I recently visited the Hancock Shaker Village, in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with my friend Will Myers (the Moravian Workbench guy). If you’re not familiar with the history of the fascinating Shaker religion, read this brief history of the Shakers.
The curators were so welcoming and gave us incredible access to all the historic buildings and many shaker furniture pieces in their museum collection. It quickly became apparent that the Hancock Shaker Village should become a pilgrimage site for anyone who is interested in building furniture…I was stunned by the wonderful condition of the buildings & furniture and the sheer volume of in-tact pieces.
Check out Hancock’s website here, and visit their free furniture database here to get ideas for shaker furniture projects.
Our main purpose in visiting the Hancock Shaker Village was to measure furniture and film historical segments for three exciting furniture building DVDs that I’ll be producing in 2016. And the exciting part? I’ll be filming the build portions of these DVDs in my new workshop! (see the workshop renovation here).
1. Building the Hancock Shaker Candle Stand:
This famous shaker candle table has been built by thousands of people and featured on various TV programs, including a quick & dirty version on “Ask This Old House” (watch the episode here). But the problem is, nobody really had accurate measurements for this charming candle stand. Will had made several versions of the candle stand from different people’s plans, but he hadn’t been able to find correct measurements anywhere…until we measured the table in person! In two weeks we will be filming the rest of this in-depth, step-by-step tutorial on how to accurately build this candle stand using mostly hand tools.
***Click here to be added to the notification list for this particular DVD.
2. Building the Isaac Youngs Shaker Wall Clock:
Isaac Youngs was one of the few Shaker artisans who left his name on his furniture. Most of the Shakers believed they should remain anonymous. But thankfully Isaac not only marked many of his pieces (like in this beautiful clock) but he also wrote poetry inside!
This particular 1840 Isaac Youngs clock really caught the attention of Will and myself, and we knew we had to share a tutorial on building it. Like the above candle stand, Will had made this clock from someone’s measurements, but when we took the actual measurements we discovered that all the available measurements were incorrect.
So when we create this DVD tutorial you’ll be able to have historically accurate dimensions, with a couple construction improvements.
I love how Isaac left winding instructions on the interior of this Shaker clock…
Along with a profound little poem that was found on the back of the dial: “O Where shall I my fortune find When this shall cease to measure time?!”
***Click here if you want to be added to the reminder list to be notified when this clock DVD is released.
3. Building a Shaker Drop Leaf Desk
We were planning on measuring and filming a pretty drop leaf side table, but discovered, when we arrived, that it was on loan to a different museum. But this was serendipitous because I found a Shaker drop leaf table that I loved even more; a table unlike any that I had seen before.
This gorgeous little piece of Shaker history isn’t just a table, but also a writing desk!
A movable slider allows the user to prop the table leaf at an angle, providing a perfect little writing surface. And the drawer slides out both sides. Oh what charm!
***Click here if you want to be added to the reminder list to be notified when this drop leaf desk DVD is released.
Here are a few other photos from the Hancock Shaker Village…but stay tuned. Several more videos and many more photos of the village and furniture will follow in the subsequent parts to this article.
Update: Here is part 2 and here is part 3.