Orleans Carpenters Swing Handle Vintage Shaker Style Bentwood Box
- Vintage item
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Some of the earliest Shaker items sold to the "outside world" were their beautifully made and, more importantly to the Shakers, eminently functional oval boxes. The last Shaker box was made at the Sabbathday Lake, Maine, community in 1955. Since then, a handful of craftsmen have attempted to reproduce these boxes, with varying results. One carpenter's shop that made excellent, authentic copies was Orleans Carpenters of Orleans, Massachusetts.
Orleans Carpenters was started in 1976 by Dick and Phoebe Soule to teach troubled young people a trade. As years went by, the focus shifted entirely to box making. In 1986, Beth and Paul Dixon purchased the business and presented their boxes on their internet site ShakerBoxes.com. The Dixons retired in 2012, having seen their boxes become treasured heirlooms.**
Orleans Carpenters bentwood boxes are faithfully made using the techniques and materials developed by Shaker craftsmen. These include the handsome tapered fingers (sometimes called "swallowtails") which hold the box together while allowing for the expansion and contraction of the bent wood; the copper tacks or pins fastening the fingers; the use of native hardwoods throughout; the oval shape, rather than the more common round one; and the use of a multitude of tiny wooden pins securing the other parts of the box and its lid. The shapely swing handle is attached with a piece of wooden dowel. There are four fingers, one on the lid rim and three on the box. It has a hand rubbed matte oil finish.
The box measures 9 5/8 inches long at the bottom and 9 3/4 inches long with the lid. The box 4 1/2 inches tall and 8 1/2 inches tall to the top of the handle when it's straight up. The width is 7 inches and the weight 14 ounces. It's in pristine condition and has a stamped oval mark on the bottom "ORLEANS CARPENTERS Orleans, MA." This box will become your family's treasured heirloom.
** A partial list of Orleans Carpenters Shaker box owners and vendors:
The King and Queen of Denmark; Oprah Winfrey; Macy's; Harrod's; Georgio Armani, Calvin Klein, and Estee Lauder; QVC for their juried "Quest For America's Best;" The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; a number of Shaker Museums and the Mingei International Museum in San Diego.