Adventure Travel for WoodworkersComments (0)
This article is from Issue 71 of Woodcraft Magazine.
Enjoy fun & inspiration at these special destinations
By David Schiff
Road trip! For any woodworker planning a vacation (or even a business trip), it makes sense to be on the lookout for places that celebrate the craft in different ways. As it turns out, the country is dotted with destinations that are sure to prove fascinating to woodworkers or anyone interested in history, furniture design, and fine craftsmanship. We selected the destinations featured to provide the most variety in terms of subject matter and geographic location. Visit our website for more suggestions, and put some travel plans together that will enrich your enjoyment of our favorite activity. Because fees and hours can change, make sure to visit the listed websites before you finalize your trip.
There’s more to explore! We’ve put more woodworking destinations on our website. And we know that there are plenty of undiscovered places that might be fascinating for woodworkers to visit. Go to www.woodcraftmagazine.com and click on the “Articles” and “onlineEXTRA” tabs to discover more destinations and share your own recommendations.
Winterthur Museum and Gardens
5105 Kennett Pike, Winterthur, Delaware
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 6 am-11 am
Fees: Members, free; adults, $20; children 2-11, $5; infants, free; seniors and students with valid ID, $18. Also available: one-hour and two-hour reserved tours as well as private tours and special rates for group visits.
Phone: (800) 448-3883
If you’re anywhere near Wilmington, Delaware, it’s worth making a side trip to see one of the country’s most extensive collections of American furniture and furnishings. Spread out through 175 rooms on the former du Pont estate, you’ll find over 9,000 pieces of furniture dating from the mid-1600s to the 1870s.
The collection includes high-style Philadelphia rococo furniture, as well as representative pieces of the finest New England furniture, especially from Newport, Boston, Salem, and Portsmouth. Works by well-known cabinetmakers such as Samuel McIntire, Thomas Seymour, and Thomas Affleck are displayed along with other noteworthy examples.
Other galleries display fine examples of metalwork, ceramics and glass, paintings and prints, textiles, and needlework. You’ll also enjoy Winterthur’s Dominy clock shop and woodworking shop, which are reconstructions of shops used by four generations of the Dominy family who worked in East Hampton, New York, from the mid-1700s to the mid-1800s.
The Wharton Esherick Museum
1520 Horseshoe Trail, Malvern, Pennsylvania
Hours: Tues.-Fri., 10 am-4 pm Tours by reservation only, call 48 hours in advance.
Phone: (610) 644-5822
“If it isn’t fun, it isn’t worth doing,” said woodworker and sculptor Wharton Esherick, who worked and lived in this studio about 25 miles outside of Philadephia. It takes just a glance at his whimsical designs to see that Esherick lived by that credo. His work is irresistible to the eye and the hand. It will make you smile.
When Esherick began making wooden sculptures in 1920, wood was generally considered to be a material suitable only for crafts. Acceptance of his work into New York City’s Whitney Gallery (now known as the Whitney Museum) in 1924 recognized that wood could be a medium for fine art. He went on to apply his sculptural aesthetic to furniture, furnishings, interiors, and buildings. Esherick was largely responsible for the Studio Furniture Movement and helped pave the way for individual woodworkers who build and market works of their own design.
Much of Esherick’s work can been seen at the studio he built on this rural Pennsylvania hillside. Esherick lived at the studio, making it an exemplar of his philosophy that practical everyday items such as chairs, a bathroom sink, or a door latch could be works of art.
Foxfire Museum and Heritage Center
98 Foxfire Lane. Mountain City, Georgia
Hours: Open year-round Mon.-Sat. 8:30 am-4:30 pm, closed Sun.
Fees: Age 11 and older, $6; age 7-10, $3; age 6 and younger, free
Phone: (706) 746-5828
It all started as an English class project back in 1966. A group of high school students began interviewing their families, friends, and neighbors and wrote articles for a magazine they called Foxfire. The goal, besides learning to write, was to preserve the vanishing pioneer culture of the southern Appalachian Mountains. Oftentimes these folks would give the students old tools or examples of the handcrafted items they were discussing.
By 1972, the demand for back issues of the magazine became so great that students published a compendium called The Foxfire Book, which became a best seller. By then the collection of artifacts had become so large the nonprofit Foxfire organization decided to use its considerable book royalties to purchase land and build a museum. The 106-acre site is tucked away on a mountainside in the northeastern tip of Georgia.
The high school students began dismantling log cabins that had been homes for generations and reassembling them at the museum site. There are now about 20 cabins filled with artifacts integral to the lives of Appalachian pioneers. About 10 are complete original cabins, the rest are constructed from usable pieces of barns, homes, and other structures. Among the buildings are a single-room 1820s log home, a chapel, and a gristmill. This ever-changing exhibit includes a great variety of vintage tools for woodworking, farming, and other crafts.
Louisville Slugger Museum and Factory
800 West Main Street, Louisville, Kentucky
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 am to 5 pm, Sun. 11 am-5 pm, Christmas Eve 9 am to 3 pm, New Year’s Day noon-5 pm. Closed Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day
Fees: Adults, 13-59 $12; seniors, 60 and older $11; kids 6-12 $7; kids under 5, free
Phone: (877) 775-8443
The crack of wood against leather. The thrilling vibration of a solid hit shooting right up your arm. For many of us, a baseball bat may have been our earliest exposure to the power and resilience of a solid piece of wood. What woodworker could resist a visit to this five-story building with a giant replica of Babe Ruth’s bat leaning casually against it?
Tour the factory and see demonstrations of how woodworkers turned Louisville Sluggers by hand back in the 1880s. Then check out the automated machines that now churn out about 1.6 million wood bats a year, including the mini-bats that are handed out to museum visitors. They also make aluminum and composite bats.
Of course there are plenty of exhibits to appeal to baseball fans of all ages. There’s even a batting cage where you can hit with replica bats of legends like the Babe, Ted Williams, and current superstars. Crack!
The Sawmill Museum
2231 Grant Street, Clinton, Iowa
Hours: Tues.-Sat. 10 am-6 pm, Sun. 1 pm-5 pm, Mon. 1 pm-6 pm
Fees: Age 13 and older, $4; children 4-12, $3; children under 3, free
Phone: (563) 242-0343
Located on the Mississippi River, Clinton, Iowa, was at one time the principle sawmilling destination for the trees felled in the “Great North Woods” of Minnesota and Wisconsin. Giant rafts of logs were floated down the river from the north woods, and no fewer than 13 lumber barons established sawmilling operations. The mills attracted furnituremakers and other woodworking businesses.
By 1900 the northern forest lands were depleted, and Clinton’s lumber boom was over. But today the Sawmill Museum preserves this rich woodworking history with displays that range from archival photos to working machinery and replicas of loggers’ cabins. Visitors can actually go inside cabins to experience what it was like to live in a logging camp.
If possible, plan to visit the museum on the first Sunday of the month; that’s when the diesel sawmill exhibit comes to life, milling logs into lumber. Groups who call ahead can sometimes arrange for their own sawmill operation event. The museum also includes a growing display of vintage machines like giant, cast-iron jointers and bandsaws. A special collection of machinery traces lumber from rough boards to finished chair legs.
Kids are sure to enjoy the Sawmill Museum—not just because of the loggers’ cabins, but also because of the miniature railroad train that takes visitors around the grounds.
Homestead Heritage Village
608 Dry Creek Rd., Waco, Texas
Hours: Mon.-Sat. 10 am-6 pm
Phone: (254) 754-9600
If you love the whisper of a sharp hand plane, the chop of a chisel and the rhythm of a handsaw, you owe yourself a visit to this unique homesteading community on the outskirts of Waco, Texas. The 1,000 members of this non-denominational Christian community are dedicated to simplicity and self sufficiency. They express this dedication largely through manual labor. Fields are plowed with horses instead of tractors, and wood is worked with hand tools.
Visitors are invited to take self-guided walking tours of the 510-acre village. Guided tours are available by appointment. Here, you won’t find museum docents demonstrating traditional techniques. Instead you’ll observe community members expertly pursuing their crafts in blacksmithing, pottery, weaving and other workshops. There’s a gristmill, and you can visit a restored, 200-year-old barn that showcases the work of the community’s craftspeople.
At the woodworking shop you’ll see master woodworkers and apprentices using hand tools to create a variety of furniture pieces for sale. Local wood species like mesquite feature in many projects.
If hand-tool woodworking is your passion, you might be interested in the community’s school of woodworking. Courses running from one to six days are currently offered.
National Museum of Woodcarving
Hwy 16 West, Custer, South Dakota
Hours: Open every day May 1-Oct. 20; May 1-May 22, 9 am-5 pm; May 23-Sept. 7, 9 am-7 pm; Sept. 8-Oct. 20, 9 am-5 pm
Fees: Adults, $9.99; seniors, $9.49; kids 5-14, $7.49; kids under 5, free; family admission, $37.99
Phone: (605) 673-4404
Woodcarving virtuosity meets mechanical wizardry at this museum located about 1 mile east of Custer State Park. Get ready to be wowed by over 30 carved diorama-type displays that depict a wide variety of activities typical of the American West. Humor is the dominant theme, whether you’re watching cowboys gambling and drinking in a bar or a few revelers playing music outside a log cabin.
The carved and animated displays were created by Dr. Harvey Niblack, a pioneer in animatronics who helped develop some of the first 3-D animation at Disneyland in the 1950s. It’s amazing that these intricate mechanisms still work after all this time.
When you are done scratching your head in wonder at how Dr. Niblack pulled off his tricks, you can stroll around the gallery and take in an impressive variety of carvings done by more than 70 artists. If you’re lucky, resident carver Keith Morrill or a guest woodcarver will be around to offer some tips. Morrill specializes in carving characters that relate to the local western and Native American history of the Black Hills. You can also sign up for a five-day seminar with a professional woodcarver.
Petrified Forest National Park
Between Interstate 40 and Highway 180, Arizona
Hours: The park is open year-round except Dec. 25. Park roads are open Sept. 20-Oct. 31 from 7 am to 6 pm and Nov. 1-Dec. 31 from 8 am to 5 pm.
Fees: Seven-day passes to the petrified forest are $20 for cars, $10 per person for bikes, $10 per motorcycle. U.S. citizens over 62 can get a lifetime pass for $10, and there are free passes for citizens with permanent disabilities and for veterans.
Phone: (928) 524-6228
You haven’t really experienced hardwood until you visit the Petrified Forest in northeast Arizona. Here you will find the colorful, fossilized remains of trees that were buried in sediment over 200 million years ago. Forget carbide, you’d need a diamond-tipped blade to cut into logs that weigh 168 lbs. per cubic foot. But of course helping yourself to samples is not allowed.
Petrified wood is just one of the fascinating features you’ll find in this 146-square-mile national park. A short visit provides ample opportunities to stop your car at overlooks and take in amazing views of different rock formations caused by water and wind erosion. But it’s worth taking some extra time for short walks on maintained trails or (if you’re more ambitious) longer backcountry hikes. You’ll be amply rewarded, as you encounter ancient petroglyphs and native American settlements, as well as wildlife and wildflowers.
Northwest Woodworkers Gallery
2111 1st Ave., Seattle, Washington
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 10 am-6 pm, Sat.-Sun. 10 am to 5 pm
Phone: (206) 625-0542
You can’t help but come away inspired by this ever-changing woodworking exhibit in the heart of Seattle. Your head will be crammed with new design ideas about all kinds of woodworking projects—from coffee tables and cabinets to tables, nightstands and jewelry boxes.
Founded in 1980, the gallery is owned and operated by a cooperative of nearly 50 member-owners, but the items on display come from over 200 talented artisans. As a bonus, the work of top-notch painters and photographers is also displayed.
To deter sensory overload, it’s a good idea to click on the gallery’s website and check out the artist profiles and current shows. You can even get into the act yourself by submitting a piece to the annual Box and Container Show, a great way to introduce your work to the gallery’s clients.
Blue Ox Millworks
One X St. Eureka, California
Hours: Mon.-Fri. 9 am-5 pm year-round, Sat. 9 am-5 pm April-Nov.
Fees: Self-guided tours: Adults, $10; seniors 65 and older, $9; children 6-12, $5; children under 6, free. Guided tours: Arrange in advance, 10-person minimum, $12.50 per person. Custom-designed workshops are also available.
Phone: (800) 248-4259
Strong legs are useful at Blue Ox Millworks, because many of the antique machines used here are pedal operated. But this is more than a museum. At Blue Ox, machines and techniques from the 19th and early 20th centuries are used to produce custom architectural millwork for jobs all over the country. The work includes moldings, balusters, columns, custom windows and doors, redwood gutters, corbels, gable decorations, and Victorian gingerbread. Blue Ox also has its own sawmill, blacksmith shop, and foundry.
“I never have to go to the store for anything,” says Blue Ox founder and master woodworker Eric Hollenbeck. You might get a chance to chat with Eric when you visit.
Blue Ox also operates an alternative high school and a school for veterans.
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