Tools of the Trade - Tools Used in Chairmaking

Jim Turpin was the last of two generations of traditional chairmakers in the Mount Tabor area straddling Greene and Monroe Counties. While large furniture factories located less than 20 miles away churned out mass-produced furniture using the latest power tools, Jim crafted one chair at a time using familiar, well-trusted hand tools. Warren’s examination of Turpin chairs and the Turpin family included a detailed discussion of the tools and how they were used.

“Once he had located a tree, Jim chopped it down with an axe, cut the trunk to the lengths needed, and carried the logs back to his workshop. There the logs were split into pieces, first with an axe and wedges and then with a froe driven by a club. . . . Once a piece of wood of appropriate size had been split out, it was mounted in the lathe between two metal points so that it was firmly fixed but could be rotated. . . . The type of lathe that Jim used is sometimes called a 'pole lathe' or a 'boom and treadle lathe.' It is a very ancient instrument, for there is an illustration showing one clearly dating from the thirteenth century.”

“Turpin Chairs and the Turpin Family,” in Viewpoints, 95-96.