Carpenter Shop

Old Cowtown Museum Tour

Carpenter Shop

Wichita, Kansas 67203, United States

Created By: Old Cowtown Museum


The Carpenter Shop, located in the Business District of Old Cowtown Museum, represents a finish carpenter or cabinet maker shop in post‑railroad Wichita.

A finish carpenter required both skill and experience. Some of the work done in the Carpenter Shop would have included custom made furniture, doors, window frames, decorative trim, and exterior and interior molding for buildings.

In addition, the finish carpenter and cabinet maker shops often supplied undertakers with coffins and other wooden necessities of that business. In addition to finish carpenters, the carpentry trade in general was in demand during the 1870s. Those employed in the trade included day‑labor carpenters, contract builders, lumberyard operators, and planing mill workers. Wages were usually relatively high by 19th century standards.

When early settlers came to the Wichita area, the only indigenous wood of any construction merit were cottonwood trees. The earliest settlers had to have milled lumber brought by wagon from Emporia or Leavenworth, Kansas. When the Osage Trust Lands, on which the settlement of Wichita was located, became available for sale in 1870, Wichita was incorporated as a town.

As a result Wichita experienced a small land and building boom. After the railroad came to Wichita in 1872, the expansion of commercial and residential building increased. The railroad also facilitated an increase in the number of local lumber mills, carpenter shops, skilled woodworkers, and a regular supply of lumber and other building materials.


Most of the tools in this shop are powered by hand. Many larger shops had tools powered by line shafts, linked to steam engines. Line shafts were shafts that ran below the ceiling with large pulley wheels attached to them. Belts could be connected to the flywheel on tools such as the rip saw so that it would not need to be powered by hand.

Of the hand tools displayed, here are a few of the most important ones used.

The top shelves on the west side hold molding planes. Each plane was designed to cut a different type of molding. The shape at the bottom of each plane is the shape the molding it would cut.

The lumber used in this type of shop was usually rough and would first have to be smoothed with a heavy smoothing plane, like the ones leaning against the wall on the work benches.

Drill presses were used to drill holes for wooden pegs in order to fasten the corners of large pieces of furniture.

The foot operated jigsaw was used to make curved cuts on pieces of furniture and decorative trim.

The mortise machine was used for making the mortise half of a mortise and tendon joint. Such a joint would be used to fasten a table skirt to a table leg. With this tool the carpenter could chisel a square slot in the table leg into which the tendon half of the joint would be fitted.

The shave horse was used to hold wood while worked with a draw knife. The wood could be held in place with the foot, allowing both hands to be free. At the same time, since the wood being worked on was held in place with "foot pressure" it could quickly be readjusted to another angle for shaving.

The hand powered rip saw cuts boards to the desired width. It cuts boards straight and square. The saw was guoted to do the work of 3 men replaces hand sawing.

This point of interest is part of the tour: Old Cowtown Museum Tour


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