HO Studley

A Studley-Connected Piano Maker’s Workbench

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One of my not-so-secret desires about the aftermath of releasing Virtuoso: The Tool Cabinet and Workbench of Henry O. Studley was that voids in my research could be alleviated, and that people who had more knowledge than I would contact me to push back my frontiers of ignorance. Well, I am delighted to say that it has begun! It’s just a trickle so far, but I will recount the developments as they occur.

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Recently I was contacted by renowned tool maker Ray Larsen, author of the much-ought-after Toolmaking for Woodworkers (I’ve had mine since it was first published), with images and the tale of his piano-maker’s workbench, complete with two of the wheel-handled vises.

In reviewing the known history of the bench, the odds are pretty good that this bench has a Two Degree of Separation connection to Henry O. Studley himself!

Here is Ray’s fascinating account [edited lightly for clarity].

I purchased the bench in question about 25 years ago from an antiques dealer in Hingham, MA, not far from Quincy. She had gotten it when she cleaned out a house in Quincy where the bench had been stored for many years in either a cellar or a garage… The bench is in the same form as the benches in your book.

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It has a heavy, hardwood top with two large hand-wheel operated vices.

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This top sits on a 9-drawer base similar to the base of the Mack Gavitt bench in your book. There is no kneehole. The bench was used hard —and it shows it. It also suffered further indignities while in storage; there are one or two paint spills on the top surface and some of the moulding around the drawers is missing, as are some of the original drawer pulls. It is, however, totally original.

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An interesting aspect of the bench is the fact that the top surface of its base is made up of planks taken from piano shipping crates.

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These planks have several piano company addresses painted on them, including that of the Poole Piano Company where Brother Studley worked. Another unusual feature is a 4-inch-high vertical tool rack or holder mounted along the back of the top.

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And,

Have been able to track down more info on the piano bench. It was owned and used by Charles A. Ross of Quincy. I got the name from a guy (now 90 years old) who lived across the street from him many years ago. The September 16, 1922 edition of THE MUSIC TRADES provides more info, reporting that Ross was resigning as sales manager of the A. J. Jackson & Co.’s piano warerooms in Boston to establish his own warerooms in Boston under the name Charles Ross & Co. The article goes on to say: “Mr. Ross has had a thorough schooling in the piano craft. For fourteen years he was employed by local factories and after several years at the Vose and Poole companies he entered the retrial sales branch.”

Turns out Ross was a big cheese in Quincy, having spent many years in politics including a stint as Quincy’s mayor.

The time frame and context are fascinating, perhaps even downright seductive to us Studleyophiles. Given that Ross was actually in the piano making trades during the long career of Studley including his 1898-1918 tenure at Poole, and given that there is a solid connection to the Poole Piano Company, the possibility exists – and seems probable to me – that this workbench was originally owned and used by one of Henry Studley’s action mechanics at Poole.

And how cool is that?

Recycling the Exhibit Parts

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When closing down the HO Studley exhibit, one of the things I had to do was remove all of the exhibit paraphernalia from the exhibit hall, including the exhibit case for the tool cabinet, but also the platforms for the workbenches.  This required me to rent a large cargo van to fit it all in for the drive back home.

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I haven’t figured out what to do with the exhibit case, but the platforms are already recycled into terrific assembly tables.  Inasmuch as they were exceedingly stout well-buily 4×8′ platforms with 12″ skirts, all from cabinet-grade tulip poplar faced 3/4″ plywood, they were easily transformed into these new accouterments in the barn.

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For each platform-now-table I took a single 8-foot 4×4 and cut in into four identical sections to serve as the legs.  At each corner I screwed a leg into the two converging aprons, then affixed big casters to the bottom of each leg, flipped it over, and viola, a new and lovely work table!

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I moved one into my main workshop to serve as a workstation for either conservation or assembly projects, and the other is currently  against the wall in the classroom.  But since they are both on wheels, it is 100% likely that they will simply be moved from place to place depending on the needs of the moment.

It sure made me glad I am no longer bound by the 220 s.f. footprint of my former shop in the basement of the Maryland house.

Great Guy, Great Lids!

On my way home from returning Mr. Studley’s treasure back to Mister Stewart, at the invitation of Narayan Nayar, the polymath who was my photographic collaborator for Virtuoso, I ventured into the alien universe of Chicago to connect with him.  I have gathered many treasures along the path to getting to “done” with the book and exhibit, and his friendship is first among equals in this regard.

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Narayan may or may not share my ambivalence towards fashion in general, but we absolutely possess an appreciation for fine hats.  I’m not sure of the genesis of this proclivity for him, but for me it was growing up in Minnesota, where a hat kept your brains from freezing, followed by adolescence and early adulthood in Florida, where a hat kept your brains from frying.

The topic of hats came up periodically during our hundreds of hours working together with the Studley collection, time that was simultaneously exhilarating and bone-numbingly tedious.  He noticed my hand-made beaver-fur-felt Borsalino, I noticed his hand made Optimo (although I did not know the brand, only that it was one fine looking lid.)

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So we met up at Optimo’s hat making shop in southern Chicago.  To hat aficionados, it was like Handworks was to toolaholics.  I arrived a bit before Narayan, and wandered about the showroom in a near-stupor at the hat exquisiteness all around me.  These were indeed the finest hats I had ever encountered.  And thanks to Narayan’s beneficence I would soon be getting one myself.

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By the time he arrived a few minutes later I had narrowed down the selection to two hats, one a fedora, the other a Panama.  In the end I simply could not choose, so he bought one for me and I bought the other for myself.  A week later they both arrived at my doorstep.

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One of these will likely be on my corpse’s head as it is fed into the incinerator before my ashes get scattered on the mountain behind the barn.  That’s a proposition that is decades off.

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After we left Optimo’s we supped on some of the famous Chicago style pizza, reminiscing on our project, then parted as we each headed for home.  His drive was a few minutes, mine was fifteen hours.  When parting, Narayan handed me one final gift that in the end allowed the exhibit to be a break-even proposition, demonstrating once again his generous spirit manifest in his time, talents, and treasures.

Great lids, great guy.  I look forward to the next time our paths cross, and hope that somehow a project evolves that allows us to work together again.

HO Studley’s Tool Cabinet Goes Home, and So Do I

At the conclusion of the exhibit, you got to go straight home, but I did not.  Remaining was the arduous task of examining the artifact components, packing archivally for the trip home, and re-installing the collection back at its home.  Then I got to drive the two days back to the Fortress of Solitude.

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Fortunately for me a sizable cohort of Heroes remained behind for the day of deinstallation, even a second day for loading the crates onto the fine arts transport truck.

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The routine of an exhibit de-installation pretty much the reverse of the installation.

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You might think it would go more quickly, but conscientiousness argues the opposite.

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For  valued treasures, you have to be just as careful disassembling them as you were in assembling them.

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Once again, the collection was loaded and secured onto a dedicated “high security” fine arts transport vehicle.  When I say “dedicated” I mean that there was noting else on the truck for either leg of the trip.  When I say “high security” you can conclude about that what you want.  That type of service is not cavalier, but it is required at this level of the world of artifacts.  The insurance underwriters won’t cover it otherwise.

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Hours later the collection arrived back at its home, and was unloaded and the crates were rolled into the gallery and left for my ministrations as the transport pulled away.  The only thing I wanted accomplished on that day was getting the crates opened and empty, and the cabinet hung on the wall.  With that accomplished, along with placing the bench top on the base, the work for the day was finished.

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The next morning brought about the installation of the cabinet’s contents.  Well, that’s what happened after I spend part of an hour taking one last round of detailed photographs for my own amusement.  I intend to integrate many of this detail vocabulary into my mahogany traveling tool case.  Stay tuned on that one, as this coming autumn will hopefully bring me time to noodle that exercise.

Each box was emptied and the contents arranged to allow for an inspection, then piece by piece the cabinet contents were placed in their proper location.  Because of my recent familiarity with the collection, it actually took only a little more than an hour to load the tools.

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On previous visits to the collection, given that they were many months apart, the pace was considerably slower as I had to remind myself each time where things went.  Not so this time.  Having unloaded and loaded it three times in the previous six days, it went quickly and without a hitch.  At noon the final piece was put in its place, and as a nod to my own interest in the mallet as the favorite tool, it was the last thing to go home.  Another half hour of clean-up and closing the crates, and I was heading back for home.

Heroes and Hired Guns – Part 1

The Heroes

Two groups of talented people helped make the Studley Exhibit a reality.  In the next blog post I will talk about The Hired Guns, those skilled artists and artisans I hired to complete specific tasks.  But for now I’m concentrating on The Heroes, those folks who actually donated their efforts to the cause.

The docent group picture just before the opening reception.  Photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar.

The docent group picture just before the opening reception. From left to right: Bill Robillard, John Hurn, Sharon Que, RickB, Jan Bohn, Sean Thomas, Randy Bohn, Don Williams, Derek Olsen, Mike Mavodones.  Not pictured: MikeM1.  Photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar.

Notwithstanding the substantial – and some have said excessive –  admission ticket price for the HO Studley exhibit, the event was at best a “break even” undertaking (it did not make it there, but I guess that’s why they call it “risk capital”) and could not have come together successfully without a cadre of dedicated volunteer supporters and collaborators.

Yes, The Heroes of the affair were those friends old and new who pitched in and contributed their time, talents, and treasure on your and my behalf to bring HO Studley to you.  They gave of themselves most generously, contributing their skills, labors and presence at their own expense to serve as docents  and willing hands for the myriad tasks that required conscientious completion.  They took vacation, footed their own travel and other expenses, and diligently prepared in advance to provide the patrons with the best possible experience at the exhibit.

As I said earlier the Studley Exhibit was like the tectonic plates of my life colliding, bringing together friends from the museum conservation world, commercial furniture finishing and restoration, and the newer world of Schwarzland.  I’d like you to meet them.

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RickB during the installation of the exhibit.

 

I first met RickB when I was doing some guest instructing at the late and much lamented Woodfinishing Program of the Dakota County Technical College (DCTC) just south of St. Paul MN.  Rick is perhaps the best natural talent in woodfinishing I have ever met, which irritates me to no end, and he works in the Twin Cities.  He drove down to work as part of both the installation and docent crews.  And in the past, he spent a couple weekends helping me build The Barn.

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Randy Bohn is a long time acquaintance from Minnesota I first met when I was guest teaching at DCTC. He’s had a long and storied career in antiquities and furniture restoration, and we have become better acquainted only in recent years. JanB is Randy’s wife, and she comes from the business side of the world as she administers a couple of professional organizations.  I met her for the first time last year, and she is an unmitigated delight to be around.  When I needed a couple of extra docent volunteers late in the game, Jan and Randy jumped right in with enthusiasm and elan.

John Hurn is a small businessman operating his own furniture restoration practice near St. Louis.  We met through the on-line discussions and in-person events of the Professional Refinisher’s Group and my forays to teach at the National Woodfinishing Institute in Minnesota.  He has been a faithful friend and contributor to my projects in the past, and it was a delight to once again have him on board.

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John Hurn admiring the case as intently as did the patrons.

 

MikeM1 is a long time friend and historic upholstery collaborator, and a driving force behind the Professional Refinisher’s Group on-line forum to which I belong (and you should too!).  Mike decided to go “full Hal Holbrook” on us (Holbrook’s portrayal of Mark Twain is one of Mike’s favorites) and came to the exhibit as Henry O. Studley himself, regaling the audiences with yarns about the times and fashions of Studley.

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Mike or Henry?

 

The success of Mike’s portrayal is clearly evident in this image below, where two dozen exhibit patrons are spellbound by him, while only three are looking at the actual cabinet!

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Note the crowd size as Mike spins Studleyesque yarns.

 

Mike Mavodones was first drawn into the Orbit of Studley when he sent me photos of his odd wheel-handled vise.  I visited him in Maine and photographed the vise, which eventually was included in the pages of Virtuoso and then loaned it to be included in the exhibit.

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Mike Mavodones alongside his very unusual wheel handled vise. Read about it in Virtuoso.

In addition, he volunteered to serve as a docent, and no one in the hall brought greater appreciation and passion than did Mike.

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Sometimes Mike wound up holding the plexi panel for almost a half hour while I waxed ecstatic about the tool cabinet and contents.

 

Mike was usually the one to assist me in the removing of the plexiglass front for the “open vitrine” sessions.  He made his drive from Maine really count.   Though a new found friend, Mike was a tremendous contributor to the exhibit as installer, interpreter docent, and de-installer.

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Derek Olsen, perhaps better known to many of you as the “Old Wolf” of the Old Wolf Workshop blog, which is how we met through correspondence relating to his always instructive and inspiring posts.  In recent years we have become personal friends, and Derek was on-hand in Cedar Rapids to do anything that needed doing before, during , and after the entire event.  He was there when the transport arrived with the collection, and he was there to load it up for return to its home.  Throughout the exhibit Derek was my “go to” guy.

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Even after almost five decades of caring for precious historical artifacts RickP couldn’t help but be seduced by the tool cabinet.

 

RickP is one of my oldest friends, we having first met when he attended workshops I hosted at the Smithsonian three decades ago.  A successful fine and decorative arts conservator in northwest Arkansas(!), Rick and I share a passion for history and preserving the artifacts remaining from the past.  Rick only had one day to participate in Cedar Rapids, but he drove one day coming and and one day returning home in order to contribute to the installation of the exhibit.

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Sharon admiring one of the turn-of-the-century wheel handled vises on the replica bench.

 

Sharon Que is a renowned violin artisan in Michigan, engaged mostly in restoring violins at the very highest levels as you would expect from a member of the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, the nation’s premier organization of that field.  She is also a gifted sculptor and active contributor to the Refinisher’s Group.  We first met when she wrote to ask about shellac.  How can you not find that appealing? It turned out that she was literally on her way through Cedar Rapids at the exact right time to be part of the installation crew and spend a day as docent.  Her skills and good cheer make her welcome at anyplace I am.

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Bill Robillard “walking through” the cabinet history and contents with the guests at the opening reception for the Handworks toolmakers.

 

Bill Robillard is also a dear friend of many years whom I first met through the Refinisher’s Group and my times at DCTC.  A former electrical/robotics engineer, he has twice come to The Barn to help me work on the power system there.  Now semi-retired (yeah, he “retired” like I did!) with a furniture preservation practice in Green Bay WI, Bill has helped the entire Studley franchise in innumerable ways, and drove down from Green Bay to be on the installation and docent crews.

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Sean Thomas is a physician from the Orbit of Schwarz.  We met first at Handworks 2013, when my compewder threw a tantrum just before the Studley presentation there, and whether by sweet promises or dire threats, Sean got the stupid machine to behave itself.  Sean was another volunteer enthusiastic to be part of the history-making experience of bringing Studley to the public, and was part of the project every step of the way.  His new friendship is one of the treasures I have collected along the path to this project’s completion.

There are no doubt other Heroes who should be profiled here — my collaborators at LAP, researchers JohnC and ElizabethC, to name a few — but I wanted to put, er, a face on the faces you saw alongside me in Cedar Rapids.

Without them it would not have happened.  Thank you all.  Your accounts in the First Bank of Don are brimming.

Here iare some more photos from the Gallery of Heroes

 

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Mike, Sharon, and RickB installing a quarter ton of vises on the replica bench top.

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RickP getting the crate with the tool cabinet ready for removing and installing Studley’s masterpiece.

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Mike, Sharon, and RickB assembling the replica workbench top’s exhibit stand

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Friends old and new enjoying a moment of quiet fellowship during a lull in the proceedings.

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Mike and RickB readying themselves for the wave of Studley fanatics.

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Derek and Mike laughing about something just before the doors opened for the first session on Friday morning.

 

The HO Studley Exhibit Closes With Gusto

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While it seemed to me that the final afternoon of the exhibit The Henry O. Studley Tool Cabinet and Workbench was about four years after it opened at the Scottish Rite Temple, it was in fact only four days after installation.  Jameel Abraham’s snapshot of me in the final hours of the show pretty much says it all.

I knew beforehand that Sunday afternoon would be slow; it was after the rush of Handworks so the overall energy level wold be low, plus the tickets for Sunday afternoon just weren’t selling in advance.  Going into the weekend, the final three viewing sessions for the exhibit totaled around thirty tickets, as opposed to the 150 visitor slots for those hours.

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By lunch time my energy was flagging a smidge, and when I learned that virtually none of the remaining late afternoon tickets had sold at Handworks, I made the executive decision to reward the hearty survivors with the chance of a lifetime.  I announced to the audiences and docents that beginning with the 3PM session, anyone who came in could stay until the very end when we kicked everyone out at 6PM.

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This decision re-energized me for some reason, and I charged into the home stretch with renewed vigor.  Yes, I was too weary to stand and speak for the whole afternoon, but I could certainly sit and speak at length and many of the patrons came and sat with me as we spoke.

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In addition, the “open vitrine” segments got longer and the descriptions and demonstrations more elaborate as we were not facing deadlines of the coming group at the top of next hour.  My soliloquys on the cabinet, tools and the tales of HenryO became more “Don-like” as I am wont to take my time in unfolding the narrative under the best of times.  And for this afternoon, there was no deadline as the audience and docents knew I wasn’t restricted by time.

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The final “open vitrine” session beginning about 5PM was a thing to behold, as I took the time to guide the two dozen remaining stalwarts through the entire tool cabinet contents, showing each tool, opening each compartment including drawers, and removing many of the tools and inner racks for their viewing pleasure.  We kept this up until just before 6PM, when we reassembled the case and vitrine, and wished all the visitors farewell.

Then, all the docents and I went out to dinner.  On me.

And it was over.

It’s (Studley) Showtime!

photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar

photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar

Friday morning May 15, 2015, saw the fulfillment of a dream in such concrete and veristic terms that it was breathtaking.  On that day and through the weekend, I was joined by about a thousand enthusiastic aficionados to share my interest (obsession?) with this over-the-top tool cabinet and its companion workbench.

The plan for the exhibit was for each visitor to have about 50  minutes in the gallery, along with a maximum of 49 other patrons.  There were some pleasant surprises along the way, along with the need for constant reminders (mostly to me to keep on track as I could get too wrapped up in the story of Studley; throughout the weekend various docents had the task of pulling the plug on me).

photo courtesy of Naryan Nayar

photo courtesy of Naryan Nayar

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photo courtesy of Bartee Lamar, I think

The visitors checked in at the ticket table, then waited in the elegant Library of the Scottish Rite Temple until their time to enter came to pass.

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In the Library was a Lost Art Press station for the purchase of Virtuoso, although that was rendered inactive by the start of the second day as all the books available were sold.  You can get a peek of MeganF right behind one of the delightful Bagby sisters (sorry, I simply cannot recall her name) near the center of the image as we are in the Library.

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Also present was Narayan with his remarkable hand-processed print of the collection, which he printed himself on his large-format printer.

I met each hour’s group with some words of introduction and instruction (more of this function was inside the gallery as the weekend progressed) and then I made a point of attempting to greet and thank every single person at the door.  I was and remain humbled and grateful for the enthusiastic validation they provided.  In the picture above of the check-in table you can see me at the very back of the image shaking the hand of every person I could as they walked through the door into the gallery.

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photo courtesy of Bartee Lamar

 

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The visual of people engrossed and captivated by the three stations of the exhibit and the accompanying documentary video repeated itself every hour on the hour over the three days.  I was especially delighted by the fellow who showed up ready to party with a head mounted digital camera to record the event.  He sent me the video file and it was a gas!

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One of my very favorite images was this one, with the ghostly pair of hands with a camera hovering above the case.

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The hands-on replica bench top with its outfitting of period piano-maker’s vises and decorative elements from the tool cabinet was a big hit.

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photo courtesy of Narayan Nayar

 

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At the bottom of every hour we opened the vitrine and I spoke at some length about Studley and the tool cabinet and contents, and either opened or closed the compartments that lent themselves to that.  This was the first time the guts of the cabinet were ever seen by the public.

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After that we raised the house lights to provide the maximum lumens into the room for folks to take their final photos, including a lot of portraits and selfies with the case.  The fellowship during these sessions was truly heartwarming, I only wish I could remember each interaction.

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While that was going on, I moved to the back of the room where there was a line of folks waiting to get their books signed.  I don’t know how many I signed, but it was a lot.

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Friday was a bit different from the rest of the days as after hours Chris Schwarz and I were filmed by Charles Brock of the Highland Woodworker for an upcoming episode.  I think the footage will be incorporated into the documentary film that Lost Art Press will be releasing in the fall.

One of the most surprising events of the weekend was one that did not happen.  As I laid out the schedule for the weekend, I set aside a brief period at the end of every session to clean the plexiglass vitrine, wiping all the drool and nose prints off.  It was unnecessary to plan in that manner.  The audience was so respectful to the exhibit that the ongoing cleaning of it was essentially not needed.  We wiped it off from a little dust and the occasional fingerprint, but y’all did great in the exhibit etiquette department.

The final afternoon of the exhibit was such a special time for me that it deserves its own post.  Ditto the tale of The Heroes And Hired Guns.  Stay tuned.

 

PS  A number of these new friends sent me photos they took.  I did not have access to all the emails when I wrote this and could not identify the photographer for each image, but you know who you are and I thank you sincerely for letting me use your pictures.

The HO Studley Exhibit Opening Night

Since the vendors from Handworks were going to be, well, vending during the times the exhibit was open, the only way they could experience it for themselves was for me to arrange with Jameel for a “private” viewing outside normal business hours.

So I did.

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After the installation was complete we all hustled down to Amana for a quick bite to eat in the Festhalle Barn, then back to Cedar Rapids to get changed into the dress code for the weekend.  Our attire was that worn by Henry in the only known image of him.   Dark shoes, black pants, white shirts, and necktie, set off by a cotton shop apron.

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In my case I dispensed with the apron and instead wore some of my self-made studelyesque suspenders I created especially for the event.  Here I am with our delightful host, Douglas Heath, who was in charge of the Scottish Rite Temple facility.  I think he had as much fun looking at the exhibit as any of the patrons.

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Narayan Nayar, the gifted photographer for the book, was on hand to take pictures of us with the exhibit before the hordes arrived.

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At the appointed time I went out to greet them, and my what a crowd it was!  The entire lobby of the Scottish Rite Temple was packed.

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After a few words from me we directed the folks into the hall.  Unfortunately (?) I was kept pretty busy mingling and chatting, so all the pictures here are from the people who were there and took them, and are allowing me to share them with you.  Thank you all.

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The audience was rapt and enthusiastic.  I actually did not stand near the case on purpose, I have seen it and would just take up space for those who wanted to get close.  And yes, these tool makers wanted to get close!

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One of my many enjoyable moments was crossing paths with Vic Tes0lin from the Lee Valley Tools Posse.  About two months earlier, just as I was making my own suspenders, Vic wrote me a fan letter about the earlier iteration of the suspenders I had worn at Handworks in 2013.  As a possessor of a mature physique, Vic said that he wore suspenders routinely and though the Studley version was great.  Since I was already making three pairs of suspenders for myself, it was easy to just make it four pairs.  Vic was near speechless when I gave him a pair, and he wore them proudly for the weekend and apparently ever since.

Many more pictures are bound to come my way, and if all goes well we will be building a gallery of photos over at the exhibit site.

All Dressed Up

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photo by Narayan Nayar

 

Just prior to the Thursday evening reception for the Handworks exhibitors, project photographer and my Virtuoso partner in crime Narayan Nayar set up to take portraits of each of the exhibit staff with the tool cabinet.  I will post the images of the docents next week when I blog about their participation, but here is the one Narayan took of me of me.

This exhibit was the first time probably ever that I wore a dress shirt and necktie for four days in a row.  My wife said it was the biggest smile she had seen on me for many, many moons.

As for the exhibit itself, the physical manifestation was exactly as I had envisioned it almost two years earlier.  How many times does a person get to experience such a concrete realization of a dream?

It was not possible with my camera to get a true panorama of the gallery without it looking bug-eyed, so here are a group of images from which I hope you can derive the complete picture.

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HO Studley Exhibit Set-Up (many pictures)

Last Thursday was spent setting up the show, or in the lexicon of museology, “installing the exhibit.” Several of the volunteer team for the exhibit had arrived the previous day and helped to unload both the dedicated fine arts transport truck and the cargo van I drove from The Barn. The remaining volunteers arrived through the morning and pitched in seamlessly.  I will blog about these heroic volunteers next week.cIMG_0018

The raucous good nature of the day was genuinely infectious and invigorating. There I was, watching the different continents of my life collide: friends from the museum world, an on-line restorer’s forum I have been with for many, many years, and the newer World of Schwarz. Not to fear, rather than volcanic activity as the tectonic plates collided, jocularity ensued. In a lot of respects it was just like our sessions in Studleyville where despite the grueling work there, Chris and Narayan and I spent just as much time laughing intensely, with sometimes ribald humor.

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So while we started out that day with all the pieces of the puzzle I brought with me, the composition of the picture goes back a few days.  The week prior I had spent several days in Cedar Rapids making sure everything was on track for the installation.  Dedicated transport arrangements?  Check.  Host site?  Check.  Graphics?  Check.  Cabinetry?  Check.  Vitrine?  Check.  Lighting?  Oh oh.

The lighting company was the last stop before departing for Studleyville, and it was clear immediately that there was trouble.  Despite months of correspondence, in-person discussions, and repeated promises that, “Yes, 1) we know what you want and 2) we have what you need,” it was abundantly clear that 1) no they didn’t, and 2) no they didn’t.  So I fired them and welked out the door with no lighting arrangements in hand.  Frantically I called Jameel, who in short order found exactly the vendor for me.  So, with less than a week before the exhibit opens — in other words, about two years behind schedule — the entire lighting scheme needed to be redesigned from a blank piece of paper.  I did not sleep much that night, but by noon of the following day we had all the details worked out.  I hit the road for Studleyville with a great sense of relief.

Six days later I returned with the exhibit in a box.

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The first step in the installation was the receipt of the platforms and vitrine case.  They were waiting for us when we arrived at the Scottish Rite Temple before 9AM.  Those got hustled inside in short order.  While a team of folks measured and laid out the room, the remaining volunteers carefully placed the exhibit furniture where I asked them.  The layout resonated visually exactly as I had hoped.

At the same time the fellows from the graphics company arrived with the panels and banners for the exhibit.

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Next came the unpacking of the Studley Collection.  The packed tools were set on a work table for me to fill the tool cabinet later in the day.  Each crate was re-closed exactly as they came apart.  Losing pieces of the customized packing is not beneficial.

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At the same time was the assembly of the base for the replica workbench top.  Simultaneous with that was the placing and assembly of the vitrine case for the tool cabinet (see below).

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The really heavy work came next, as around 500 pounds of cast iron was affixed to the approx. 250 pound replica top.

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The photo of moving, flipping, and placing the elements of this ensemble was not taken as almost everyone in the room was doing lifting, flipping, moving, and exact placing of the multiple pieces.

First big piece down, two to go.

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Next came placing the replica bench base for the original Studley bench top.  This was not easy as the base was very heavy and the handholds few, but with care and muscle we got it done.

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Yup, things were shaping up spatial composition-wise.

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Up went Studley’s original bench top, on top of the replica base.  O-o-o-oh yeah.  We took a minute to stand back and admire our work.

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At the other end of the room was the team joining the case and the vitrine.  I had asked for a very snug fit, and boy did we get one.

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It took almost everyone on the vitrine team to hang on to the top and press it down into the rabet of the base.

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With a notable “thunk” it popped into place.  Beeeyoooteeeful.

We were under some time pressure as we had to get the major elements of the exhibit in place before the lighting guys arrived, because they had to know where to point the lights.  Makes sense, huh?

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The bottom panel for the vitrine was cut, then lined with black felt for the plane underneath the tool cabinet.  The fit had to be exact, and presented in such a way as to become completely unnoticeable once the exhibit was being viewed.

The lighting guys showed up exactly when they promised, with all the exact equipment they needed.  What’s up with that?  Just kidding.  They were fabulous.

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We killed the house lights and turned the guys loose.

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The lighting units they had were slightly warm (2700K color temp) lithium battery light fixtures with magnetic bases, which the stuck on the ceiling fans!

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Soon it was looking like an exhibit should.

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Once the lighting was done, up went the black theatrical backdrop, setting off the entire space and establishing the respectful tone for the entire event.

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I took a couple hours to load the tools in the cabinet, with the entire crew of volunteers watching with the same looks on their faces I would see throughout the weekend.

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With several minutes to spare, were we done.