005 to the mid-1800s, chisel design evolved from gradually flared blades like those of the chisels at left to blades with parallel sides.
Cartwright's tool chest. ▼
Londoner George William Cartwright II brought his chest of tools with him to New York in 1819. Many of the tools were made before his birth in 1785.
Wooden squares. <
Woodworkers often made their own squares of wood. The shaping of the blade end, common at the time, was purely decorative.
Many of the tools tell their own stories: Bow drills and plow planes testify to the ingenuity of people to whom horsepower meant horses. Deep furrows worn into a pitsaw handle by the sawyer's fingers speak plainly of his sweat and toil. Ornately crafted planes and marking gauges adorned with brass and ivory tell of a man's affection for his creative implements. Some of the tools lie at the ready in recreated workshop environments, giving visitors a taste of the 18th-century woodworker's everyday life.
The elegance of many of these tools is impressive in that they were designed for function, not aesthetics. Their beauty is only a by-product of their fine balance and careful crafting. Toolmakers of the period were also tool users who understood the necessity of a comfortable, well-balanced tool that could be handled for hours at a time.
The remarkable assemblage of tools at Williamsburg provides a fascinating view of the past and leaves the viewer with a deeper understanding not only of woodworking tools, but also of the generations of woodworkers who came before us.
If you're not able to visit Williamsburg in person, you can still enjoy the exhibit through the companion book, TOOLS: Working Wood in Eighteenth-Century America, by James Gaynor and Nancy Hagedom (available for SI9.95 from Colonial Williamsburg, Box 3532, Williamsburg, VA 23187, (800) 446-9240). A
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