Through my explorations of all things Henry O. Studley many mysteries have made themselves known, like details of his personal, financial, and craft life. Another one that I have made known as far and wide as I can has to do with the art form of piano-maker’s vises, which based on my observations are uniform in concept and performance but individual and slightly idiosyncratic in their construction details.
I am truly delighted to have contributed t the growing interest in the question and have been contacted many times over the past few years with folks regaling me with their own speculations and discoveries themselves. (Such contacts, if serious, are always welcome).
Here is one such communique from last week, which I present to you as completely as I can while respecting the privacy of the correspondent.
You may recall that a) we spoke briefly during your trip to New
England when you were researching vises, and b) that about a year and a
half ago, I found & acquired a piano maker’s bench in Worcester.
I have been rebuilding the bench, and writing about it on OWWM.org
I am aware, both through your work (book) and conversations with **** ******, that to date, none of the vises found have had any maker’s mark
on them. As I cleaned and repainted my vises, I did not find any such
marks either; only some numbers stamped on some of the parts. I had not
yet removed or cleaned the back plates, though, until this week.
The other day, while cleaning & measuring the plate for the front vise,
I found a number stamped on one long edge, & gave it little thought.
Yesterday, though, I was working with the tail vise plate, and out of
curiosity looked to see whether I’d find a number on that as well – and
instead, what I found was a maker’s mark! This was stamped along what
was the bottom edge of the plate, which was covered in rust, grime and
paint drips. I then checked the other edge of the other plate, and sure
enough, there it was, though this time it was on the top edge, and more
obscured by dents & dings, as well as the rust, etc.
The maker is J.S. Wheeler of Worcester, MA. Wheeler was a maker of
machinery, mostly for metal working, and was known for it’s metal
planers – which makes some sense, as we both have noted that these vises
were machined on planers.
Anyway, thought you’d like to know, and would love to hear your thoughts.
This is indeed exciting news to me, and revives my hope that more Studley-type information will continue to flow my way. On a related subject I got another recent email from a friend who was discussing the possibility of acquiring a reciprocal metal planer himself.
Finally I will note with a bit of irony that this growing body of information and an enthusiastic cadre of acquisition probably means the only way I will round out my set is to get off my kiester and get underway with making them with Jameel.