Old Jail Gavel

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Project by lew posted 01-02-2015 01:33 AM 1559 views 2 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This past summer, our town rebuilt the cupola that sets atop “The Old Jail”. The Old Jail was built in 1818. It survived the burning of Chambersburg, by the Confederate Army, in 1864. I was fortunate enough to get a piece of an original hand hewn beam from the restoration. Out of that beam, we turned 100 pens; made a couple of presentation boxes and gavel. We had the wood approximately dated from the early 1700’s by a professor at the Pennsylvania State University’s Forestry Department.

As you can imagine, the wood was very dry and brittle, but amazingly still smelled strongly of pine when cut.
This particular beam had been split open for removing old square cut nails. The nails were then arranged on a display board to be placed in the Jail’s museum.

When the carpenters created these beams, each mortise and its’ corresponding tenon were marked with a “carpenter’s mark” so they could be correctly assembled at the site.

A carpenter’s mark can be seen on the side of the beam to the left of the peg hole. The marks were most often in Roman Numerals because they were easy to make with a chisel. It is upside down but the mark is “VI”. I made an inlay of this mark to help associate the finished piece to the original beam.

The gavel is about 11” long overall and the head is about 3” long and about 2 ½ “ in diameter. Finished with several applications of rattle can lacquer.

Thanks for looking!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

12 comments so far

View hoss12992's profile


4151 posts in 2402 days

#1 posted 01-02-2015 02:11 AM

That is just plain AWESOME! Love being able to get a piece of historic wood and make something from it. Now you will have left your mark on the goverment there for many years to come with your amazing wood working abilities. Great job

-- The Old Rednek Workshop

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4268 posts in 3673 days

#2 posted 01-02-2015 04:17 AM

I guess a gavel can be a weapon….......depends on the hardness of the head…...meaning the victim….......and perhaps the gavel. Just thought you might need a weapon to defend yourself from the New Year’s rabble rousers.

......anyway, happy New Year to you and yours…......

Been working here, but get 10 days off soon….......

......keeping the powder dry, heard the rolling thunder of canons last night,


Keep vigilant….......


-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View DIYaholic's profile


19861 posts in 3184 days

#3 posted 01-02-2015 04:33 AM

A marvelous piece.
With a great story and….
a bit of history.

-- Randy-- I may not be good...but I am slow! If good things come to those who wait.... Why is procrastination a bad thing?

View HillbillyShooter's profile


5811 posts in 2801 days

#4 posted 01-02-2015 04:33 AM

Great job with interesting story. Thanks for sharing and have a Happy New Year!

-- John C. -- "Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples' liberty's teeth." George Washington

View BCDesign's profile


541 posts in 1931 days

#5 posted 01-02-2015 08:53 AM

Hey Lew that is a great story I love pieces with history behind them!!

-- "The secret of getting ahead is getting started" Mark Twain

View jaykaypur's profile


4017 posts in 2917 days

#6 posted 01-02-2015 12:55 PM

Excellent job on this and a great piece of history to have taken possession of too.

-- Use it up, Wear it out --------------- Make it do, Or do without!

View Roger's profile


21011 posts in 3313 days

#7 posted 01-02-2015 02:12 PM

Tis a beautiful gavel. Nicely shaped. I can hear it smacking that base for a “here-Yee-hear-Yee” or two. That Pine from back then is sure awesome. I’ve had the satisfaction of getting some wood from a barn that was built in the 1880’s. A friend of mine sliced up some beams for some projects, and I got some leftovers. It’s amazing how those beams were all machined back then.

-- Roger from KY. Work/Play/Travel Safe. Keep your dust collector fed. [email protected]

View mmh's profile


3679 posts in 4231 days

#8 posted 01-02-2015 02:53 PM

What an interesting history this wood has to tell. And in addition, the wonderful objects created from it will bring it new life and enjoyed for many years.

-- "They who dream by day are cognizant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." ~ Edgar Allan Poe

View Napaman's profile


5530 posts in 4586 days

#9 posted 01-02-2015 04:04 PM

Very cool history! Nice gavel. ..happy new year…

-- Matt--Proud LJ since 2007

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14181 posts in 4492 days

#10 posted 01-02-2015 11:06 PM

sweet job … great care with the other dudes work. State fair blue ribbon piece.

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View lew's profile


12860 posts in 4264 days

#11 posted 01-03-2015 12:43 AM

Hoss- Thanks! I hope it doesn’t end up in a closet somewhere.

Jim- It is pretty light for a weapon!
Our town actually has a statue, facing south, that stands watch for the advancing “rebels”- in case they ever decide to return-

Chambersburg has the dubious distinction of being the only northern town to be burned during the Civil War. Seems we couldn’t come up with the $500,000 cash ransom wanted by General John McCausland.

Randy- Thanks!

John- Thanks! Happy New Year to you and your family!

ashe- Thanks!

Jay- Thanks! I’m still hoarding a few pieces of scraps. Hate to waste any of that precious wood.

Roger- Thanks!- It is amazing to see how tight some of the growth rings are. I can’t imagine creating these pieces out of a log.

Meilie- Thanks! I agree, these beams have seen so much history. I just couldn’t let them end up on a burn pile.

Matt- Thanks! Half way thru another year!!

Dan- Thanks but I doubt it is that good!

-- Lew- Time traveler. Purveyor of the Universe's finest custom rolling pins.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4268 posts in 3673 days

#12 posted 01-03-2015 08:41 PM

Thanks for the great history story, Lew, of a vintage timber, and a vintage town…...........

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

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