Practicing architects in 18th century America relied on British handbooks packed full of hand-drawn moldings, cornices, entablatures and other architectural details to produce many of the nation’s oldest homes. The White Pine Monograph Series made this guide publicly available once again in 1931, and now modern-day architects can enjoy it at EasternWhitePine.org.
The guide, “The builder’s companion demonstrating all the principle rules or architecture,” is a re-print of the handbook made by William Pain in London in 1762. It was discovered among the working library of one of America’s most famous carpenter-builders of the eighteen century, the oldest dating to 1724, offering “elementary problems in geometry” and plates of the five orders as well as details of construction.
“The knowledge that these books on architecture were owned by ‘practicing architects’ in America in the middle of the eighteenth century strengthens our conviction that the handbooks were generally within arm’s reach of the amateur designer. They were published at a time when almost every man of culture in England interested himself in architecture and when a high standard of lay criticism existed.”
“Believing that those interested in the sources of colonial work would joy having a reprint of one of the best and least familiar of these books, we have selected ‘The Builder’s Companion’ by William Pain. The modern designer will be convinced, we feel sure, that William Pain, Architect and Joiner, endeavored to catch the spirit of classic proportion and ‘by an entire New Scale’ to show the significance of the orders and to make it easy for anyone to adapt the proportions to modern usage.”
Read more at the White Pine Monograph Library.
Want to try your hand at making your own classic Shaker-style furniture? Popular Woodworking Magazine has published a book called ‘Shaker Furniture Projects’ that’s packed full of 33 projects varying from small projects like traditional hanging shelves to larger projects like a Press Cupboard.
Shaker furniture, often made using Eastern White Pine, is an American tradition that was refined by our nation’s early craftsmen. Consisting of clean, minimalist lines and making use of innovative joinery and peg systems, Shaker furniture is known for a high level of quality and a look that fits into nearly any interior design style.
Prefer to check out projects one by one, and purchase plans a la carte? Peruse the options at Wood Magazine and Fine Woodworking, both of which offer plans for items like clocks, dining tables, chests of drawers and bed frames.
If you’re interested in exploring some woodworking projects, there’s a cool way to get an interactive look at the mechanics of various items from tool boxes to furniture using Google Sketchup. Popular Woodworking Magazine offers Sketchup versions of all of the woodworking projects in its ‘I Can Do That!’ series and many more items, with over 200 free plans available to download.
For the uninitiated, Google Sketchup is a free program that enables you to create three-dimensional digital models of virtually anything. It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to use, with introductory lessons offering animated guidance and tips for each tool.
Check out the Sketchup plans for everything from a small Shaker carry box to a garden swing. Getting a look at them in Sketchup enables an enhanced understanding of how the parts fit together, so beginning to intermediate woodworkers have more confidence in their ability to tackle each project.
Eastern White Pine is an ideal wood type for many of these projects – learn more about its desirable characteristics for woodworking, and check out a few more small craft projects.
Eastern White Pine is considered one of the best woods for crafts, since it’s so easy to carve and sand, leading to a smooth final product that will age beautifully over time. It’s recommended for a wide range of products, including birdhouses, toys, magazine racks, signs and other handmade items – there’s virtually no end to what can be created with it. You can find Eastern White Pine at most hardware stores, or purchase craft packs online from shops like The Wood Box. A site called All Crafts offers a large compendium of woodworking plans for small projects like these. Here are three examples.
From Birds & Blooms comes a simple pine birdhouse project using minimal materials and tools. It’s an easy task for anyone who wants to try their hand at a basic building project, even if you’ve never built anything before. The hole size is variable so you can customize it to the types of birds in your yard, whether you’ve got an abundance of little chickadees or larger bluebirds.
Toy Cars and Trains
Tarjany Designs and Woodcraft.com sell plans for traditional, non-toxic wooden toys, ranging from single cars made from a single slab of wood to intricate train sets with moving parts. No matter what your skill level is, you can find a project to make as a gift for a special little one in your life.
Simple Spice Rack or Pantry Door Rack
A spice rack is another simple DIY wood craft project that can serve as an introduction to making more complex items. Make a small one with just three shelves using the free plans at Woodworking Down Under, or try your hand at a larger rack that fits inside the pantry door at Shanty 2 Chic.
A 1917 architectural contest challenged entrants to design a residence almost entirely made of Eastern White Pine, including the exterior siding, window frames and casings, doors, brackets and mouldings, for a family with an annual income of $5,000 (roughly $88,500 in today’s dollars.) Detailed in Volume III, Issue IV of the White Pine Historical Monographs preserved by NeLMA, the contest left the architectural style and layout of the house “to the ingenuity of the designer.”
The house was to cost $12,500 and be fit for a family “of taste and refinement.” The Monograph shows the plans for the top designs, with first prize awarded to a stately design with spacious gardens, beautiful views from each room, and “a perception of charm and imagination to an unusual degree.”
Some of the beautiful details that can be seen in these home plans include carefully wrought trim, cornices and columns, as well as interior elements like mantels, which were generally the centerpiece of any well-appointed home. As was befitting for the time, the homes included servants’ quarters as well as living space for family members and guests. See them all up close at the Monograph Library.