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1880s Counter #2: Okay, What Exactly Do I Have?

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Blog entry by Smitty_Cabinetshop posted 01-14-2020 12:09 AM 604 reads 0 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 1: What is it, what you gonna do with it? Part 2 of 1880s Counter series Part 3: One (Re-)Turn Deserves Another »

The title of this post has actually been a recurring question since the counter was pulled out of a derelict building fifteen months ago. How bad was that structure? Here’s what it looked like six months ago.

Anyway, in the kick-off to this series I talked about getting back to the beginning. There’s one bad picture of the piece before it was moved, and a very bad memory bank in my head that doesn’t remember what it looked like before it was taken apart. Seriously, no recollection / clear picture of any framing that might have held the carcase together. And in many cases, over the past several months, I’ve wondered just exactly how it came apart.

So I’ll share with you those questions and a number of pictures that are keys to our future story.

Here’s the counter, in pieces, sitting in dad’s shop space.

Take a close look at the ‘angled piece’ or ‘rail’ sitting on the floor. Specifically the end profile at the bottom right of the photo. That assembly makes up the top edging profile of the cabinet. It’s on that built-up moulding that the top ultimately sits on. Follow that rail piece towards the back of the photo, and it comes off the floor because there is a return elbow (el, L). The full length of the counter is just under 11’, and only the left end has a return L. The right end was rather unceremoniously cut off, once upon a time.

One kinda-close up of that rail profile, rotated to get a better sense of what it actually consists of. I count seven individual pieces of wood making up the overall profile: three rectangular boards, one pc of 1/2” quarter round, a 5/8” half-round, and two very custom pieces of millwork.

Here’s the end piece that survived, left of the brown board in the first pic. Note the bottom is gone / rotted away.

Then there’s the top.

It had some kind of linoleum (?) glued to it, and with water damage underneath. The piece is a single board, 1 1/2” thick, 24 1/2” wide, and just under 11’ long. Amazing. One end in great shape, the other toast from the rot. Here it is during clean-up.

Note the mystery 2×4 nailed to what is the underside of the top. That fits somewhere, somehow. And no, I’m not being coy. All these traces are clues; I honestly have been piecing together how this thing is meant to go back together.

Next time, I’ll review the middle sections of the vertical assembly and present some reproduction builds that have been underway. Thanks for looking!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --



14 comments so far

View summerfi's profile

summerfi

4356 posts in 2294 days


#1 posted 01-14-2020 12:37 AM

Nobody can ever say Smitty is not up for a challenge. I admire your desire to preserve/restore history. Waiting to see how this turns out, but I already know it will be spectacular.

-- Bob, Missoula, MT -- Rocky Mountain Saw Works http://www.rmsaws.com/p/about-us.html -- ~Non multa sed multum~

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16339 posts in 3225 days


#2 posted 01-14-2020 12:50 AM

Thanks Bob, but you have more confidence than I do at this point. I think it’s only going to be 36” high or so, but not sure for all the reasons brought out in these first two posts. So it’s not tall enough to be a good bar, and having a long counter is of questionable practical value. I think it’ll have to be shortened, and I’ll use the cut-offs of the custom millwork in particular to crown a re-created return / side panel.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Combo Prof's profile

Combo Prof

3992 posts in 1884 days


#3 posted 01-14-2020 02:04 AM

Very exciting.

Could it have been a sales counter for say dry-goods or hardware?

-- Don K, (Holland, Michigan)

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16339 posts in 3225 days


#4 posted 01-14-2020 02:13 AM

^ Very possible!

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View Don Broussard's profile

Don Broussard

3849 posts in 2858 days


#5 posted 01-14-2020 02:47 AM

My father had a men’s clothing store (until 1989) and there was a long wooden counter where the cash register lived. It looked like yours. I think his counter was about 16’ long and I think it was in two pieces.

Good luck bringing yours back in usable condition.

-- People say I hammer like lightning. It's not that I'm fast -- it's that I never hit the same place twice!

View theoldfart's profile

theoldfart

11055 posts in 3058 days


#6 posted 01-14-2020 05:05 AM

I guess Superman’s in the building.

Any old pictures of the business that occupied the demolished building? Historical society perhaps?

-- "With every tool obtained, there is another that is needed" DonW ( Kevin )

View Mark Wilson's profile

Mark Wilson

2696 posts in 1670 days


#7 posted 01-14-2020 06:22 AM

Two things come to mind. Two of the above comments line up with mine:

1) What was the business that occupied the building? and, B) It looks like some kind of display counter. With the rail in the first photo, I got to wondering if, maybe, it was used to display something long that would stand on end on the rail. Rifles? Pool cues? Brooms? Light sabres?

At 11’ long, it certainly wasn’t household furniture. Like a sideboard.

I’ll kepp paying attention.

-- Mark

View Don W's profile

Don W

19428 posts in 3174 days


#8 posted 01-14-2020 11:03 AM



Nobody can ever say Smitty is not up for a challenge. I admire your desire to preserve/restore history. Waiting to see how this turns out, but I already know it will be spectacular.

- summerfi

My exact thoughts

-- http://timetestedtools.net - Collecting is an investment in the past, and the future.

View AnthonyReed's profile

AnthonyReed

10120 posts in 3047 days


#9 posted 01-14-2020 04:49 PM

I third Bob’s accurate assessment and second Don W’s punctuation.

Thank you Smitty.

-- ~Tony

View duckmilk's profile

duckmilk

3938 posts in 1931 days


#10 posted 01-15-2020 12:21 AM

I have confidence you will get this figured out and restore its glory Smitty. +1 on finding out the history of the building. Maybe Bob and Kevin are due for a visit visit to help out? ;-))

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

16339 posts in 3225 days


#11 posted 01-15-2020 12:40 AM

Thanks for the comments and votes of confidence. Spent another day on it since, and have some blogging to do to get closer to ‘caught up.’ Rehabbing the top is going to be a big challenge, I think. Will have to do some trickery I haven’t attempted before.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive --

View duckmilk's profile

duckmilk

3938 posts in 1931 days


#12 posted 01-15-2020 12:59 AM

Waiting with beer in hand ;)

-- "Duck and Bob would be out doin some farming with funny hats on." chrisstef

View chrisstef's profile

chrisstef

18027 posts in 3613 days


#13 posted 01-15-2020 02:00 AM

Im not much for any historical info but i do know about some demo. I suspect some hooligans flipped that counter over in a feat of strength in effort to impress some young dames.

Stef. What the hell are you talkin about?

Maybe it sat upon a base raising it higher and offering foot space for a stool.

Just thinkin out loud here.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View mafe's profile

mafe

12312 posts in 3696 days


#14 posted 01-23-2020 02:02 AM

Really interesting to see the rail made of seven pieces.
Smiles.
Best thoughts,
Mads

-- MAD F, the fanatical rhykenologist and vintage architect. Democraticwoodworking.

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