Thursday, August 27, 2015

Cider Mill at Willowbrook

This cider mill is nearly completed after much work over the last year and a half. Receiving funding from the Davis  Family Foundation and the Narragansett Number One Foundation the project required a complete reconfiguration of a one time static exhibit of the 1870s Webber & Haviland twin screws that were cast in the Waterville Iron Works. The longtime configuration in an open shed at the museum had the 8 x8 vertical supports of the press buried in the ground. These were rotted off and had compromised the safety of the structure.The press plate was configured with a field stone walled pit below it that presumably cider would run into a bucket placed there. This configuration was abandoned for our new presentation which is modeled after a more common set-up from the period; we found a similar press in situ in nearby Limington, and using that as a reference we chose to create a free standing structure that could be placed on a hard surface. Among the parts of the press that have been preserved is the elm horizontal beam which is presumably original but maybe an early replacement. These metal pressing screws may have simply been purchased and then configured by the farmer from wood available rather than coming as a complete press. Our apple crusher is from the late 19th century, and this was also re-wooded. Oak was used for the crusher whereas the mortise and tenon framework of the press was done in hemlock. This wood was chosen because it was easy to work with and when dry becomes as durable as any hardwood. All the mortises and tenons were hand cut by Adriaan Gerber of Mariahville. The hemlock timbers came from Stillwater, ME and were harvested only days before Mr. Gerber began work on the mortises and tenons. The framework was raised last Fall on a concrete slab which was in part donated by Carroll Cement of Limerick. We installed a drain in the slab, as it is our intention to have working cider mill. This would require frequent cleaning so the drain will prevent a build up of the water we will be using. The most recent work to the project was the creation of the platform which was built off of the 8 x 8 pedestal feet of the structure. The structure is held together with wooden pegs fabricated at Willowbrook by staffer Ashley Gerry. The last part of the project will be the construction of timber cribbing to raise the apple crusher to a height just above the square lattice pressing box. A platform and sluice way will allow cider and apple pulp to be pushed into the box without any waste for pressing. The plate below the lattice box has a channel carved in it with a drainage hole connected to a two inch PVC pipe that allows cider to be piped to the front of the platform you see here. The cider will empty into collecting buckets.

Acquisitions: Wooden Metal Casting Patterns from Hackett's Machine Shop, Brewer, Maine

This past winter I got wind that there was a sizable collection of wooden metal casting patterns in the basement of a commercial building in downtown Bangor. A call came from Bruce Bowden, museum director of The Curran Homestead Living History Museum in Orrington, ME who shared that these metal casting patterns had to be out of a space in Bangor where they were being stored as soon as possible. At the time I was unable to trek to Bangor to claim any of these objects which I knew would greatly complement both our ongoing metal casting program at Willowbrook and serve as a wall exhibit in our period machine shop that we were in the midst of completing. Fortunately, a large portion of the patterns went to The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum in Orrington, ME that day. These patterns had been originally part of the  inventory of Hackett's Machine Shop in Brewer, ME; the shop which did machining, metal casting of parts as well as steam boiler fittings closed its' doors in the early 1980s. The metal casting  patterns were donated shortly thereafter to Leonard's Mills, Maine Logging and Forestry Museum  in Bradley, ME, that put them into storage. The ownership of a portion of the  patterns was recently waived, and the owner of the building where they were stored offered them to area museums. The Curran Homestead received a portion but there were still many patterns left in the Bangor building that were destined for the dumpster. I eventually got to the site and with the aid of Bruce Bowden filled a Subaru Outback and The Curran Homestead's minivan.  I was thrilled with the idea of having these patterns in the collection as they had both aesthetic and educational value for Willowbrook. the patterns were stored  in Eddington, ME temporarily where they remained until this weekend. The bulk of the patterns were for the casting of replacement parts for such things as commercial wood planers, shingle mills, wood rolling devices, commercial laundry equipment, and other large machines. The collection represents the variety of castings that a small New England machine shop might achieve at the beginning to mid 20th century when fixing machines was more often the first choice to replacing them. Among the patterns received by The Curran Homestead was a part for an early Harley Davidson motorcycle and legs for an industrial/shop table with raised letters identifying it as a casting from the "Bangor Iron Foundry". The pieces that Willowbrook received will be cleaned by volunteers from Massabesic High School ( Waterboro) today. During the course of this cleaning we will learn more of the story behind these patterns as paper tags attached with string and identifications stamped into the wood surfaces of some of the patterns remain. We hope to have these on exhibit this Fall and Winter in our Machine Shop as we will be offering our Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class in October as well as more metal casting classes that could include creating castings in bronze and aluminum of some of the smaller patterns now in the collection.

The project gets a jump start with the offer of volunteer assistance the day after the metal casting patterns came to Willowbrook. Our volunteer crew did a light cleaning with Murphy's oil soap. The patterns still had a coating of sand casting compound on them as well as 30 plus years of dust and dirt which made for a good days work for our two volunteers: Alyssa Crowell, a senior at Massabesic High School and sophomore Kiessa Treadwell of Bonny Eagle High School. They did a fine job and were  attentive to the necessity to preserve pencil marks and other ephemeral labeling on the patterns.

On Friday, August 28, 2015, staffer Marlene Gerry started the tedious work of attaching the wooden patterns to the wall surfaces of our new Machine Shop. Given the dark finish on the patterns, black cinch ties are being used. A staple is put into the wall surface with a hammer and the plastic tie is threaded through it and around parts of each pattern; the tie is cinched attaching the pattern to the wall securely but not harming the light wooden patterns in any way.  Given the eclecticism of the collection, we are arranging these randomly reminding me of the arrangements of keys and hardware at the old Barnes Collection site outside of Philadelphia. Barnes created a unique aesthetic for arranging and appreciating his collection of  fine art masters like Matisse and Renoir, to name a few; this included paintings arranged linearly and  in proximity to collections of antique keys, locks, and hand forged hardware. These patterns new to the Willowbrook Collection on the unpainted white pine walls are very much like modern sculpture with their organic curves and shapes. They will be fitting surroundings for the classes that will begin this Fall starting with our second Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class on October 17, 24 & 31, 9-3PM. 
This photo of the Riddell Barn, a relocated structure from Newburgh, NY in my native Orange County, NY, is at the Shelburne Museum in Vermont. The photo is from the Shelburne Museum's 1963 catalog ; I have had this catalog probably since I was a teenager, and it is presently held together with rubber bands. I  have never been to the Shelburne Museum; in fact, the plan was to go this summer. There's still time.  The objects depicted on the walls of this barn are wooden metal casting patterns for the parts to a small brass steam engine used on 19th century Hudson River launches. A small backyard machine shop was able to create from scratch such a sophisticated engine, and really this is the phenomena that goes straight to Willowbrook's own mission albeit Northern New York and not New England. Yankee ingenuity was not confined to one region or state but is indicative  of our American can do culture.  Knowledge of this photo and the story behind this has been the driving force behind my interest in metal casting and the inspiration for this current element to our working machine shop project. Now if we can just get our hands on these patterns at the Shelburne, maybe a loan agreement (?), it would be a wonderful project to both accomplish and video document the process of making a working model of this steam boat engine once again through our own metal casting operation and the talents of Peter Grant of Odd Duck Foundry. Stay tuned for updates.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

19th Century Willowbrook Village's Agricultural Fair Weekend, August 15 & 16

19th Century Willowbrook Village’s Agricultural Fair Weekend, Aug. 15 & 16

Pie Making Contest Entrees Needed

It can be any kind of pie of your liking. Submit the pie to the Country Store between 10AM and 12NOON Saturday, AUGUST 15. The judging, based on appearance, crust, filling, and originality, will begin 12:30PM. Prizes will be awarded for First, Second and Third Prize.

Entrees of ART, Photography, and Vegetables and Fruits are sought. Your entry will be on display in the museum’s orientation room. Drop off for your entry begins Thursday, August 13, 10-5 and ends Sat., Aug. 15 at 11AM. Your entrees will be under lock and key and on view until Sun., Aug.16, 2PM when judging and prizes in each category will awarded and posted on our Facebook and on our website.

Further information can be sought by calling (207) 793-2784 during museum hours.