Saturday, July 2, 2016

Summer History Camp

Description of Activivities

  • Campers will sew with a needle and thread leaves of paper as well as a cardboard cover together for the purpose of their own journal. Campers will have the opportunity to record their experiences with history during the week in these journals. Campers will be instructed on 19th century penmanship using liquid ink and a fountain pen ( wood handle with metal nib). We will work at imitating cursive writing.

Willowbrook has a hands on exhibit that includes working vintage telegraph keys and sounders for sending messages using Morse code. This was an important means of communication from the 1840s until well into the 20th century. These telegraphs depended on an electromagnet to send and receive messages over a metal wire. Our exhibit scenario is identified as a "wireless" telegraph. The famous H.M.S. Titanic was equipped with the latest technology on its maiden voyage in 1912; this included instrumentation for sending and receiving Morse code via radio signals. We use telegraphs that have been wired together, so we are actually not using the wireless technology that the Titanic used to alert other ships it was sinking; this would be extremely expensive to set up and maintain so we have simply hidden the wires connecting out telegraphs with each under the floor.  We will have some experience with sending and receiving Morse code and  Civil War era secret codes that would have been sent via telegraphs in the 1860s. Campers will build their own telegraph key/sounder using modern electronics, and they will be able to take these home with them.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Wed. - Sun., July 27-31, 9-4PM. Timberframing Class at 19th Century Willowbrook Village

Under the tutelage of veteran woodworker and builder Ed Somers, you will learn mortise and tenon framing techniques using hand tools over five days . You will also use power tools. You will review framing styles, construction strategies, and engineering as well as measuring and scribing, and maintaining your set of tools,strategies for moving and positioning lumber of varied dimensions, and techniques in cutting precise mortises and tenons. Using rough cut hemlock, a purloin/rafter type framework for a one story 18 x 28 foot structure will be completed. It will serve as a museum workshop/classroom building at a museum in Orrington, ME where it will be raised and sheathed.

Housing is available for 4 nights and 5 days of dormitory style rooming at a century old mill house on a waterfall next to the museum. Breakfast and lunch each day of the class is also available at our restaurant. You can bring your own tools or we can provide some or all tools for you (borrow or buy). It is recommended that you at least own your own set of chisels to learn to sharpen.

Class Cost: $425 ( Scholarships Offered) ; Optional Housing Cost: $325. Five days of Breakfast and Lunch ( at the museum's Sandwich Shop): $175.

*The text Tedd Benson's Building the Timber Frame House; The Revival of a Forgotten Art should be bought be by each student, if the tuition for the class has been waived.

Contact Robert Schmick, Museum Director, at (207) 793-2784, or Email:    

Recommended Tool List:

1-inch mortising chisel
1 3/4 - 2 inch chisel
wood mallet ( class work will be to make a mallet from scratch )
4 TPI handsaw
rip saw and cross cut
framing square
utility knife 
sharpening stone
tape measure

Power tools:
circular saw
reciprocating saw
heavy duty 1/2 inch drill
Large bits


A Timberframer's Workshop/ Steve Chappell

The Timberframing Book/ Steward Elliot and Eugenie Wallas

Build a Classic Timber Framed House / Jack A. Sobon

Timber Frame Construction; All About Post and Beam / Jack Sobon & Roger Schroeder 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Friday, June 24, 8:00 AM- 1:30 PM, 19th Century Willowbrook Village Benefit Golf Outing at Province Lake Golf Club

19th Century Willowbrook Village Benefit Golf Outing

Contact our Golf Coordinator Jan Poisson at (207) 929-0019 for more information or to sign up to golf or to sponsor the benefit.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sat. & Sun., May 7 & 8, 9-4. Build a Propane Burning Blacksmithing Forge and Make a Knife

Create a blacksmithing forge from a used propane tank, metal stock, and high temp. refractory cement. 10 PSI burner with black metal pipe gas/flame delivery system. Involves cutting, drilling, and welding (we do that) metal. Create mold and pour cement. All materials provided. $295. A day and a half of knife making with this class (not sold separately). For forge & knife making weekend package: $375.

A finished propane burning blacksmithing forge. The side ports are for feeding your metal project into the forge. A variation of this design can produce a metal casting furnace. The sides of the tank are left intact except for your prop hole is cut at the top of the tank. This allows metal to be fed into a crucible positioned inside the furnace.
The tank is cut and welded. Leds are welded to the tank. Three lugs are we;ded on both the perimeter of the top and bottom. Screws with wing nuts serve to keep the top and bottom fastened together.
The black metal pipe at an agle is where the ignited propane creates a vortex for the heating of metal.
Horseshoe legs
This large version of the forge has the welded lugs at the top as well as shelf extending out from one of the heating ports; this allows you to selectively heat your project.
Welded lugs of the top of the forge.
High temperature paint is applied after the propane tank is scraped of tags and labels.
Refractory cement is poured into the tank before a Sana tube is cut and set into place in order to pour the cement sides of the tank.
Cardboard and duck tape serve to create the form for the refractory cement. We will be using Sana tube and styrofoam  instead of cardboard.
Refractory is worked into the sides of the Sana tube and the port forms.
The black metal pipe connected to he gas regulator.
This fixture allows airflow to the propane gas flame.
This is actually a metal casting furnace variation of the design.
The forge in action.
The heated interior.
A metal table with the propane burning forge.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

2016 Summer History Camp Teaser ( It begins July 9 with horses!)

We are putting together our summer history week activities right now. The week will run from July 9th. Check out this lamp, complete with porcelain fixtures and real cloth covered wiring like the very beginning of household electricity. Electricity didn't come to most homes on Elm Street, where the museum is located until 1934 ( through FDR's [ Franklin Delano Roosevelt's] Rural Electrification Act). The Durgin House, our iconic 1813 structure, got electricity before everyone else in 1913. How many of us know how to build a light fixture. Those 8-12 year old who take our camp will learn how to do so... By the way, the light bulb came from our very favorite Maine's own Marden's. We happened upon the most wonderful clear light bulb sale ( this baby was 25 cents), and bought in quantity with the idea of having more ele ctricity programming with this year's summer history camp.

Tentative Timber Framing Class: Potential Model for Project

Some thoughts for the purpose of planning our upcoming timber framing class at Willowbrook, which we hope will produce a building for another museum, The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum in Orrington, ME. The tentative class will involve learning mortise and tenon joinery. The wood materials used will depend on its source. We may harvest hemlock from the Curran Homestead or we may find a sawmill in York County who can supply pine.The framework for the chosen building will be created in the class. The framework will subsequently be transported to Penobscot County where another planned class will do a barn raising of the completed building frame. An additional and smaller open pavilion structure will accompany the work for the Orrington class. Individuals are welcome to participate in the sheathing of the sides and roof if they wish, but this work will not be part of the formal class work. The intended use of the building will be a woodworking shop to complement the current metal working programs currently in play at the Curran Homestead. Depending on the success of this June and July work, we hope to have a third class in August to complete yet another structure, an apple cider mill. Similarly, the framework will be created at Willowbrook and shipped to Orrington.

Take a look at these designs. The first two are most pertinent. The first is the blacksmith shop at The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum in Orrington, ME. This structure is 16" x 28"; this is a plausible design for our timber framing project. We would not include the clerestory but instead create a full second story. I imagine having 8" x 8" x 8' tall corner posts that we build the second floor upon.  Look at the last photo below. This Limerick (ME) blacksmith shop of yore is what I am interested in here as a model of what we might be building. Of course, this smithy looks to be longer than 28 feet, so our structure would be limited to that length. I am especially interested in the front double doors on the second floor, with the stair access as these is a detail often seen in buildings of the era we seek to replicate. The original materials list that was used for the order to Stillwater Lumber for the materials at the Curran Homestead's smithy are found in the second image down. These are the dimensions of the lumber that we presumably be using with this project. The intended purpose for this building is a woodworking shop. Having two floors would allow for storage and additional work space on the second floor, pr, perhaps, other related programming.The building would rest on an "arctic slab" , which would include wood planking for a floor surface.

Curran Homestead smithy with the additional lean-to roof for firewood storage. The wood piece running down from the right side of the fascia board of the lean-to is no mistake; its there to keep people from reaching in and hitting their head on the knee brace of the right side corner post! Someone learned the lesson the hard way.
Certainly, this material list can be amended; we will need to come up with additional lumber to complete the proposed second story.
Interior of Curran smithy exemplifies what we hope to achieve with this timber framing class, although metal fasteners and post and beam construction was used on this project.
This is one of many photo references of trade buildings in the late 19th century.
Of course, we are not building in stone but this is very similar to the other one story structures with a gable window.
Maybe not aesthetically pleasing, but authentic to the time.
If we were not to go with a full second story for our proposed structure; I would choose something like this with a stronger roof pitch for our Maine winters.
A smithy in Limerick with the second story I mentioned.

Project Woodburning Kiln: Model for a Woodburning Pottery Kiln