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.