Friday, September 4, 2015

Oct. 3 & 4, Blacksmithing: Knife Making; Oct. 17, 24, 31, Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class

September 26, 9-5. Make a Metal Casting Furnace or Blacksmithing Forge. We supply the materials, tools, and know-how to create a functioning furnace or forge. The class involves cutting a metal tank for the purpose, welding ( we do that), and forming an interior chamber inside the tank for refractory cement with Sana tube and cardboard. We are using refractory rated at over 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.We provide the the 10 PSI regulator as well as a propane delivery valve that we have created for the purpose. This takes all of 7 hours to create. The refractory will need to dry for a week or so but will set up by the end of the class. See photos. $300 Complete. 

October 3 & 4, 9-3.  Make a Bowie Knife or Puukko Hunting Knife. Form a blade and handle tang from high carbon steel. Learn the process of shaping, hardening, tempering, filing and polishing with master bladesmith Adriaan Gerber. make one or two knives depending on your productivity. This is a class intended for the beginner touching upon the basics of hand forging. Ticket to our Octoberfest, Oct. 3, 4-7:30 with tuition. $195 Call: (207) 793-2784,

October 17, 24, & 31, 9-3. Antique Engine Repair & Maintenance Class. This is our second class with antique engine mechanics Russ Welch and Doug Kimball. Learn the mechanics and the ignition systems of make n' brake/ one lunger/ hit n' miss engines. We take 'em apart and put them back together, replace and sometimes fabricate parts. A must for the budding hobbyist. You can take one class or all three. We are starting with a 7HP Economy engine. $195, (207) 793-2784,

See an article in Popular Mechanics that was informed by bladesmith Adriaan Gerber. He is an expert on how to sharpen edge tools. See some of his edge tools in the right and left columns of this blog.

Click this to enlarge it in order to read it.

Yankee magazine, June 1988, Traveler's Journal, "Willowbrook at Newfield"

When you enter Willowbrook, you not only step into the mid-19th century, but you also step into the glorious obsession of one man. Donald King, a Massachusetts native who made his fortune in Texas-based lubricants [oil drilling], came to Newfield, a village tucked against the Maine-New Hampshire border, in the mid-1960s. his intent was to turn an old farmhouse into a hunting camp for his business friends. Soon King became intrigued by the area's history. He found that Newfield was once Maine's most prominent carriage-sleigh-building center, home to at least 13 blacksmiths, seven harness makers, 17 cabinet makers, and several dozen shoemakers. The results of their labors and the tools of their trades languished in barns and fields. King, who once said, "I have a great appreciation for anyone who works with his hands, and the 19th century was the last great era for that," thought he would make a small farm museum from the stuff he saw just lying around. Soon he had filled four buildings. "Nobody in Maine ever throws anything out," he said.

His hobby became a full time occupation. firmly hooked, King poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into his "restoration village" that opened in 1970, and nothing delighted him more than to emerge from the workshop, khaki pants stained with grease, and stick out his hand to a startled tourist and boom, :Hi, I'm Don King. I built this!"

"This," at the time of his death in 1985, was 33 separate exhibits, and the only 19th-century museum of its kind in the country. Visitors are on their own to roam with a detailed self-guiding pamphlet. ("On your right you will see a large iron wheel straightener used by a blacksmith when he was repairing wheels. The rim of the wheel was placed on the hub until the wheel became straight once again...") Since Willowbrook is spread across seven country acres, comfortable walking shoes are advised. "Allow at least three hours," says Georgia Perry, Willowbrook's long time director. "and that's seeing it really fast. That's walking."

Where to begin? There are two homesteads, a school, a carriage house, barns, bicycle shop, barbershop, photography shop, country bank, a room devoted to the evolution of heaters from wood to kerosene, early fire engines [ Update: the fire trucks were de-accessioned in recent years] , cobbler shop, laundry room, cider mill, and shed after shed of lovingly restored farm exhibits. You sit in the shade of the willow trees and listen to the older people who throng past. "When I was a youngster, we had one of those." a pause. "But I threw it away."

In the Amos Straw Country Store there is a barrel where 60 cents will buy a fat juicy pickle. There are cheese wheels, jellies, catnip, rock candy, and, yes, real penny candy. A restaurant, set in a restored barn with paddle fans swirling gently above, looks out upon a bridge across a brook; adjoining is an ice cream parlor with wrought-iron furniture and Tiffany lamps.

Willowbrook is named for the willow trees that shade the brook and millpond. There may be no finer setting for a picnic than by the stone wall that circles the pond, looking out to a scene straight from, say 1875.

Willowbrook has its critics, mostly historical purists, who say that what King created was his idealized version of the past, everything being in sparkling new condition. The critics never fazed King who said, "We like to think of Willowbrook as entertainment, too." His philosophy lives on in the village he created. Every day Willowbrook opens its doors with a drum roll played over the loud speakers, followed by "The Star-Spangled Banner."

To go: Willowbrook is right off Route 11 with signs pointing the way. Take exit 2 off the Maine Turnpike, then 109 west to 11. Open daily May 15-Sept. 30, 10-5. Adults $4.75., ages 6-18 $2.75. The Christmas Etcetera Giftshop, with all items selected by Pam [sic: Pan] King, is considered one of Maine's leading souvenir shops and is the only corner of Willowbrook that remains open until December 23. For details about tours and special group rates call 207-793-2784.

Editor's note: Research for the above was provided by Joyce butler (Old York). Mel Allen (Willowbrook at Newfield), James Dodson ( Owls Head Transportation Museum), and Voscar (Lumberman's Museum).

Thursday, September 3, 2015

19th Century Village Restoration Set To Open For Second Season [ Portland Press Herald, April 27, 1971]

Remember---Farm implements of every type and description can be found in the special farm implement display area of the Newfield restoration project, Willowbrook at Newfield. One of the unique pieces is an old snow roller seen here in back of the horse drawn manure spreader. Snow rollers were used in hamlets throughout the country before the dawn of the gasoline engine.

19th Century Village Restoration Set To Open For Second Season

Newfield---Willowbrook at Newfield, a unique restoration and re-creation of a 19th century village, will open for its second season May 1.

Said to be the only 19th century village museum of its kind in this country, it will open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily through October 1.

The laborious restoration work continued all through the winter. men and women often worked in subzero weather in unheated buildings.

[Georgia Perry, Director-Curator] our craft shop area, and completed an unmarried maiden's room in our Dr. Isaac Trafton House."

The major objective of the project, she pointed out, "is to preserve a part of our heritage that might have been lost. Most importantly, we want to bring the presence of a bygone era to today's youngsters."

She also reported that a major recruitment program is under way to attract visiting school groups, church groups, Boy and Girl Scout troops and youth groupsof every type. Organized group tours of such youngsters, as well as other special groups, such as senior citizens, are admitted at reduced group rates.

mrs. perry pointed out that some of the most avid patrons last summer were senior citizens. "It was amazing to see some of these people come back four or five times during the season and just sit under a shady tree and drink in the 19th century atmosphere. " she added.

The Willowbrook Village, complete with general store, one room schoolhouse, completely restored houses, shops, displays of buggies and sleighs, clothing of the period and a myriad of 19th century paraphernalia, is the brainchild of Massachusetts business executive Donald F. King Sr.

king foresaw the possibilities that existed here when he purchased one of the buildings about five years ago---with a hunting camp in mind.

"Since work began in 1967, this dream, combined with a labor of love, a never ending investment of money and just plain hard work, has finally become a reality," he said during a recent interview.

king is a perfectionist and insists on complete authenticity. "And we aren't finished yet," he stated. "A crew of at least 10 workers has continued throughout the winter, doing all those jobs necessary to keep any village in shape. Just the routine carpentry, painting and fix-up projects are a major undertaking."

"These are the basics," he continued, "I have a major development plan that will put Newfield on the map nationally as a true historic site. Its going to take us time and more money to complete the project, however.

'My plans for the next five years are still in the works at this point and are not quite ready to be announced. I can assure everyone, however, that what we do at Willowbrook will be done tastefully and in only the finest traditions of an educational and nostalgic museum.

"Willowbrook at Newfield will never become another 'honky-tonk' tourist attraction, the community, the environment and the serene peace of a quiet Maine village must remain intact," he stressed.

Mrs. G.A. Perry, director-curator, pointed out that much has been accomplished since last summer.

"We have restored six additional carriages, including one owned by Maine's first governor William King; completed a new carriage display area; completed a new baby carriage display and toy display and included new objects in virtually hundreds of small areas throughout the village, she reported.

We have also completely refurbished our antique shop, included both a small gift shop and a Victorian furniture shop.

Nursery in the Dr. Isaac Trafton Homestead at Willowbrook, Newfield, includes a variety of toys, dolls and and "things for the children" that will delight the youngsters and bring back memories of another era to senior citizens. The only 19th Century Village Museum of its kind in the country, Willowbrook is a complete village depicting life in Newfield during its peak. It is located just off Route 11 in Newfield and includes the Durgin Homestead, built in 1813; the Trafton Homestead, constructed in 1851, the Amos Straw Country Store, opened in 1859; craft shops, restaurant, antique shop, Victorian furniture shop, one-room school and many collections such as restored carriages, buggies, sleighs, clothing, equipment of period artisans, and everyday household necessities. Willowbrook is open through October 1 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a wee k. There is a nominal charge.

Off to Willowbrook: Over 80 third graders from both Lincoln and Hamlin Schools in Springvale spent a day at Willowbrook, Newfield, the only 19th Century museum of its kind in the country. Here, left to right, Patrick Knight, 27 Island avenue, Sanford Renee McKenney, 13A Old Mill Road, Sanford, and Mike Wentworth, wells Road, Sanford, board the bus. They are all members of Miss Smith's third grade class. Looking on is Mrs. Aan C. Tate, SAPTA Treasurer and a chaperone for the trip which was paid for by the Springvale Association of Parents and Teachers as one of its special projects.

The Carpentry Shop is one of the many displays of 19th Century Americana to be seen at Willowbrook Museum at Newfield, which will open this Saturday, May 1, for its second season. Willowbrook is a village in itself and is the only 19th century village museum of its kind in the nation. Although it already presents an amazing complete picture of life of that era, there are plans to develop the village further during the next five years, according to the owner, Massachusetts business executive Donald F. King, Sr.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cider Mill at Willowbrook

This cider mill is nearly completed after much work over the last year and a half. Receiving funding from the Davis  Family Foundation and the Narragansett Number One Foundation the project required a complete reconfiguration of a one time static exhibit of the 1870s Webber & Haviland twin screws that were cast in the Waterville Iron Works. The longtime configuration in an open shed at the museum had the 8 x8 vertical supports of the press buried in the ground. These were rotted off and had compromised the safety of the structure.The press plate was configured with a field stone walled pit below it that presumably cider would run into a bucket placed there. This configuration was abandoned for our new presentation which is modeled after a more common set-up from the period; we found a similar press in situ in nearby Limington, and using that as a reference we chose to create a free standing structure that could be placed on a hard surface. Among the parts of the press that have been preserved is the elm horizontal beam which is presumably original but maybe an early replacement. These metal pressing screws may have simply been purchased and then configured by the farmer from wood available rather than coming as a complete press. Our apple crusher is from the late 19th century, and this was also re-wooded. Oak was used for the crusher whereas the mortise and tenon framework of the press was done in hemlock. This wood was chosen because it was easy to work with and when dry becomes as durable as any hardwood. All the mortises and tenons were hand cut by Adriaan Gerber of Mariahville. The hemlock timbers came from Stillwater, ME and were harvested only days before Mr. Gerber began work on the mortises and tenons. The framework was raised last Fall on a concrete slab which was in part donated by Carroll Cement of Limerick. We installed a drain in the slab, as it is our intention to have working cider mill. This would require frequent cleaning so the drain will prevent a build up of the water we will be using. The most recent work to the project was the creation of the platform which was built off of the 8 x 8 pedestal feet of the structure. The structure is held together with wooden pegs fabricated at Willowbrook by staffer Ashley Gerry. The last part of the project will be the construction of timber cribbing to raise the apple crusher to a height just above the square lattice pressing box. A platform and sluice way will allow cider and apple pulp to be pushed into the box without any waste for pressing. The plate below the lattice box has a channel carved in it with a drainage hole connected to a two inch PVC pipe that allows cider to be piped to the front of the platform you see here. The cider will empty into collecting buckets.

Acquisitions: Wooden Metal Casting Patterns from Hackett's Machine Shop, Brewer, Maine

This past winter I got wind that there was a sizable collection of wooden metal casting patterns in the basement of a commercial building in downtown Bangor. A call came from Bruce Bowden, museum director of The Curran Homestead Living History Museum in Orrington, ME who shared that these metal casting patterns had to be out of a space in Bangor where they were being stored as soon as possible. At the time I was unable to trek to Bangor to claim any of these objects which I knew would greatly complement both our ongoing metal casting program at Willowbrook and serve as a wall exhibit in our period machine shop that we were in the midst of completing. Fortunately, a large portion of the patterns went to The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum in Orrington, ME that day. These patterns had been originally part of the  inventory of Hackett's Machine Shop in Brewer, ME; the shop which did machining, metal casting of parts as well as steam boiler fittings closed its' doors in the early 1980s. The metal casting  patterns were donated shortly thereafter to Leonard's Mills, Maine Logging and Forestry Museum  in Bradley, ME, that put them into storage. The ownership of a portion of the  patterns was recently waived, and the owner of the building where they were stored offered them to area museums. The Curran Homestead received a portion but there were still many patterns left in the Bangor building that were destined for the dumpster. I eventually got to the site and with the aid of Bruce Bowden filled a Subaru Outback and The Curran Homestead's minivan.  I was thrilled with the idea of having these patterns in the collection as they had both aesthetic and educational value for Willowbrook. the patterns were stored  in Eddington, ME temporarily where they remained until this weekend. The bulk of the patterns were for the casting of replacement parts for such things as commercial wood planers, shingle mills, wood rolling devices, commercial laundry equipment, and other large machines. The collection represents the variety of castings that a small New England machine shop might achieve at the beginning to mid 20th century when fixing machines was more often the first choice to replacing them. Among the patterns received by The Curran Homestead was a part for an early Harley Davidson motorcycle and legs for an industrial/shop table with raised letters identifying it as a casting from the "Bangor Iron Foundry". The pieces that Willowbrook received will be cleaned by volunteers from Massabesic High School ( Waterboro) today. During the course of this cleaning we will learn more of the story behind these patterns as paper tags attached with string and identifications stamped into the wood surfaces of some of the patterns remain. We hope to have these on exhibit this Fall and Winter in our Machine Shop as we will be offering our Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class in October as well as more metal casting classes that could include creating castings in bronze and aluminum of some of the smaller patterns now in the collection.

The project gets a jump start with the offer of volunteer assistance the day after the metal casting patterns came to Willowbrook. Our volunteer crew did a light cleaning with Murphy's oil soap. The patterns still had a coating of sand casting compound on them as well as 30 plus years of dust and dirt which made for a good days work for our two volunteers: Alyssa Crowell, a senior at Massabesic High School and sophomore Kiessa Treadwell of Bonny Eagle High School. They did a fine job and were  attentive to the necessity to preserve pencil marks and other ephemeral labeling on the patterns.

On Friday, August 28, 2015, staffer Marlene Gerry started the tedious work of attaching the wooden patterns to the wall surfaces of our new Machine Shop. Given the dark finish on the patterns, black cinch ties are being used. A staple is put into the wall surface with a hammer and the plastic tie is threaded through it and around parts of each pattern; the tie is cinched attaching the pattern to the wall securely but not harming the light wooden patterns in any way.  Given the eclecticism of the collection, we are arranging these randomly reminding me of the arrangements of keys and hardware at the old Barnes Collection site outside of Philadelphia. Barnes created a unique aesthetic for arranging and appreciating his collection of  fine art masters like Matisse and Renoir, to name a few; this included paintings arranged linearly and  in proximity to collections of antique keys, locks, and hand forged hardware. These patterns new to the Willowbrook Collection on the unpainted white pine walls are very much like modern sculpture with their organic curves and shapes. They will be fitting surroundings for the classes that will begin this Fall starting with our second Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class on October 17, 24 & 31, 9-3PM. 
This photo of the Riddell Barn, a relocated structure from Newburgh, NY in my native Orange County, NY, is at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The photo is from the Shelburne Museum's 1963 catalog ; I have had this catalog probably since I was a teenager, and it is presently held together with rubber bands. I  have never been to the Shelburne Museum; in fact, the plan was to go this summer. There's still time.  The objects depicted on the walls of this barn are wooden metal casting patterns for the parts to a small brass steam engine used on 19th century Hudson River launches. A small backyard machine shop was able to create from scratch such a sophisticated engine, and really this is the phenomena that goes straight to Willowbrook's own mission albeit Northern New York and not New England. Yankee ingenuity was not confined to one region or state but is indicative  of our American can do culture.  Knowledge of this photo and the story behind this has been the driving force behind my interest in metal casting and the inspiration for this current element to our working machine shop project. Now if we can just get our hands on these patterns at the Shelburne, maybe a loan agreement (?), it would be a wonderful project to both accomplish and video document the process of making a working model of this steam boat engine once again through our own metal casting operation and the talents of Peter Grant of Odd Duck Foundry. Stay tuned for updates.