Friday, June 25, 2010

Get Thee To The Fair

If you've never been to the Fort Frederick Market Fair in Maryland, you're missing out on seeing some exceptional 18th-century reproductions and clothing.

I talked to several sutlers who said that in all the fairs they attend, this one is by far the best.

This was the second year I went to the event, and I was once again struck by the level of talent and attention to detail the sutlers show in their products and attire.

This year, I appreciated being able to spend so much time talking with woodworkers Matthew Stein and Charles Boland.

Matt lives and works in Southwestern Pennsylvania, where he builds 18th-century reproduction furniture using traditional methods, and demonstrates woodworking techniques at various historic sites.

Starting woodworking at a young age and apprenticing in a furniture shop repairing antiques and building new pieces while he attended college, nudged Matt down the path to building period furniture.

Matt opened his own shop in 1991 and is still going strong. It was encouraging to meet someone who is making a living building the types of furniture, and using the methods and tools, that many of us love.

Matt brought a number of beautifully-crafted pieces with him, as well as his travel workbench. But I was particularly captivated by his tool chest, which showed off his talent with marquetry.

If you'd like to see Matt in action, check out his list of events. He's a friendly guy and is happy to talk shop with other woodworkers.


Charles Boland, originally from Texas, has a workshop in West Virginia where he specializes in Windsor Chairs.

Like Matt, Charles works with hand tools the traditional way, and also teaches classes on chair making in his shop.

Charles works from log to chair, splitting billets and shaping spindles at his shaving horse and lathe. Seats are hollowed out with planes, scorps, and travishers.

It's labor-intensive, but Charles is committed to making authentic pieces, like his replica of Thomas Jefferson's swivel chair. Years of study and visits to museums have given Charles insight into the construction methods, design, and paint wear patterns of period pieces.

Charles is also a very friendly guy who is more than willing to chat with eager woodworkers. Meet him in person at one of these historic events.


Jamie Bacon said...

I'm sorry I missed that. We usually go to the Craft Fair at Mt. Vernon each Fall and both Matthew and Charles are always there. Both amazing craftsmen. Windsor Chairs are definitely on my short list of things to build, and probably worth taking a class to learn. Thanks for letting me "go to the Fair" through your pictures Kari. :)

Jamie Bacon

Anonymous said...

Oooooh, those work benches are awfully nice!

That's giving me ideas, which is bad I'm already struggling with my design on the work bench.


Shannon said...

Ooh I love that Tavern table. I want to make that. I can't believe I missed this fair again this year. I'm holding you responsible for not reminding me about it. And I thought we were friends!! Thanks for reporting on it anyway, maybe I forgive you because of the purty pictures.

The Village Carpenter said...

Jamie, we were thinking about going to the one at Mt. Vernon this year. Is it insanely crowded?

Badger, I knew woodworkers would dig the benches! They both had a long face vise, which looked handy. I'm with you and haven't decided on a final design yet, but I'm leaning toward the little roubo in the new PopWood issue, but with a wagon vise.

Shannon, next year I will remind everyone. You MUST go--you will absolutely LOVE it.

Terri said...

If you ever have the opportunity to take a class from Charles DO IT you won't regret it. I've taken 4 classes from him and enjoyed every moment. Be prepared to work hard and in the end you will be rewarded with a beautiful piece of furniture that you will cherish.

Gye Greene said...

Dangit! You tricked me into **learning** something! (I had to Google ''sutlers''.) ;)

I agree w/ the others: nifty little workbenches...


Jamie Bacon said...

The Mount Vernon Craft Fair is usually not too crowded. The lines to tour the mansion can get a little long that weekend though. The only issue we ever have is that parking can be a little tough to find. All and all it's a pretty good fair. Lots of talented people creating lots of hand-crafted items.

Darnell said...

Fascinating. I wish there was more of a wodworking history in my area, events of this nature are focused on agriculture here.

The saw in the top middle photograph, first collection, what is it? Armorers saw? Bone saw? Early hacksaw? It's odd to see a wide blade in a frame saw like that.

The Village Carpenter said...

Terri, thanks for sharing your experience with Charles. I'm sure he would be an excellent instructor.

Travis, that was a new word to me, too, when I first went to the fair last year.

Thanks, Jamie. I was wondering about the parking/traffic situation.

Darnell, if he told me what the saw was used for, I can't remember. Unfortunately, I forgot to take notes. Maybe someone else will recognize it and let us know. He had some really nice English tools—ones I'd never seen before.

Mitchell said...

First, what is a "sutler"? The dictionary says it is "a person who followed an army and sold provisions to the soldiers."

Are you a Marine and didn't tell us?

Second, the heck with his chairs. Ask Charles where can I get one of those coats?

Third, I know a trip either one of those "Traveling Benches" can make. If either one of them is up to it, I'll even send them a map on how to get here.


Woodbloke said...

Looks like another good event in your neck o'the woods Kari - Rob

The Village Carpenter said...

Mitchell, that is correct. I'm a Marine. :D
Sutlers is the term used for the people who sell their wares at the market fairs, but the definition you found is more accurate. Charles had a cool outfit, as did so many other people. The costumes were as impressive as the products.

Rob, I'm already looking forward to next year!

Steve Branam said...

Wow, Matt is doing exactly what I want to do! In a few years...

I definitely need to look for a higher scale of craft fair than I've been seeing, this one looks awesome. Matt's and Charles' event lists look like a good place to start.