Museum Receives Day-Era Workbench
By Gerri Hunt, Assistant Editor, The Caswell Messenger (Yanceyville, North Carolina), 21 November 2011
Downtown Milton was full of activity Saturday, as the Thomas Day House was open as part of the Fall Foliage Homes Tour. Shops and restaurants were open, and several tables were set up on the Broad Street sidewalk, with merchants peddling wares. And proceeds from a chili cook-off benefited Friends of Milton. At 9:30 a.m., Ed Hobbs, of the Mid-West Tools Association, donated a Thomas Day-era cabinetmaker's workbench and more than two dozen tools to the Thomas Day House/Union Tavern, for permanent display in the museum. Hobbs later explained that a member of his group, who is in Old Salem, researched and designed the workbench. Then Roy Underhill, of the PBS TV show "The Woodwright's Shop," built it by hand, just as it would have been constructed in Day's time. The workbench and more than a dozen tools were presented to the museum. Saturday monring, for permanent display.
"We're really thrilled to death with [the donation]," said Marion Thomas, past-president of TDH/UT, who was on hand for the donation ceremony, and greeted visitors to the museum. She said the tool association had previously made donations to Mount Vernon and Monticello. She added that Nancy Mangum also gave TDH/UT a lot of tools. Throughout the day, Hobbs demonstrated the use of the tools and the workbench, and talked a lot about Day himself. "If Thomas Day walked in here right now, he'd probably say, 'Yes, this is what my shop looked like'," said Hobbs. "He was a good cabinet maker, and he was really smart," he continued. "He was very much into veneering; he would offer a client a pine piece for one price, then offer veneered pieces for higher prices... but it was the same piece of furniture, just with different veneers."
Hobbs showed off many woodworking planes, and a toothing plane, which has a serrated blade and is used to roughen up the wood surface so the glue and veneer could stick to it. He demonstrated a holdfast, an old clamp shaped like a crowbar, which slipped into a hole on the workbench. The short curved end was flattened, and sat on a piece of wood to be worked on. The holdfast was secured by hitting it with a mallet, essentially wedging it into the tabletop hole and keeping the wood still. Hobbs made sure visitors took a look at a large wooden screw vise attached to the backside of the workbench, to hold large pieces of wood. The Mid-West Tools Association is not a stranger to the TDH/UT, as members come to the museum periodically for demonstrations. The museum is open by appointment only. Signs are displayed in Milton with contact information for locals who have keys to the museum.
Some local merchants took advantage of the crowds in town for the Fall Foliage Tour. Across the street from the museum under the overhang that covers the entrances to several small shops, tables lined the sidewalk. Joetta Mabe was selling handmade soaps, a preview for the retail shop she will open next to the tire store in the next month or so. Michele Thomas, who now sells antiques at The White Owl, battled against Lawrence "Taco" Smith in a chili cook-off. Milton resident Bobby Pearson was all smiles as he dug into a bowl of chili with a corn cake. "The chili is what brought me out today," he said.