New England Vise Tour – Days 2 and 3

The second and third days of the whirlwind tour were a testament to the diminutive size of New England.  Having driven to and from south Texas a month before (35 hours of driving each way), it was a bit of a shock to get from one place to another in an hour or two.


I began this leg by going from southern Rhode Island to the northern end of Cape Cod, a drive I guessed would take four hours.  I forget that the maps in the highway atlas are not all the same scale. An hour and a half after shoving off I pulled into the driveway of PhilipH, whose elegant new workshop houses a fairly traditional furniture-maker’s bench with a piano-maker’s face vise in the typical left side position.

Again, Philip’s vise was of the similar form and function – integrated casting, sliding drawer platen, 9-1/4” wheel, ~16″ opening distance —  yet retained some unique features.  The enigma of these vises grows the more I learn.  There were a couple of numerical markings on the vise, but nothing else to provide clues as to who/where/when it was manufactured.

A couple of hours and about three dozen photographs later we wrapped up our work for the day, and following a delightful hike through a nature preserve we returned for dinner.

The next morning I left with the intent of a short visit with Peter Follansbee at Plimouth Plantation.  I spent an enjoyable hour with Peter, and the subject of the Lie-Nielson tool confab that day at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking came up.  Being from non-New England I assumed it would be too far to get there.  Peter assured me that my path would take me within an hour of CVSW, so off I went.  I’m really glad I did.

CVSW Open House 2013

At the tool event I had a chance to chat with Matt Bickford, and an enriching almost-hour of chatting with tool-history-researcher extraordinaire Jeff Burks (who took this picture of me with the Lie-Nielson folks), a frequent contributor to Chris Schwarz’ blog.  Jeff has a keen interest in the development of the woodworking vise, and is turning his razor-sharp eyes and mind to the peculiarities of the piano makers’ vise.  I can hardly wait to see what he will turn up.


Departing CVSW I made it back to the I-495 loop around Boston for the evening rush hour, but still made it to long time friend BruceH’s house north of the city in time for dinner and delightful fellowship with Bruce and his lovely wife Renee.  Bruce is a superb furniture restorer from whom I have learned much over the two decades of our friendship.  His elegant, compact shop is under the house, and he has made his living there for almost three decades.