Saturday, October 10, 2009

"My favorite American Communists" (and their boxes)

Referring of course to The Shakers.  I can't take credit for the phrase, that belongs to Roy Underhill, author of many books, host of the PBS show "The Woodwright's Shop" and now master of his own woodworking school.  I wouldn't give up any important bits of anatomy, but I really would like to go to any class he teaches!  (End of digression)
I don't want to get into who the Shakers were as a people / culture, I just want to gush about their legacy of fine craftsmanship.  Many of the forms I first identified (in my naivete) as being "Craftsman" or "Arts and Crafts" belong to the Shakers.  They were the first to eschew ornamentation of form for the higher beauty of function and simplicity.  They made many fine things and there are plenty of books out there about their works.  Today I just want to talk about Shaker Boxes.
In the days before Tupperware, Shaker oval boxes and other variations on this form were some of the best lightweight ways to store things.  A couple of thin, steam bent hoops sized on forms, secured to themselves as well as their flat oval lid and bottom boards with wooden pegs and copper tacks and there you are: "green" biodegradable storage that can last forever, with care.
Pictured at the left is John Wilson with his work.  He has the best website for all things related to making or buying modern Shaker Boxes.  If you are interested in making these, his catalog is required reading. For one thing, I'm not sure you can buy the copper tacks anywhere else. "The copper tacks used in oval box construction are made on machines that date back to the 1800’s. Our machines were acquired from the W.W. Cross Nail Co. when they ceased tack manufacturing in 1991. We currently make nine sizes of tacks plus the ½” copper shoe peg used for securing top and bottom boards when copper is preferred in place of wood pegs."  Shaker boxes range from 000 (tiny) to size 12, although I've seen pictures of larger coffee table sized boxes.  Each size nests into the next larger size.  Eventually I will try my hand at a stack of these.

No comments: