W. Henry Duvall Tool Museum


Editorial Review

For more than 50 years, farmer W. Henry Duvall of Croom, Md., traveled widely buying old farm implements and hand tools. In 1981, two years after he died, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission acquired his collection and turned it into a museum. As down-home as a garage sale on foldaway tables, the Duvall Tool Museum offers in a one-room, barn-like space more than 2,000 tools and household implements from the 19th and 18th centuries. Many of them are in good enough shape to be put into use again, though we would need to sharpen edges and oil moving parts, and we may have to expend far more muscle power than we are accustomed to. But a cider press, a sturdy composition of wheels and barrels and chutes, made cider flow smoothly in a harvest demonstration in the summer of 1997, well past its 100th birthday. On one wall is an array of hatchets and broad-axes, adzes and drawknives, crosscut saws, bark spuds and bung augers needed to turn logs into squared pieces of lumber for a cabin. A half-finished log lies on the floor, secured by a smartly designed tangle of iron claws known as a log dog; next to it is a drag shackle that helped to haul the wood out of the forest. Both hand tools, a tangle of curly cued metalwork and claws, could double as contemporary art . Those intrigued by the power of carpenter's planes may spend time examining a two-foot-long cooper's tool, which has to be held up vertically so the object to be planed, such as the bent strips of wood used for barrel staves, could be run up against it. Another rare plane is crescent-shaped; its purpose was to smooth the barrel's rim. For students of history, tales are told by items such as a grain flail with a design that goes back to the Dark Ages and by a rack of hoes made in patterns and with joining techniques no longer in fashion. In the corner dedicated to the kitchen, we may admire the simplicity of a potato-chip maker or a butter churn. But then our eyes fasten on an object that fits into one's palm, made out of iron and equipped with sharp teeth, designed to make shavings of ice and pack them into a snowball. On the shelves are stone crocks that look as if they were refilled only yesterday and lunch buckets that must have carried food in all kinds of weather. The assemblage hints at the glow of a great-grandmother's kitchen we never knew.
--Charles Fenyvesi