RVP 1875 - Historical Furniture Shop

99 Counties | FIND Iowa
Jul 20, 2024 | 03:27
Question:

How do you think furniture was made before power tools? 

Before electric power tools, hand-and-foot powered tools were what people used to build things. At RVP 1875, these tools are still used to build furniture today.

Transcript

Abby Brown: 

Before there were electric powered tools, there were hand and foot powered tools that help people build things. And there was a whole lot of creativity too. Here in Jefferson, Iowa at the RVP 1875 shop and Museum we get to see how furniture was made in 1875. there are a lot of antique tools in there too, and some beautiful examples of the furniture that was made with them. Let's go check it out.

Robbie, this place is amazing! What do you do here?

Robbie Peterson:

Oh, thank you. So we build historical furniture, using only the tools from 150 years ago.

Abby:

Wow! So, tell me some of the tricks of your trade.

Robbie:

Alright, alright, so it's all about putting boards together to make strong furniture.

Abby:

Sure.

Robbie:

So when we have two wide boards that come together at a corner, we use what's called a dovetail joint. And because the holes are wide at the bottom and narrow at the top when that chunk goes in there, see it can't--

Abby:

Let me try that.

Robbie:

You pull on that.

Abby:

That's solid!

Robbie:

That's it.

Abby:

And no glue, no nails.

Robbie:

And it'll last for hundreds of years.

Abby:

Wow!

Robbie:

So when you have a piece of furniture that has legs, we can't use this joint, we use a joint called a mortise and tenon.

Abby:

Okay, mortise and tenon.

Robbie:

Mortise and Tenon. That's squares in square holes. So when your square goes inside your square hole it creates a lock in all directions except for one, and you simply put pegs; if you do that last direction--

Abby Brown:

There it is.

Robbie:

And it locks it. Want to see some of the tools?

Abby: 

Yes! Let's go. Wow Robbie, you have so many tools here! Tell me about them.

Robbie:

Yeah, yeah, planes alone we have 650 different planes that all do a different job.

Abby:

Oh my gosh, so okay, what about this job? We've already measured and we have a line here, okay, and if it was me I would just get an electric power tool and saw it off. But not you, right?

Robbie:

No, no, no, no. We gotta only use the tools from the 1870s. Okay so, so I could use a regular flat-bladed plane, which is like a knife blade, and when you run that blade across the tool, err, across the wood, it takes that much at a time.

Abby:

Oh that's not very much, we have more than that. How about the saw?

Robbie:

Okay, the saw is fine except you have to take the board and you have to clamp it down to a workben-- it's just, it's too slow and tedious.

Abby:

Well what should we do then?

Robbie:

Okay so we use a very aggressive tool called a draw knife to do that. And when I take that draw knife and I engage it into the wood, you can see how much it removes at a time.

Abby:

Wow

Robbie:

And then we come back this way and this is called "popping the grain," and we've taken that whole three inches off in three strokes, and then I simply clean it up with a few strokes like that and that makes it straight and smooth.

Abby:

There is so much to learn here, why should kids and families come here?

Robbie:

Because history is an important and awesome. Yeah this is a great environment, come in try stuff see it all, this is the way it was done in 1875 in a furniture shop.

Every county in Iowa has carved out its own unique story to tell. Thanks for visiting Greene County with me.