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A walk back in time

Hi folks,

Well, I sent our esteemed webmaster Peter a copy of the only video we ever published, 16 years ago, of one of my oldest friends, Bill McCarthy, in the steam-powered woodworking shop that he set up in one of his barns.   An avid historian who ran “Restoration Millwork,” a cabinet shop and architectural woodworking business for many decades, and who has designed and engineered an amazing body of work — from flintlock rifles, including a breech loading model — to authentic period millwork, to steam engines of his own design, Bill has been collecting vintage woodworking machines ever since I’ve known him. I remember one of the first times I was getting to know him back around 1973, he had retrofitted an old BSA motorcycle transmission to a 24″ Whitney planer to change feed speed on the fly. He also built a 29′ Friendship sloop from scratch, complete with white oak planking, oakum joints and a thousand-pound lead keel that he melted and poured from a bathtub. And can you imagine turning a mast for a boat that size? He also set up a 50″ circle mill on his property, hooked up to a diesel truck engine. All this said, Bill is still defying expectations, designing and building a combination wood- and metal-working shop at his home in PA, with the most extensive and exotic collection of machinery you can imagine. 

In retrospect, I think this is a pretty decent movie. You be the judge. All the credit for the video editing goes to Peter Parker Brodhead, the son of another old friend who now runs a large presentation business, with big-name clients all over the place. I was lucky to catch him at an early inflection point in his career to shoot this film with me. It looks like Peter Martin, our webmaestro, has done quite a lot of work on it too, to prepare it for streaming in this site.

Without further ado, please set aside 40 minutes and take a walk with me back into the nearly forgotten history of woodworking from the dawn of the Industrial Revolution.

A 19th Century Steam-Powered Woodworking Shop


Ellis Walentine, Host

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