Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Re-Wooding a Logging Bobsled

In recent months, 19th Century Willowbrook Village took on the task of replacing the wood of a former logging bobsled. The sled is from The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum in Orrington, Maine. The collaboration allowed for Willowbrook to dismantle and replace all the wood elements the sled using labor from the Women's Re-Entry Program of the Department of Corrections in Alfred under the supervision of Charles Hayden. The Curran Homestead transported the sled from Orrington to Willowbrook after a Willowbrook staff member dismantled decayed wood from the rig. Essentially, transport included the bobs (runners) and some of the undercarriage. The Curran Homestead solicited and received a donation of some of the lumber for the project from Home Depot, Inc. Additional lumber and hardware was purchased by the Curran Homestead. The arrangement allows for both museums to share in the use of the bobsled. A second bobsled, the Marsh hay Sled, from Willowbrook's collection, is also being repaired for use with a team of work horses.Work on this has included the creation of a removable bench seat for passengers and the replacement of the roll, tongue ( pole) and two from bobs, which had been re-wooded at some point with pine making them inadequate for any regular use. Both sleds were employed for horse drawn rides at Willowbrook's Annual Ice Harvest on January 30, 2016.

Recent Press Release ( December, 2015):

There is much activity this winter at 19th Century Willowbrook Village in Newfield. Through arrangement with instructor Charles Hayden and his women’s trades crew of the Southern Maine Re-Entry Center of the Maine State Department of Corrections in Alfred, Willowbrook has a number of woodworking projects underway each week. Before the temperature dropped the crew replaced clapboard on the William Durgin House( 1813) and started priming the building for a coat of new paint on the entire house and ell to be completed in the spring. The museum received a Belevedere Historic Preservation grant through the Maine Community Foundation which partially funded restoration of many of the windows of the building as well as powder post and carpenter ant extermination in the Durgin barn. In the meantime we have all moved inside working on a large mural that re-creates a Byzantine mosaic motif for a re-creation of a 1920s silent movie palace exhibit to be used in conjunction with the museum’s frequent silent movie festivals. This project was in part funded by an Infrastructure Grant from the Maine Humanities Council. Work also includes the re-wooding of a horse drawn logging bobsled with bench seating for twenty. The sled is from the collection of The Curran Homestead Living History Farm and Museum in Orrington and through an arrangement Willowbrook will restore it and share usage of it during the winter month, especially for Willowbrook’s  January 30 (10-3PM) Annual Ice Harvest. The Curran Homestead has its own Annual Ice Harvest on February 6 and will also offer rides on the completed bobsled. The Curran got a partial donation of lumber from Home Depot for the bobsled restoration project. Willowbrook ,with its trades crew, has disassembled and is replicating the sled which was last used for the Curran’s 2014 ice harvest. There are many elements of the sled that are proving to be a real education, as we have had to replace the wood of the runners (bobs), an evener, a tongue as well as create some new plate metal elements. Additionally, the women’s trades crew will create two bench seats for Willowbrook’s own Marsh Hay Sled, another bobsled.  After these projects are finished and through another partnership with The Curran Homestead, the trades crew will re-wood a Model T cord saw rig that is fully functioning; Willowbrook plans to use this in conjunction with another Ash Sunday event this coming season which draws attention to the uses of white ash and the threat of the emerald ash borer. Finally, Willowbrook is offering workshops in blacksmithing: knife making, metal casting, propane burning furnace/forge making, letterpress printing and antique engine repair and maintenance ( in April). See our website: for details.
Elements of the sled were saved in order to replicate them. The angle of the seat shown here allows for water to drain from the seat surface more efficiently.
As you can see the sled was quite weathered. All the wood except for the axle beams which receive the bobs were deteriorated.
The top portion of the sled had been re-wooded in past decades with untreated dimensional lumber. The bobs were made of white oak.

The two seventeen foot 4 x 4 beams were cut from pressure treated wood as well as the 2 x 10 cross pieces you see here that were exposed once much of the wood of the rig was removed.

What is seen here was transported from the Curran homestead in Orrington to Willowbrook.
The wooden axle that attaches to the bobs using lag screws and two long pins.

Unlike the sled configuration before, which included a 3/4 inch plywood floor, this new construction includes 2 x 6 boards.

 The rebuilt benches are fourteen feet long.

 The roll was re-created. The poe was replaced several years ago in spruce. This worked initially but failed during our January 30th event. Tom Bragg of Kennebunk cut another pole out of white oak and we create a new tenon at the end of that pole for the roll.

 New bobs were cut from rock maple; we treated these with boiled linseed oil. It will be necessary to keep these bobs treated with the oil as the rock maple could deteriorate quickly.

These bobs were the hardest part of the project, as they not only had to be cut and shaped but filled with metal plates and carriages bolts. Some of these plates had to be reproduced due to deterioration.

The newly created roll. The roll intersects bobs with the hitching pole. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Winter Classes at Willowbrook

Feb. 27 & 28, 9-4, Two Day Knife Making Class 
This two day knife making class with local knife maker Frank Vivier involves heating sping steel, cutting and shaping a blade and tang. You will file and polish your blade. We will heat treat your blade with oit. Brass rivets and a hardwood handle will be fitted to your blade. You will be given instructions on how to temper your blade and a conventional kitchen stove. The final touches to your knife handle may be done at home, or at the museum through arrangement. $175 Reserve your place in this class now, as these classes fill quickly. Call us: 207-793-2784,

Sat. & Sun., March 19 & 20, 9-4. Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance Class. Under the tutelage of veteran mechanics Doug Kimball and Russ Welch, we will replace rings, replace gas tank and repair the push rod  to a 7HP Economy engine. We will work on a Sandwich engine and a Fairbanks Morse engine over  the course of two days. We will cover both mechanics and magnetos. This is an essential for the budding gas engine hobbyist. $175 Call us: 207-793-2784,

April 2 & 3, 9-4, Two Day Knife Making Class.This two day knife making class with local knife maker Frank Vivier involves heating sping steel, cutting and shaping a blade and tang. You will file and polish your blade. We will heat treat your blade with oit. Brass rivets and a hardwood handle will be fitted to your blade. You will be given instructions on how to temper your blade and a conventional kitchen stove. The final touches to your knife handle may be done at home, or at the museum through arrangement. $175 Reserve your place in this class now, as these classes fill quickly. Call us: 207-793-2784,

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Exploring the War of the Rebellion ( the American Civil War 1861-1865) at Willowbrook

Each year 19th Century Willowbrook Village has offered camp life and drilling re-enactments of the Union Army. This has been exclusively done by the the Third of Maine Re-enactment Group from Auburn, Maine. Last year, the sesquicentennial of the final year of the war was our most developed program in some years. This development of many of the day's activities was inspired by an arrangement with a large homeschooled group, who had visited the museum on other occasions, and who wished to partake in programming focused on the Civil War. The program developed was combined with the public event. We hope that this type of programming will continue to be developed further and be a characteristic of this annual event through the addition of other re-enacting groups and those who wish to present various aspects of both military and civilian life during the Civil War. We invite groups and individuals interested in contributing to this annual event to contact us ( 207-793-2784,
The following is the programming that was presented at our 2015 Civil War Event:a camp of approximately seven tents and canvas awnings, including one that served as the center of a presentation of a civilian Sanitation Commission. These commissions served a number of purposes during wartime. They were largely comprised of civilian women who would both raise funds for medicine and bandages for wounded soldiers as well collect materials for the making of bandages. In some urban centers like New York the Sanitation Commission organized contemporary fine arts exhibitions in the outdoors. Art work was donated by artists or collectors for sale to the public to raise money for bandages and medicine for wounded soldiers. Civilian activity during the war may have included meetings in which women cut bandages from donated cotton sheets.
A presentation pf sanitation commission activity during of the war. Willowbrook presented index cards with biographies of real soldier to a group of visiting children. Many of these children were with a large homeschooled group that had been invited. They came to the event in period costumes of there own making further adding to their learning experience as well as other visitors to the event. The card included  injuries sustained by that soldier during a particular battle. Additionally, children were given a reference resource that characterized the treatment for such an injury during the war. Through the assistance of some of the museum's costumed interpreters, children role played these soldiers and through the use of stage makeup, props, and bandages prepared their wartime injuries.
Among Willowbrook's hands-on offerings are re-creations of the H.M.S. Titanic's and Carpathia's Marconi Radio Rooms. This two rooms located at opposite ends of our Hands-On History Building include faux instrumentation imitative of the real radio rooms that included wireless telegraphs. We offer six working telegraph keys and sounders in the two rooms. Visitors can explore Morse code communication through the twelve working instruments which include late 19th century and early 20th models in addition to keys and sounders built from kits by our staff for the purpose. For our Civil war Event we thought that it would interesting to marry these telegraphs sets to the secret codes used by bot the Union and Confederates in conjunction with the telegraphy of that time. We reproduced multiple examples of coding wheels from the wheels that young visitors cut out and assembled for use with our telegraphs. An interpreter facilitated code sending and receiving among those participating.

One of the newer additions to our living history presentation is a working Victorian Kitchen which includes a working circa 1880s wood burning kitchen stove, cast iron sink with hand pump, and other period appliances. Visitors churned butter and participated in baking as part of the day's program. Hard tack, the staple of many a soldier in the field, was one of the products of the day. Many remained at the end of the day!
Volunteer interpreter Ruth Durfee and staffer Johanne Vaters lead activity in our Victorian Kitchen.
Have you ever changed a wagon wheel? Visitors were able to check this off their bucket list. In our 100 foot long carriage house, our Democratic Carriage was pulled from the collection in addition tpo one of the comprehensive collection of wagon jacks we have. The jack was ratcheted by each participant and using a buggy wrench removed the wheel hub nut. The wheel was removed and spun around once freed from the axle. The exercise was reversed and repeated by a half a dozen visitors.

High Tea on the Durgin House porch. part of our Civil War event has always included scenarios from civilian life. Served by costumed volunteers tea and pastries are served on linen table clothes. There is silverware and china included at each of the ten tables. Pastries are homemade and delicious. Re-enactors this year were invited to partake transporting onlookers back to another time. in 2016, we hope to have a fashion show  of both men's and women's 1860s clothing in our ballroom.
    Visit our collection of Civil War artifacts in the Durgin Barn. You can also read local Civil War letters transcribed for easier reading in the Durgin Barn just outside the orientation video room. There are additional Civil War letters to be found on the walls of the Hands-On History Building.

    Blacksmithng Too:

    Visit our school house where our costumed school marm leads visitors in a lesson classroom etiquette---mind your Ps and Qs because she wields a history stick!

    Winter Classes 2016 ( Use Our Search Engine to Explore Past Classes)

    Request a Gift Certificate for our classes will will mail it to you to give
    for a birthday or other occasion.

    Winter Classes 2016 

    ( We continue to schedule new classes throughout the Winter so frequent this site, if you are interested. We also advertise regularly in Uncle Henry's classifieds.

    Sat. & Sun., Feb. 13 & 14 (CLASS FULL), 9AM-4PM: Sat. & Sun., February 27 & 28, 9-4 ( STILL TAKING RESERVATIONS).
    Beginning Blacksmithing: Knife Making Class is scheduled with local knifemaker Frank Vivier. The two day class for $175 involves heating, cutting and shaping spring steel into a blade and tang ( for a handle). Students will use propane burning forges to do much of their work but use a coal forge to heat the blade once shaped and polished for the purpose of hardening through immersion in oil. Since this is a two day class, there will be an opportunity to achieve a greater finish to your blades and to begin making a knife handle. Gift certificates available on request. Payment required in order to register. $175. Credit Cards taken. Contact:

    Sat. & Sun., March 19-20, 9AM-4PM. Antique Engine Repair and Maintenance. Hands-On Learning about these one cylinder engines knowns as "make & brake (s)", one lungers, and hit & miss engines used for decades by farmers and tradespeople. Two veteran mechanics instruct. We will work on both the mechanical and electrical (magneto/spark) elements. We will change rings on a 7HP Economy, resurrect a hit and miss 1 3/4 horsepower Fairbanks Morse as well as a 5HP Sandwich engine. We might metal cast some parts for the class, i.e, a new rocker arm or muffler. This is an essential and rare opportunity for those interested in these antique engines, $200. Get discount on aforementioned metal casting class, if taken in conjunction with this class.