The marks of an unknown maker

After a few crazy weeks at work, my family and I are finally getting to enjoy a little downtime with extended family in the mountains of Virginia. Suffice it to say there won’t be much in the way of updates to the tool chest build over the next week.

In lieu of that, I offer you this:

Two tiny chairs.

More specifically, two tiny doll chairs that were my grandmother’s and maybe my great-grandmother’s. These two little chairs turned up as I dug through the mountain of my parents’ things that currently inhabits my garage. They’re about 4-5″ tall and evidently carved by hand out of white oak.

The carving was likely the work of my one of my great-great grandfathers. Any information more detailed than that is lost to me. What is not lost to me is imagination, and the evidence of the hand that made these little doll chairs.

Looking at the picture above you can tell immediately by the inconsistencies in the work that these are hand-made.The “rails” and “spindles” on the backs are unevenly spaced and of various heights.

Flipping them over you can see the saw marks where the legs were roughed out. You can also see the chisel work to clean out the waste.

You can see the medullary rays here on the one seat, which is kind of neat.

And, if you line them up just right along the grain it is possible to imagine that they were once part of one block of wood.

I don’t know why these chairs fascinate me. If they had been manufactured in an assembly line, or come from a department store they would have certainly been yard sale fodder by now, but the thought that one of my forbears picked up a block of wood one day and saw two little doll chairs within it gives me no end of delight.

Furthermore, the idea that they took whatever tools they had on hand and brought that idea to reality (however crudely) simply fascinates me. I imagine the first saw cuts roughing out the shape and the careful paring to trim away the bits and pieces of wood that separate notion from reality.

I think about the first time these were handed to my grandmother or great-grandmother and I imagine the look of delight in her eyes.

Artifacts like these stretch my imagination and give me courage to put blade to wood.


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