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Working with Hands - James E. Price


My Pa's Shaving Cabinet

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My Pa passed on Christmas Day, 2017, and I have since had time to reflect on his life.

I grew up at his side in the world of traditional Ozark woodworking and much of what I know about the subject and the skills I have primarily came from him.

 I have lots of things he made and one of my favorites is a little shaving cabinet that he made in 1940, four years before I was born.

His favorite wood for small projects like this was red gum and he constantly lauded its merits. He always said that it looks like cherry but is much easier to saw, plane, shape, and carve.

When he made this cabinet he and my mom had been married three years and lived in a one-room board and batten shack made of rough lumber straight from the sawmill near Bay Mill Eddy on Current River eight miles upstream from Doniphan in Ripley County, Missouri.

Fortunately, his father did not lose his farm during The Great Depression and my pa had a place to build a shack near a spring which he always referred to as, “our little house up home”. It was in this shack that he made the subject shaving cabinet with simple hand tools.

In going through his possessions I found the cabinet and wish to share the historical and cultural context in which it was made. He quit using it and removed it from the wall of our kitchen sometime in the late 1950s. It is missing its mirror in the door and I will replace it in the near future. When I was a child he always kept his shaving mug and brush, safety razor, and both new and worn razor blades in the cabinet.

The main carcase of the cabinet measures 10 3/4ths inches tall, 5 5/8ths inches wide, and 4 1/4th inches deep. It was made of roughly 1/2-in. stock. The door is 12 5/16ths inches tall. It is held together with little nails.

This is a view of the front of the shaving cabinet that Pa made in 1940.
At the top of the door is a motif made with the juice from black walnut hulls.
It was not stained. Red gum is actually that color.

This photo shows the right side of the cabinet with two of the motifs.

This photo shows the back of the cabinet.

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