Archive for June, 2014

All day?

We do as many heritage events as we can throughout the year.  These generally take place at historical sites and are populated by interpreters in costume with a somewhat scripted presentation of life in Colonial America as well as live demonstrations of colonial trade work.  Questions find answers about what it was like to live without the internet, automobiles, and instant coffee and how things got done with out electric power.
I often get asked about whether the pole lathe is hard work; yes.  How long does it take to make something; about 20 minutes to half an hour at home (where I don’t have to answer questions about what I am doing) but longer at an event.  This is all said in good humor and as part of what we do to expose folks to the real-life experiences of our fore fathers.  We are under no obligation to produce much and in the meantime, anything that does get made becomes future inventory, so the time is well used in any case.
In the late 19th century, pole turners needed to produce a gross, 144, of turned chair parts.  These could be legs, arm posts, or stretchers.  Oh, and this needed to be done daily, as in a day’s work.  This included sawing, splitting, axing, and shaving to near round even before the lathe work was gotten to.  And that day was from the time in the morning that the sun provided enough light so you could see what you were doing until the sun got low enough in the evening so you couldn’t see what you were doing.  None of that 9 to 5 stuff.  I’m sure most people have heard the saying “Make hay while the sun is shining”.  Before electricity made light somewhat cheaper and easier, not to mention safer, the phrase could just as easily been applied to any trade; make ______ while the sun is shining (fill in the blank with the appropriate trade product); all day long.
Eventually, the industrial revolution caught up even the work pole turners were doing, relegating yet another segment of the working population to become a part of its main by-product; unemployment.  Of course the turners were quite lucky in that hand turning did survive the transition to powered assembly-line production, for a while.  Now, along with 8 hour days, coffee breaks and paid holidays, turners have the opportunity, professionally or as a hobby, to simply flip the switch and get professional results; first time and every time.  How fulfilling.  All day.

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