Full Chisel Blog

October 7, 2008

Cabinet Shop for sale!

Filed under: Historical Material,Of Interest,The Trade,Uncategorized — Stephen Shepherd @ 10:04 am

I am offering my entire cabinet shop, including the building and property (with water rights) for sale.  It comes in a nice antique style exhibit case with antique glass.  Oh did I forget to mention that it is a ‘scale’ 1 inch equals 1 foot Cabinet Shop diorama.  Or an expensive doll house.

Cabinet Shop

It is based upon an 1853 Western Pioneer Cabinet Shop with all of the tools that could have been in a shop of this time period.  There is a waterwheel (tub turbine) that powers the lathe and up down sash saw.  There is also a ‘great wheel’ to provide power in the winter time or when the water was low.

All of the tools actually work and the examples of furniture are to scale.  There is a pond, head race, mill race, wood shed and other exterior details, the interior is as it was in the past.  Two walls and one side of the roof are open for viewing, the walls are board and batten and the roof is shingled with cedar shingles.

 Cabinet Shop Interior

These images are from my old web site, this one shows a detail of the interior and the workbench in the background and the lathe in the fore.

The plot of ground for this model is 27 1/2 feet wide and 37 1/2 feet deep situated on a small stream at a convenient seasonal water source. The stream is dammed up and the water is diverted from the mill pond to the mill. The water is restricted overnight to fill the pond and the following day the retained water is allowed to flow. Metered at the weir (the head gate) to a constant rate down the wooden flume to the power the mill wheel at a uniform speed to provide continuous power for the powered tools in the shop. The metal grate keeps floating debris from damaging the mill-works. The property has a natural slope from the highest point to the lowest of approximately three feet. By damming up the stream an additional three feet of elevation for the water is artificially achieved. This gives the water additional force applied to the mill wheel to provide more power. The potential energy of the water is stored in the mill pond overnight or in a few hours during the increased spring run off. This small mill does not require that much flow in the stream to power the shop. Normal run off would probably power the shop during a typical days use. This provides sufficient ‘head’ to power the mill. The energy is released (kinetic energy) to power the mill wheel which in turn transfers force to the shop through a series of gears, pulleys, bearings, shafts and belts to deliver this energy to the power tools within the shop. Any excess water in the pond, not used for power is diverted over the spillway, which can be regulated. A drain gate in the bottom of the pond can also be regulated to control the pond level and is used to clean out the silt and deposits as required.

The shop building itself is 15 feet wide, 20 feet deep and 16 feet high to the ridge. It is typical board and batten construction over simple column or post and beam timber framing with knee braces at the corners. The sill is set on cut local stone foundation with simple lime mortar masonry. The length of the sill and rafter plate required end joinery, in this case a pegged scarf joint. Round log rafters, lapped and pegged at the top, held with pegged tie braces and joined to the rafter plate with a birds mouth (birds beak) joint and secured with wooden pegs (trunnels-tree nails). Additional reinforcements of rawhide or rope lashing were used where needed. The roof is of split and shaved cedar shingles (18 inches long) nailed to the lumber sheathing under-layment. Laid in a typical pattern with a 15 inch exposure, the bottom course is doubled and the cap is finished with board battens at the ridge. A four panel man door is typical of the period as are the 6 over 6 light sash windows. A transom window over the man door is to provide extra illumination and ventilation to the shops interior. Double barn doors allow large pieces of furniture and lumber to move through with ease.

The exterior lumber storage shed is constructed to allow air flow around the lumber while the roof keeps direct sunlight from drying the wood too fast, causing checking and other seasoning problems. This outbuilding is made using less sophisticated construction of the main building and demonstrates other techniques. A simple pole building, the posts are placed directly into the ground. Wind braces are added to the corners to strengthen the structure. Pegs, notches and lashing are used join the members. The roof is of typical pioneer construction using boards and battens. The wide boards are placed on the supporting structure and nailed in place. Thin strips of wood called battens are then nailed over the spaces between the boards, causing the water to shed from the roof without leaking through.

Only two sides of the building and half of the roof were finished to show the complete construction details. The other two walls and half of the roof were left unfinished to allow viewing the interior of this shop. This allows access to observations unavailable in any other form.

The exact layout has been altered to include all details within the given size. Traditionally the arrangement of shop, outbuildings, water source may have been further apart than they are depicted here. Everything was moved closer together to economize the space available.

The power to the shop is provided by water. The water diverted by the mill is fed through the sluice to the downspout, that concentrates the force of the water. This is referred to as the head-race. Upon entering the mill box the water strikes the paddles of the mill wheel. Based upon the Poncelette wheel, this mill is a rather typical tub mill or turbine mill. The force and weight of the water hits the blades of the mill and turns the main power shaft. Typically a tub mill is propelled by water flowing over the blades, turning the shaft, it is the weight of the water that turns the tub mill. A turbine mill required water to be forced through a nozzle, striking the blades and that force turns the wheel. This particular wheel uses both turbine and tub principles, not only the force of the water directed through the nozzle striking the blades or paddles which turns the shaft, the weight of the water inside the confined turbine housing also adds to the great power of the water wheel. The tail-race (the outlet of the mill) is on the up stream side of the tub mill to retain and maximize as much force of the water as possible.

The main power shaft has a lantern or pinion gear fashioned from a harder wooden log located on the top of the main shaft. This drives a crown gear that converts the vertical turning to a horizontal motion that will eventually power the shop. There are an odd number of gears in either the lantern or crown gear. This is called a ‘hunter’ gear or cog that advances one notch every revolution preventing uneven wear due to constant contact of the same tooth to the same gear. The power is transferred into the shop to a large wheel, jack shaft pulley and hand operated idler which acts as a clutch to engage or disengage the external water power to the shop. The power is transferred via belts to operate the turning lathe and the up-down sash saw.

Notice that all of the pulleys have convex surfaces. This is done to make the leather belts track properly. Leather belts tend to climb to the highest part of the pulley. If the highest part in the center then the belts ride in the middle of the pulley. If one of the parts of the mill-works malfunctions or a tool jambs, the belts will jump the pulleys acting as a safety feature to prevent further damage or injury. With the moving gears, pulleys, belts and tools powered shops and mills were dangerous and many injuries and fatalities were documented.

In the winter time when the water in the rivers and streams is frozen, an alternative source of energy was the grand wheel. Turned by an apprentice, this can provide internal power to the shops power tools when no external water power is available. A simple jam clutch above the grand wheel engages or disengages the jack shaft as necessary.

The hand tools and other shop accessories are typical of the period and have historical precedence derived from probate inventories and other period sources.

 The diorama/model itself is currently seen by almost no one, so I would like to sell it and hope that the new owner will exhibit it so others can appreciate this piece.  I have about 2000 hours in this project.  And for the price $20,000.00, plus crating and shipping.



  1. I found some more pictures that I thought I would add.


    Cabinet Shop

    Cabinet Shop in Exhibit Case


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — October 7, 2008 @ 1:58 pm

  2. I remember you mentioning this “little” project before. I am among those who haven’t yet seen it, but it sounds like a truly priceless piece.

    Comment by Luke Townsley — October 7, 2008 @ 2:58 pm

  3. Sounds like you need a rich donor to give it to a museum of traditional history. Or can you put a group of people together to give it?
    What would your target institutions be? Have you been in touch with them?
    Are you available to talk or demonstrate?

    Can you get it to Berea or Williamsburg to set up as a stall?

    email to see if I can dredge up some old museum contacts.

    Comment by rfrancis — October 8, 2008 @ 5:47 am

  4. Luke,

    This is my ‘little’ project and was a lot of fun initially making all the parts. Putting it all together, building the ‘land’ and shop was a challenge. My next ‘little project’ will be a saw mill, a much easier project.


    Yes a rich donor or group would be ideal, I would not like to see it in a private collection, like it is now as no one can actually see it in person.

    I think a living history museum in the West would be good, however the shop could be representative of a shop in the Midwest or rural East. I have not contacted any museums yet but am open to suggestions.

    I am available for talks and/or demonstrations. There is no space at Berea, don’t know about Wmbug.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — October 8, 2008 @ 7:24 am

  5. It’s adorable. I don’t suppose you would accept a miniature $20,000 bill for it???

    Comment by The Village Carpenter — October 8, 2008 @ 10:39 am

  6. Amazing detail and research!
    Is it a working model? If it is thats fantastic – could you post a small film clip of it running?

    Comment by woodiespassion — October 8, 2008 @ 4:42 pm

  7. Love the detail. I can picture the shop on a piece of mountain land with a stream and my log cabin close by.

    Sometimes it does seem like it would be better back in those less hectic times.


    Comment by woodworking — October 9, 2008 @ 8:00 am

  8. VC,

    Hard coin, I don’t accept that paper or card money from the states.


    It is in an enclosed and somewhat sealed case. It is accessable from all sides and can be operated, but it is a chore and it is more intended to be a static exhibit. It is also stored at a friends house as I have no room even for this little case. When I pick it up, I will have to open it up and clean it, at that point I could shoot a short film.


    Yes this would have been located on a stream. There is a large stump out front, that was left after clearing a place for the shop. Building the terrain for the shop was interesting as I had to level the building with extra foundation stones on the stream side of the shop. I will get some better pictures later.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — October 9, 2008 @ 1:04 pm

  9. I’ve looked over the photos, and can’t find the miniature crumpled Coors can.

    Did you forget to put it in?

    Or is it just too well hidden?


    Comment by Ken Pollard — October 9, 2008 @ 4:32 pm

  10. Ken,

    Not in any of those photographs, not that I am admitting to anything.


    Comment by Stephen Shepherd — October 9, 2008 @ 4:41 pm

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