Antique Tools Are Modern Made
Toolmakers reproduce 18th-century handsaws, plans, and marking tools for the historic trade shops at Colonial Williamsburg.
WILLIAMSBURG, VA–George Wilson and John Laubach might be the only craftsman associated with the Colonial Williamsburg foundation who don’t limit themselves to using 18th-century technologies. In fact, they do just the opposite.
Working away in their machine shop located outside of the historic grounds at the living history museum, Wilson and Laubach use modern machines and inginuity to produce all of the tools used by the more than 70 craftsman that practice 18th century woodworking here–everything from folding rules to panel saws.
Working behind the scenes. John Laubach (left) and George Wilson (right) produce all of the reproduction hand tools used by the cabinetmakers, musical instrument makers, and joiners at Colonial Williamsburg.
Made to look old
Known for doing things the 18th-century way, the craftsman who work in the historic trade shops at Colonial Williamsburg use tools that look and act just like those put to use more than 250 years ago.
However, while they look authentic, the methods used to produce each tool are not. Wilson has built and refurbished a collection of machine-shop equipment to do much of the work that was traditionally done by hand. This includes everything from stamping out the teeth on a hand saw to milling the mouth on a coffin plane.
Tools are true to form. Wilson and Laubach embed the date and maker’s mark into each tool.
Generally speaking we have to make about 70 of every tool week make,” Wilson said. “Of course, we have to employ modern methods to make these, but when we’re finished they look just like original antiques. We don’t leave machine marks on them, we hand plane them–whatever’s necessary to put authentic surfaces on them.”
Because the tools look so authentic, each one is engraved with a date and a maker’s mark to ensure that it doesn’t show up in an antique store a few years from now.
For more information about tools and woodworking at Colonial Williamsburg, go online to www.history.org.
Photos: Gary Junken