Saturday, November 11, 2017

A Visit To Winterthur

I'd heard of Winterthur and their recreation of the old Dominy woodworking shops so many times over the last several years.  So when visiting friends near Baltimore recently, I spent a day at the Winterthur Museum near Wilmington, DE.  I didn't know what to expect.  I thought maybe there was an old timey "living museum" with woodworking and blacksmith shops like I imagine Colonial Williamsburg might have.

Well, it didn't have the "living" part (unless you count the beautiful gardens and grounds of the estate), but it was extraordinary nonetheless.  I was mainly interested in the Dominy shops, but there was a huge mansion-turned-museum that no doubt held untold hundreds of fine furniture pieces.  I didn't get a chance to see that part - even if I did, it was on a guided tour, so I wouldn't have been able to spend quality time with the furniture.

The recreation of the Dominy shop was behind glass walls, which was a bummer, but I could still imagine all the work going on in there.
Great wheel lathe towards the front
(try to ignore reflection of a lighted display just left of center)
Beyond the great wheel, on the left, is the smaller of the two huge workbenches in the shop.
Workbench #1 held lots of planes: jointers, jacks, smoothers, a plough.
The wall behind the bench held many chisels and boring bits.
Note also the bow saw hanging from the ceiling
The workbench on the other side spanned almost the entire length of the room.  On it were candle stand leg patterns and legs in various stages of completion.  The bench has two massive wooden twin screw vises.
The larger of the two benches
Another view: turning tools closest, chisels, gouges, spokeshaves, marking gauges,
squares needed to make legs for a candle stand
On the far end were some interesting tools: screw box (or is it a tenon sizer?), a set of trammel points,
and a cross-shaped guide to lay out circles and ovals with the trammels
Next to them was a beautiful jack plane
View of great wheel lathe from other viewing area - look at that big trestle-style tool
rest in front of the candle stand top that is chucked into the lathe.
It was neat seeing all the tools of an 18th century workshop all around the shop.

The Dominy's had a second shop where they made clock and watch parts.  Not only could they make the large standing cases for clocks, ...
A tall clock case
..., but also they could make the gears and other parts for the clock movements.
Made in 1799, these clockworks were for the clock case pictured above.
The clockwork gears were made on this "gear-cutting engine".
The gear-cutting engine
You can see that the engine is powered by a flywheel.  The long stick on the floor is the treadle used to turn the flywheel.  I just love the ingenuity here.

Some of the furniture made by the Dominys was on display, too.  It ranged from candle stands to elegant high chests.
A very common product of the Dominy family
(that thing next to the rear leg is a leg pattern)
A rocking chair from 1790 - 1830
High chest
The high chest was interesting.  I'm not sure why it didn't break itself apart given the apparent opposing grain situation I saw in the lower side panel.
Why did the bottom side stay together?
The upper right side had a large split, but I wouldn't have expected that when there was no (apparent) grain direction problem (though I couldn't see how the side attached to the top due to mouldings).
Large split on the upper right side panel
I wish I could have gotten inside the Dominy shop just to soak up some mojo.  I still enjoyed it, though.  If I ever get back there I'll try to get on the tour of the mansion to see some other fine furniture.


  1. Replies
    1. I hope you get a chance some day. The tools in the shop were great to see. Wish I had some of those old tools in my own shop.

  2. Looks like you got spammed, sigh. Happens sporadically on my site too :-(

    I chuckle in my coffee cup reading, you whish you could spend some quality time with the antique furniture. I thought of Ralph and I crawling all over the furniture at the historical IIn Heather and I were staying during our visit :-)

    Thanks for the account of your visit, nust make it there too someday..

    Bob, sipping whats left of my coffee :-)

    1. Yeah, I just started getting spam comments on my last two posts. Bummer. I wish all those a-holes would just drop dead.

      We also visited the Smithsonian in Washington DC on the same trip and there was a furniture exhibit. I was on the floor looking at the bottom of a highboy when a security guard asked what I was doing. He said he'd seen furniture people looking there before. Fun stuff.