Old Wooden Bowls Popular Among Collectors

Old Wooden Bowls Popular Among Collectors
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Among the antique woodenware popular with collectors and nostalgia buffs you'll find the wooden bowls, like those used by early settlers. Some were brought over from England, but most were whittled by the pioneers as the need arose.
Not many of those old bowls exist today. They were made to be used so wore out. However, those from one's childhood are popular, such as the ones my mom used in the kitchen at our farm.

Bowls of Great Variety

The bowls of early America were of great variety, ranging from small salt dishes to round and oval bowls for serving the main dish at the meal. Large round and oblong ones, often 20 inches across, were used a chopping bowls.Wood also was a material for making washing bowls, similar to the earthenware and pottery ones of later years.

The pioneers shaped the earliest bowls with simple tools, such as chisel, knife, and plane. Later, especially in the 18th century, as colonial tradesmen began to make woodenware, they used lathes for turning the inside of bowls, cups, and mortars. From this came the name of "turner's ware" for such items.

New England Woodenware Industries

As a thriving woodenware industry developed in New England, bowls were made by both individual turners and manufacturers or woodenware mills. Sutton, Rindge, Berlin, Jaffrey, and Weare were centers in New Hampshire. Winchendon and Chicopee, Mass. also were active woodenware producing towns.

The Shakers of New Hampshire and New York made wooden bowls, usually painted on the outside with yellow, blue, blue-green, or orange. Theirs were well-made and of excellent design and proportion. Most Shaker wares now are found only in museums or private collections.

Various Woods for Bowls

The native woods, such as pine, curly and bird's -eye maple, poplar, yellow birch, cherry, ash, beech, and walnut were most commonly used for constructing these wares. Hard, heavy lignum vitae was imported from the West Indies, and sometimes was used for bowls.

White ash bowls often were fashioned into nests of bowls. These were rare items, even in those days, and a household was unlikely to have more than one set. So today, they are greatly coveted by collectors.

Among other rare pieces are bowls of curly and bird's-eye maple. Also, salt bowls for table use are dated items.

Wooden Chopping Bowls

The large chopping bowls, like the one of my childhood, are in great demand nowadays. They can be restored with little work, but are more authentic-looking when chopping knife marks and chips are left visible.

To obtain a nice finish, sand the inside and out with fine sandpaper, then rub the outside with oooo steel wool. The outside may be waxed until it has a high shine, while the inside is usually left as is. You might rub salad oil over the inside lightly to keep it from drying out.

Decorative Pieces

Wooden bowls make lovely decorative pieces if you don't want to use the old ones for chopping or serving salads. The oval wooden one we used during my childhood to make cole slaw and chop vegetables for corned beef hash occupies a prominent place in our home.

(c)2002 Mary Emma Allen

About the Author

Mary Emma Allen has written "Curios of Yesteryear" for publications since the 1960s. She and her daughter find their trips into the realms of collectibles enjoyable adventures. Mary Emma also writes other columns, books, and travel articles. Her book, "The Magic of Patchwork", takes you into the history of quiltmaking. Visit her web site for more information about her columns and books at http://homepage.fcgnetworks.net/jetent/mea.


About The Author

Mary Emma Allen researches and writes from her multi-generational NH home. Check out her new site, Tea Time Notes

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