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 In End Grain

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An illuminating look at the life of a 19th century country cabinetmaker.

Daydreaming in my shop, I’m imagining a warm summer day way back in 1899. Just after supper, Henry Lapp sits at a pine table outside a tavern on the Lancaster Turnpike, a few dusty miles past the long bridge over the Schuykill River. He’s a cabinetmaker from the heart of old Amish country in Lancaster County, some forty miles away—from a town called Bird-in-Hand, to be exact—and he’s on his way to Market Street, in Philadelphia, to drum up some business.

Henry has a new idea for a washbench, an important piece of furniture back home in the country. It typically holds water buckets for scrubbing freshly-pulled vegetables or dirty hands. Most washbenches were humble affairs, but this one is stylish: It will have a two-level, tin-lined recessed top, graduated drawers and compound bun feet. It’s an ambitious piece.

Henry is busy sketching his washbench in a small store-bought notebook which has a plain, soft cover and a sewn binding.


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