Monday, August 11, 2008

Buggy Factory

Saturday we took a trip to "Buggy Town". Mifflinburg, PA was home to more than 80 buggy shops in the 19th c. with one, purportedly the only one in the U.S,. still intact: W. A. Heiss Coachworks.

I had hoped to see a collection of carriagemaker planes at the museum, but there were none. There was, however, the only treadle-powered table saw I had ever seen. It looked homemade with an odd-shaped, adjustable fence and a fixed board in front of the blade whose purpose befuddled me. I suppose it was used as a stop.

There were some handsome buggys on display, some with fancy paint jobs. The finishers in the factory were commissioned with the most egregious portion of the assembly, not only because applying the finish was so difficult, but because they had to work in an unventilated room on the second floor of an unheated, unairconditioned, uninsulated, wooden warehouse. They had to keep the windows closed while they worked to prevent dust from settling on the finish. 8-10 hour days/6 days a week. Suddenly, my job doesn't look so bad.

The woods used in the buggys' construction were: poplar and pine for the body; oak for the undercarriage; and hickory for the spokes and wheels.

In the last photo, you can see the brake pad pressing against the rear wheel. I asked our guide what they were made from and she said anything from wood to fabric to leather to shoes. And that, she said, is where the term "brake shoes" comes from.

Of course, she may have been pulling my leg....
or my New Balance.

6 comments:

Dan said...

That is an interesting place - and one more that I have never heard of before. I wonder if anyone has ever compiled a complete list of museums etc. that would be of interest to woodworkers? Does such a list exist?

Thanks for posting it!

Oh, and I am skeptical about the "brake shoe" origin...

Vic Hubbard said...

Before he died about a year ago, a neighbor up the street had some beautiful carriages that he pulled at events and parades. I should've bugged him more. I think he did all the work on them himself. I love the painting on the one Nancy is standing next to.

Shazza said...

No rubber baby buggy bumpers to show?

I am disappointed.

The Village Carpenter said...

Dan, I would love to see a list like that. If you come across one, please let me know.

Vic, I liked that paint job, too. Seemed unusual for a buggy.

Shazza, sorry to disappoint!

Regis said...

That table saw is really interesting. Here is another source of such tools: http://www.americanartifacts.com/smma/index.htm
You have to look around, but you can find foot powered bandsaws, table saws and so many others.

Regis

The Village Carpenter said...

Regis, thanks for the link. Interesting that they have an illustration of a woman using the No. 1 Amateur Saw, c. 1885.