Monday, February 26, 2018

Feb. 24 & 25: Letterpress Printing Class with Mark Matteau

Sample Book page
Anastasia Weigle''s printing project included stationary for an imaginary character.
Dr. Cycloid stationary
Dr. Cycloid stationary, 2
Anastasia Weigle searches for type.
Composing type.
Tess Hall rubs the Golding Pearl printing press.
Tess Hall does a run on the Golding Pearl letterpress.
Patricia Turner of Porter, ME and Karen Marsters of Bangor work at typesetting.



Knife Making Classes at Newfield, February 4 & 5/February 24 & 25, 2018

Feb. 24 & 25: Student Lunch
Feb. 3 & 4  Class: After the Quench
Eric Thoresen works on his hardwood handle.
Heating for the Quench; Frank Vivier watches over a student's knife.
Nick Armentrout of Lyman's knife in progress.
A little side lesson in forge welding on our coal fired forge.
Feb. 3 & 4 Knife Making Class. From left: Matt Day, Chad Nehrt, Eric Thoresen, Frank Vivier (instructor), Syndre Edwards, Heidi Edwards, Harold Gillman & Nick Armentrout
Chad Nehrt orf South Portland works at the belt sander on his newly forged knife.
February 3 & 4 Class, Student Knives
February 3 & 4 Class: Student Knives
February 24 & 25: File Work
Harold Gillman works on his first knife on day two after forging it on day one of the class.
Heidi Edwards took this knife making class with her seventeen year old daughter.
Frank Vivier instructor waits with student Eric Thoresen's blade to heat up for the quench. We use Wesson oil.



Thursday, January 18, 2018

The Iceman Cometh: Ice Harvesting on Fields Pond

On Sunday, January 28, 2018, 10AM-3PM, Curran Homestead Village at Fields Pond, 372 Fields Pond Rd., Orrington will have its Family Ice Harvest on Fields Pond. Brewer Historical Society will be sharing some local ice harvesting history at this event in the Curran farmhouse as well. Those who wish to help in the event’s preparation should be at the Curran Village on Saturday, 10AM-1PM. The event has been an annual opportunity for individuals and families to step back in time and experience first-hand participation in the seasonal practice of taking in a “crop” of ice with authentic ice harvesting tools for the last eight winters. This free, public event will also include rides on an authentic bob sleigh drawn by John Boyce of Lee, Maine’s team of Belgian draft horses, Amos and Andy ($5 per ride). We will have our first souvenir ice delivery card available solely to volunteers and participants out on the ice; the ice delivery card of the past hung in a window of your home in the age of ice delivery to indicate to the delivery man how much ice you wanted carried into your home for the family ice box. This is suitable for framing as it was printed by our letterpress printing instructor Mark Matteau of Dunstan Press, Scarborough, for our February 24-25 offering of a letterpress printing class at our Newfield campus.

New this year will be a demonstration of a horse team hooked up to an ice groove that will cut a grid into the surface of the ice as was done in the past. There will be blacksmithing at the smithy and chili and corn chowder cooking on the wood stove in the farmhouse for purchase. Bring your snowshoes, if you like, as there is plenty of wide open space and woods to roam. For more information, call (207) 205-4849 or (207) 745-4426, or visit our website: or our Facebook page.

Much of traditional ice harvesting was done with hand tools but horses were fitted with horseshoe calks to allow them to grip the ice surface for travel. Horses removed snow from the ice surface with a pulled scraper. They also pulled an ice groove (Looks like a multi-blade plow). The ice groove cut into the ice to the depth of seven-inch. Ice workers would subsequently saw by hand the remainder of the ice depth, which might be as much as 15-20 or more inches depending on how cold it had been. There could be two or three harvests in a winter. Horses were sometimes fitted with a knotted harness around their necks which would be pulled by the handler temporarily cutting off air to the horse’s lungs and preventing water from entering if they fell through the ice. This prevented the horse from drowning until it could be pulled from the freezing water; sometimes horses did drown.

Both the small farmer and commercial concerns like the Hanscoms of Orrington and Getchells of Brewer, the latter still produces and retails artificial ice, had crews on both fresh water lakes, ponds and rivers. The Penobscot and the Kennebec were two of the leading sources of natural ice in the northeast in addition to New York’s Hudson River. Ice harvesting was among the top five industries in Maine at one time. The Hanscoms continued to take in crops of ice from Fields Pond until the 1940s. Clarence Dyer of Brewer remembers harvesting ice for the Hanscoms on Fields Pond during the winter of 1941-1942. When Dyer returned from his service in the South Pacific the Hanscom’s were no longer cutting ice from the pond and taking it by horse team up Wiswell Road to an ice house storage building at the top of Copeland Hill in Orrington. The Currans also took in crops of ice for their dairy as they sold butter and other products requiring refrigeration. "We hope to one day restore the ice house building on the Curran property so that we might store the ice we take in each year. We do have an ice box in the Curran farmhouse kitchen that we fill with an ice cake as the climax to this annual event. Our goal is to have the ability to use that ice box year-round using our harvested ice as a teaching tool, and dreams like this could become a reality with sponsorship," said Robert Schmick, Curran's museum director.

Curran received a 2017 Narragansett Number One Foundation grant to build an ice house at its Newfield campus as it has an ice harvest on the Mill Pond there a week after this Fields Pond event. The ice house will be constructed this winter, and it will serve as  storage for  the ice harvested this year for year-round hands on learning experiences especially for young visitors. Bill Wilkins of Charleston, a Curran board member, donated an antique, insulated ice house door recently, and Fred Kircheis of Carmel donated a dozen cork panels from a former ice house from Bucksport for its construction.

Each year the Curran cuts a hole into Fields Pond not far from the water’s edge. Although it usually does this harvest at the end of January or the beginning of February the ice conditions are unpredictable. There were years with good crops and bad crops both past and present. Some years there are 20 inches of clear ice while others, including last year, have variations in the quality of the cakes cut. There were layers of cloudy ice and clear ice reflecting thaws, cold spells, and snowfall. Commercial ice harvesters didn’t wait until the day before the harvest to clear snow from their harvest site; they would keep it clear throughout the winter to improve the quality of the ice; snow insolates the ice surface making for a poorer quality crop. Removing the snow makes for better freezing conditions.

Once a hole is cut into the ice surface at a juncture in the grid that was cut with an ice groove, an ice saw was inserted, and the harvester would saw away from the hole following the straight lines of the grid. Three sides of each square cake were sawn, and the fourth side would be broken off with a tool called a breaker bar. The cake would now bob in the frozen water and be steered with an ice pike to a point where it could be lifted and dragged onto the ice surface where a ramp was extended to a sled or wagon, or, in later years, even a Model T truck, as we have a photo of one being loaded up on Fields Pond in the 1930s. A wooden tripod with a block and tackle hanging from it were often used by the small farmer to take the ice from the pond and get it onto a wagon or sleigh. In contrast, large commercial operations might bring the ice though cut channels of open water to a conveyor system at the water’s edge that carried it into a huge ice house like those found on the Brewer and Bangor sides of the Penobscot at one time.

These ice houses were of enormous dimensions. An ice house that existed in Utica, New York covered many acres and was of such height that clouds formed within it from the evaporating ice cakes; it would rain occasionally within its confines. At the Curran Homestead Village, some of the harvested ice will be loaded onto a primitive log scoot pulled by a vintage John Deere tractor fitted with an example of aftermarket post-World War II caterpillar tracks. The tracks and the homemade scoot were once used both in the winter and warm weather by the late Tom Flagg of Lincolnville to pull pulp logs out of the woods. Some of our crop will be pulled up the hill to the Curran farmhouse and used for the ice box. See you there! Curran Homestead Village is 501c3 nonprofit museum serving communities in Maine and beyond.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

February 2018 Classes at Newfield Poster

February, 2018 Classes at Newfield: Sign Up Now!

Sat. & Sun, Feb. 3 & 4, 9-4, Knife Making Class at Curran Homestead Village at Newfield. We're back with our popular Knife Making Classes with Frank Vivier. Make your first knife and start on the road to mastering this craft in a weekend. This is both an opportunity for beginners and intermediate level knife makers. Using propane or coal fired forges (your preference), we will cut and shape a blade and tang from spring steel. Students will use a combination of hand and power tools. We will oil quench and oven temper knives. Create hardwood handle scales and brass rivets. Students will epoxy their handles to their finished blades by the end of the class. All materials and tools provided. Tuition: $225. Pay to register, Discount for returning students. Pay to register, first come, first serve. Limited to 5. Call: (207) 205-4849,Visit:

Sat. & Sun., Feb. 3 & 4, 9AM-3PM, Beginner's Bookbinding Class. 12 hours total. At Curran Homestead Village at NEWFIELD, Red Barn Building, 70 Elm Street, Newfield, Maine. $150 Tuition, Material and tools provided. Purchase a bookbinder’s kit for an additional $30 or use our tools. Work with professional book artist, conservator, archivist, and librarian Anastasia Weigle and learn to build two classic bindings. Day One: Learn to build a classic German Case Bradel Binding with signature stitches. This beautiful book is suitable for a slim collection of poems. Day Two: Learn to build a drum-leaf binding, a book specifically designed for artists, printer, and photographers. This book opens up completely flat without a break in the gutter allowing you to display an image across two pages. The initiated will review and refine skills to gain confidence in one of the standard bookbinding constructions. Class limited to 6. Pay to Register. We can send you a Gift Certificate! (207) 205-4849, Email:

Sat. & Sun., February 24 & 25, 9AM-3PM. Letterpress Printing Class at 19th Century Curran Homestead Village at Newfield, 70 Elm Street, Newfield. 12 hrs. Learn from a working, professional letterpress printer Mark Matteau of the Dunstan Press, Scarborough in our museum's circa 1890s letterpress printing shop (William Cram's Printing Shop). Learn to compose a chase of lead type using traditional methods. You will ink your press and make printings on a foot treadle or hand printing press. You will complete a number of projects that you can walk away with and share during this two days. This is a good complement to our Bookbinding Class offered on Feb. 3 & 4, and those who choose both with be given a twenty dollar discount. Opportunities for use of our printing shop during the regular season if you wish to grow as a printer. Limited to 5 students ( Ages 11 - Adult). Tuition: $125 Call to register, first come, first serve. Call: (207) 205-4849,Visit: