Like most carpenters I have a special appreciation for the subtle beauty found in the Shaker aesthetic. Whether it’s architecture, metalwork, furniture, textiles, handcrafts, or any of the other things produced by the Shaker communities, there are three qualities in abundance: function, simplicity, and durability.
I recently took a trip to the Hancock Shaker Village in Pittsfield, Mass with my coworker Matt Kenney. We both have four-year-old sons and they came too. The two boys had a fabulous time running around the grounds while we checked out the buildings and artifacts.
The village is a great way to spend a day and the folks who run the place are kind and knowledgeable. The museum is open through the end of October and reopens April 16th. If you can’t make the trip before the close of the season, check out their online shop where you’ll likely find holiday gifts of divine inspiration.
These are forms used in the construction of traditional oval boxes. The metal plates provide backup for clinching the nails that hold the bent wood together.
This round barn built into a hill was a technological breakthrough when it was built. The cows were housed on the ground level and their manure was shoveled to a pit in the basement through trapdoors in the wooden floor. The hay was brought in on the second floor and tossed down to a center storage area. Because the barn is round, wagons could enter and exit without turning around for maximum effciency.
This is the barn's interior. My jaw dropped when I first entered the space and saw the amazing framing. The column in the center which reaches to the cupola is for ventilation. Look carefully at the rafters and you can see that they're intentionally split down the center to provide a reasonable span for the sheathing close to the eaves.
Shakers are often remembered for their fine furniture and simple architecture, but they also excelled at weaving and metalworking. I thought this latch and hook were especially cool.
This is one of the windows in the main dwelling house. I love that the openings are framed with panels that hide the thick masonry walls. The opening is flared toward the room to bring in additional light.
This set of built-ins is also in the main dwelling house. Another one, (arranged in mirror fashion for symmetry) is at the other end of the room. I like how the little step stool hanging nearby brings even the highest doors and drawers within reach.
This two-story building houses rooms dedicated to weaving, broom making, and shoe making. I love its yellow ochre color. Forensic research revealed that at least some of the interior woodwork in the main dwelling house had the same bright yellow treatment, but the paint was later stripped in favor of a more natural look.