"Tina's Tiny Table Top"
A Butcher Block from the
Ridgway Refrigerator Company, Philadelphia ca. 1900
--=o=--
J. I. Nelson, Ph.D. 2009
bottom & links

In 1970 I stumbled across an abandoned butcher block lying on its side in a tumble-down shed.   Now, 40 years later, I need a household without 400 lb pieces of furniture -- and a new friend for my butcher block.  This is the story of the butcher block's passage through its life, and through mine,  to a new home.




butcher block outside the kitchen

Part I;  The Butcher Block's Life
    -      YOU ARE HERE
Specifications  
Boards, butcher blocks, and counter tops
Ridgway Company history
Lumber barons in Pennsylvania
G. Pincho vs. J. Muir
No more farms, shops, butcher blocks (Custodianship) 
House movers
Part II. The Butcher Block and Me
Acquisition 1970
Restoring a butcher block
Gluing a block together again
Putting legs on a butcher block safely
Fan letter
(bottom)

SIZE & WEIGHT

31" x 35" x 33" high,  400 lbs

The block itself is 31" square.
The 2" thick knife holders on either side bring the block's dimensions to 31" x 35".
The bolts are longer still:, so overall clearance is 31" x  37"

The maple block is about 15 1/2" high (originally thickness16"?)
Legs are 17 1/2" long, 20 1/2" overall.
15.5 + 17.5 = 33" high.

bolt covers for 5/8-11 nutsBOLTS:  The original block had four 5/8" through-rods, threaded 5/8-11 (NC, standard National Coarse threading). Adding the knife holders required new, longer rods (again, 5/8-11).  All butcher blocks this size that I have seen have through-rods, but on some blocks, nut and washer are in a recessed hole, and the hole is covered with a wooden plug.  This block originally had cup-shaped metal bolt covers over the nuts.  

Weight 385 lbs  top + 15 lbs legs = 400 lbs.

BOARDS &  BUTCHER BLOCKS

98 pieces of 7/4 maple board make up the butcher block.    

The boards of  "7/4 maple" stock were all cut to 16" lengths.  The boards' widths vary, down to square (1 3/4" x 1 3/4").   The boards are stacked ends-up to form a true butcher block surface of end-grain wood.  Maple is a diffuse-porous wood like cherry and can be used this way.  Ring-porous woods like oak -- the ones with obvious, regular tree rings -- would split.

Plain sawing positions for standard vs edge-grain planks.Long 7/4 boards (12 feet, not 16 inches) from this era were used to make maple counter tops.  Older counters have boards as wide as 12 inches. Gluing (joining) boards edge-to-edge to reach the desired counter top width is sometimes called "jointed flat-grain construction".  The counter top exposes boards of varying widths, some well-figured -- with a nice "grain" pattern, people say.  But "grain" is the wood's small fibers ("That water raised the grain -- the board feels fuzzy." "The plane caught, it lifted the grain and made a small pock mark.").  Pretty patterns that tree rings trace across a board's surface are the wood's "figure." 

From a woodworker or sawmill's  point of view, 12" wide maple boards can only be obtained by "plainsawing" across the entire tree. Boards which are narrower and which do not pass through the center of the tree are all called "plainsawed".  Particularly for ring-porous woods like oak, the figuring of plain-sawed boards is stronger, as the plane of the board intersects the rings of the tree, making conic sections and other patterns.  Although plain-sawed boards are the plentiful, cheap ones, plain-sawed boards need  more careful drying and aging,  as they are most likely to warp.  Most shrinkage in wood occurs along the annual rings, and these are not aligned with either the wide surface or the narrow edge of a plain-sawed board . . . and, they may slant in opposite directions on opposite edges of the board, because the tree was small.  This produces cupping when everything is symmetrical, and horrible curvature or even twist when it isn't.    


Even today, 1 3/4" remains a standard maple counter top thickness.  Counters thicker than 7/4 are made by turning boards on Quarter-sawing a logedge and gluing the plain-sawed faces.  For a 2 1/4" thick industrial counter top, for example,  all the 7/4 maple boards are ripped and jointed to that 2 1/4" width, then glued.  The counter top with this "edge-grain construction"  exposes  homogeneous-width strips with little or no figure, but greater surface hardness.  

Edge-grain construction  is a compromise between end-grain construction (the hardest) and jointed flat-grain construction (the softest but sometimes best-patterned).  Only end-grain construction should be called a "butcher-block counter top" -- "edge-grain construction" is an also-ran, and "jointed flat-grain construction" has nothing to do with what you see in any real butcher block.

The most sought-after boards from any tree:   Return to that one plain-sawed cut through the center of the tree.  Except for the very middle, most of that board is edge-grain; most of it is a stack of perfect annual rings.   Cutting this down the center to get rid of problems (sap pockets, rot), the two boards from the left and from the right side of the tree are called "quarter-sawn".  Normally logs are quartered to make quarter-saw boards -- see illustration.

Quarter-sawn lumber is the most treasured for table tops, whether the finest dining room furniture or workshop counters, whether hard or softwood.  It combines the hardness of edge grain with the beauty of boards having--like plain-sawn boards-- greater, varying width and more aesthetic figure.  The boards are normally not very wide. In the rare, perfect tree, "cheap" plain-sawing yields a magnificent, wide, edge-grain board from the log's one center-cut only.  People paw through the stock at lumber mills hoping to find one.

Edge-grain counter top construction is not only a compromise in hardness between the jointed flat-grain (plain-saw) approach and end-grain, it is also what you do in a world without thick, premium quarter-sawn boards because that world has lost its  large-caliber, first-growth, native hardwood trees.  



THE RIDGWAY REFRIGERATOR COMPANY


The butcher block had a stamp burned into its side and nearly obliterated by weathering.  There was nothing to photograph. I figured out what it said and sketched the stamp in my pocket reminder book for that day in July, 1970:  As we shall see, this stamp fixes 1907 as the block's oldest possible date of birth.  

Stamp burned onto side of butcher block - sketch

The Ridgway  Refrigerator was active in the 1890s.

Philadelphia stock listing of Ridgeway Refrigerator Company.
The text above reads:
The Ridgway Refrigerator Manufacturing Co. Ltd.
formerly The Ridgway Patent Refrigerator Company Limited
815 Arch St.
Stock issue expires 28 July 1902.
Capital, cash, $30,000.
Shares 60, par $500.
Manufacture and sale of refrigerators.
Officers: R. Biddle, Jr., Chairman
Wallis Boileau, Secretary
B. Hallowell, Jr., Treasurer
 
Besides this entry in a leather-bound listing of  "Philadelphia Securities 1892", the company appears in a 1907-1909 company listing has having shortened its name ("charter") to "Ridgway Refrigerator Company," the name stamped on this butcher block.  This fixes the oldest possible date of the block at 1907.

The oldest date I find  for the company itself is 1886, the year two men -- presumably employees --  assigned their patent rights to the company.  The Annual Report of the Commissioner of Patents by the United States Patent Office for 1886 reports that William J. Taylor  and H. J. Chester  are assignors of their patent rights to the Ridgway Refrigerator Manufacturing Company Ltd.  


LUMBER BARONS and MILLIONAIRES

Log boom on US river ca 1926

During the lumbering frenzy of the late 1800s, the log boom across the Susquehanna at Williamsport held back the  world's largest log pile. The boom itself was made of logs chained together.  If your logging venture was participating in  that season's "river drive," you would clear-cut the hills to which you could claim rights ("claim" is the polite word),  brand the logs like heads of cattle, and drive them through the Susquehanna Boom for a tariff .  Your brand of logs had to be sorted into their own circular boom and taken down to the holding pond of the mill  you used for sawing (the "mill pond").  Every step made (extracted) money, and people who fought their way towards a vertical monopoly made the most.  The 1880s were the opposite of the 1980s, when many industries  globalized and "delaminated"; i.e. businesses became more specialized and mutually cooperative,  supported by computerized business practices and a global,  data-oriented networks for connecting them.  

As America first industrialized, whoever owned the  Susquehanna Boom could charge levies on every log that passed it.   At the height of the lumber industry in Lycoming County, 1861-1891, the  mills produced 5.5 billion board feet of lumber. Williamsport became one of the most prosperous cities in  the United States, with more millionaires per capita than any other town.   Men like James H. Perkins, Peter Herdic, and Mahlon Fisher became millionaires while many of the men who actually worked in the river struggled to survive on the wages paid them by the lumber barons.  Some died of injuries.  Williamsport is worth visiting today just to see the architectural landmarks left in the town by Peter Herdic.  To retain control of the Susquehanna Boom, the richest tollgate on land or water, Herdic proceeded to bribe every legislator in the state assembly. 

In big cities like Philadelphia, the flood of native hardwoods created companies like the Ridgway Refrigerator and Manufacturing Company and products like this butcher block.  (Further north, oak fed office and home furniture industries.)  

In the 1860s the state of Pennsylvania led the nation in lumber production.  By 1900, the state it had dropped to fourth place.  Clear-cutting insured that hillsides would not come back.  Most hardwood produced today is low-grade from small-diameter trees and winds up as a shipping pallet.  

The plundering of virgin native-growth (first-growth) forests by members of his own family disturbed James Pinchot, who left Milford, PA, to return a millionaire from his success as a wallpaper dealer in New York City.   He endowed the Yale School of Forestry in 1900 -- the first graduate forestry program in the country -- too late for his son Gifford Pinchot (Yale, '89).  From Grey Towers, the family estate in Milford overlooking the Delaware River, James sent Gifford to a postgraduate year at the French National Forestry School. As the nation's first professional forester, James' son would make amends.  When Federal supervision of the nation's forests was transferred to the Department of Agriculture in 1905,  Gifford Pinchot (1865-1946) was put in charge.  He  served from 1905-1910 and later won two terms as governor of the state of Pennsylvania.  That "Bureau of Forestry" became the US Forest Service.  

PROTECTING OURSELVES FROM THE PROTECTORS

 
John Muir (1838 – 24 December 1914) joined forces with Gifford Pinchot long enough (1896-1897) to launch the nation's conservation movement.  

Pinchot Family Mansion "Grey Towers" water tablePinchot was a utilitarian untouched by Muir's respect for the spiritual value of beauty..  For Pinchot, the world was new, and Man would control it.  Man controlled nature; and nature would support man as he spread and multiplied.  For Pinchot, forests were tree farms -- cut one down, plant another.  If planted trees made softer wood, that was an engineering problem.  If native growth trees made boards with swirling figures, that only made them harder to mill into furniture.  If swirling figures looked different from plain grain, that was only beauty and of no intrinsic value to Man's Progress.  Theodore Roosevelt came to Gifford Pinchot's  wedding.  His wife added an outside dining room to their mansion so that more guests could be entertained as the couple sought the Senate, the House and the state governorship. Buoyant bowls floated the food from guest to guest at "The Finger Bowl"  table (photo, right). The family mansion is open to the public today.

For Pinchot's US Forest Service, "conserve" meant exploiting resources  in (hopefully) renewable ways.  What happened?  In the Dept. of Agriculture, farmers produce soybeans, corn, wheat, with
subsidies Congress cannot stop.  Cattlemen have access to public grazing lands;  and lumbermen have access to forests.   

The butcher block gave us the US Forest Service, but only through John Muir did we get protection from the protectors.  

As co-founder and first president of the Sierra Club, Muir wielded national power and walked with Presidents.  His friendship with Gifford Pinchot ended in 1897 over a sheep grazing dispute, and sharpened with the campaign to dam Hetch Hetchy Valley, which violated Yosemite National Park, CA.  The ultimate approval of the dam was heartbreaking to Muir, who died a year after losing this,  his last great fight.  A national park had been exploited, an entire valley destroyed
 
State power?  The violation of a national park to build a dam led ultimately  to the formation of the National Park Service (1917)  to protect all national parks.  Stephen Tyng Mather (July 4, 1867 - January 22, 1930) was  first director (1917) of the helpless, new  National Park Service in the Dept of the Interior (the Forest Service remains in the Dept. of Agriculture).   A millionaire (Thorkildsen-Mather Borax Company), manic-depressive, and tireless promoter of rail and road access to the parks, Mather understood that the parks' product was beauty, not lumber or dammed water.  The Parks became overrun with tourists arriving on Mather's roads, but that success brought political power, and the goal of cherishing beauty was established.  

Robert Underwood Johnson, editor of Century Magazine which published many of John Muir's articles, wrote that "the world will ... remember the voice of one crying in the wilderness and bless the name of John Muir. . . . He sung the glory of nature like another Psalmist, and, as a true artist, was unashamed of his emotions. ... His countrymen owe him gratitude as the pioneer of our system of national parks. . . . Muir’s writings and enthusiasm were the chief forces that inspired the movement. All the other torches were lighted from his." 

The plunder and pillage of the Eastern hardwood forests got us this butcher block and at least some professional forest management, but it took the stunning beauty of the West to get us a Park Service for preserving our best lands,  not just conserving their resources by exploiting them in what we are told are renewable ways.   ad


CUSTODIANSHIP

This country will never again stack  400 lbs of  rock maple together to sell butcher blocks to the world -- never mind that industrialized pork production caused this butcher block to be abandoned, and caused the market for all of them to disappear -- to disappear from family corn-and-hog farms,  from neighborhood butcher shops (see, for example, the documentary film Food, Inc, available from amazon).  

This butcher block was older than I was when I got it, and it still is.  Now I must  pass it on.  I have lavished an irrational amount of care on it, despite international moves to Europe and Australia.  I wanted this butcher block to be there when I wasn't.  So if doing something that does not benefit you, and you first, is irrational, then I stand guilty as accused.  I hope it stays with the next owner  for generations.  

HAIL, SALE AND FAREWELL: We got a quick answer to our classified ad.  The First Responders didn't seem to think me crazy to ask if the block would have a good home.  There were several romantic window shoppers with no idea of what shipping a 400 lb object entailed, let alone just lifting it.  

"This weighs 400 lbs.  Are you sure you can handle it?" I asked one First Responder, a  Little Girl Voice (Tina) on the other end of a long-distance call.  

"We run a family business, Atlantic Structure Movers.  We move houses."

House on stilts.

I put down the phone.

Most people walk away,  tear down, build new.  A structure-moving company caters to people who have something of  historic value, who respect the cultural significance of things, who understand that continuity of place supports a family across generations.  That is the connection.  My butcher block will  have a good home. I hope they keep it forever.  


 

Part I;  The Butcher Block's Life
Specifications
Boards, butcher blocks, and counter tops
Ridgway Company history
Lumber barons in Pennsylvania
G. Pincho vs. J. Muir
No more farms, shops, butcher block (Custodianship)
House movers
Part II. The Butcher Block and Me     -     YOU ARE HERE
Acquisition 1970
Restoring a butcher block
Gluing a block together again
Putting legs on a butcher block safely
Fan letter
(bottom)

ACQUISITION, 1970  

We conclude with the butcher block's acquisition, and its care and assembly, ending with contact information for the previous (original?) owners in Delaware.

I got this butcher block on the Fischer family farm in Lewes, Delaware, in the summer 1970.  Robin and I (Swarthmore College 1967 and 1965 respectively) were visiting schoolmate Donna Fischer and her first husband Carl F Goodwin (both Swarthmore class of 1968) on  her parents' farm.  

Donna said Let's pile into the car and cruise the dairy queen as she did in high school.  I thought, This is one of those mythical family farms and I want to see it, so after ice cream all around, we set out walking across a vast cornfield with a shed at the distant edge.   The cornfield's rows went around the shed -- no yard, no path, no visitors, the most totally ignored structure ever  built.   The butcher block  was lying alone inside.  The shed  had been a slaughter house for the farm.   Years later in the midst of restoring it, I would find blood between the butchering block's boards.  Being on its side, all four leg bottoms were dry and perfect.  The butcher block wasn't in the mud exactly, but on soggy floorboards.   Perhaps the shed's flooring had collapsed and that's how the block tipped over in the first place.  Slow, silent death, unable to crawl to the phone for help.  

Grand Tetons 1966 Triumph TR-3I had to have it. I begged Donna Fischer asked her parents if it was OK.  They said they weren't raising hogs anymore, so if you can figure out how to move it, it's yours.  I had courted Robin with a real sport scar, but now I had a VW bug to prove I was not only married, but sensible.  We borrowed tools and unbolted the front seat entirely.  My new passenger took up the entire passenger side of the car.   I didn't want to leave either the butcher block or the car seat behind, plus I had a wife.  Robin rode home to Long Island in the back of a VW beetle, with the seat on her lap, begging to be let out.  The VW bug listed badly to the side.  I could turn right at any speed, like being back in my sports car again, but on long interstate ramps to the left I wondered if we'd hear the running board scraping on the concrete roadway before the whole package just rolled down the embankment.  We stored the butcher block in a friend's basement while I finished my Ph.D. on Long Island and did postdocs in Chicago and then Australia.  The Fulbright to Australia spun out into 5 years. On trips home, I went down into  the basement, opened the can of linseed oil, and gave the butcher block another coat to preserve the wood.

We returned from Australia in 1978  to a job at the State University of New York at Stony Brook,  Dept. of Neurobiology, and retrieved the butcher block.  There had been particulate matter in the basement (smoky furnace?).  The  linseed oil had  remained receptive a long time because there was little air movement and no ultraviolet radiation from the sun to dry it.  Instead of the rich, deep wood color I imagined after 8 years of TLC,  the block was, in fact, almost black and would have to be refinished.  After work on the house itself, I turned to the butcher block in early 1980.  My son was at the age when everything is fascinating and Daddy seems normal.  

RESTORATION, 1980

Lorrin & Jerry Nelson, April 1980



1. Down to the wood.bolt covers 5/8-11
 There was no finish to save.  I went down to the wood with hand planes on all four sides, removing the discoloration (photo above; the author and Lorrin, April, 1980).  

2. Soft on one side.
One side (one with bolt heads) had been  the side on the ground (on the old shed's disintegrating floor boards).  The wood is still stained with iron today (blueish black) from the bolt covers which rusted through (sketch, right; stains below, running out from under the new bracing boards).  I abandoned the idea of bolt covers because I wanted to use washes as large as the bolt covers themselves.  Then I would be able to  apply  tremendous pressure to stabilize the block once I got the alignment right.  

3. Knife holder "bookends" with new bolts.
Even with large washers, the softened wood in the first layer of boards on one side might get crushed.  I had seen butcher blocks -- mostly smaller ones intended for use in retail butcher shops -- that had knife holders on opposite ends, so I added rock maple knife holders to use as  "clamp faces" under the bolts.  This brought to wood to 31" + (2 x 2")) = 35", so all the pre-threaded, 36" long rods in all the hardware stores of America were useless.  I needed 37".  I know this never happens to you, but in my life there are always projects like this.  I ordered 5/8 plain rod from a steel dealer, cut generous 37" lengths, and threaded all the ends with the same 5/8-11NC thread -- better than the hardware store, black rods with threading just at the ends, just like before. Just do a couple rods, wait for your hands to heal, do some more.  I had had a college-level course in machine shop practice, but my basement was no machine shop. 

iron stain on maple wood4. Sand top, apply finish.  
I was able to scrape and sand the top without losing the contour because the dirty linseed oil was soft and the endgrain was hard.  I sanded until there was no scratch anywhere from sandpaper, and the old cleaver marks from slicing and slaughtering emerged.  The rounding of every edge began to look optically perfect in reflected light. The refinishing itself -- however regrettable -- became invisible.  

Since I wasn't going to use the block for cutting wet food, I gave the top and the sides the same coat of varnish.  The top got almost nothing -- rubbed on with a rag, not painted with a brush.  The top had been virtually pre-polished by a progression of finer grits to a shiny surface even unfinished -- it didn't need much.    To use the block for food, rub the surface with tung oil or Behlen salad bowl finish in order to add a coat with some penetration.  

5. Be the first in 100 years to re-glue.
To this day, the block falls apart into a dozen and a half big hunks and several smaller pieces.  It is not [re-]glued.  The breaks are mostly along the old glue lines, which have failed from age and dampness in the slaughter shed, but some splits are right through the boards.


  

Butcher Block serface is saddle-shaped  Butcher Block serface shows cleaver marks 
click either image to enlarge
Men worked at each corner, leaving the worn surface saddle-shaped (left).
Nails hammered into the block to hold a rag made the chips at the edge.
The surface still shows the marks of old cleaver blows (right).


STEWING  OVER  GLUING


Butcher block of 98 blanks - bottom view  
click to enlarge

Chalk lines trace the chunks into which the butcher block falls apart.
One or two breaks cross a (broken) board.
The pencil numbers on the 98 boards that make the block are repeated in red on the photo.
The legs are keyed A-B-C-D going counterclockwise.
Hammer marks on the bottom commemorate my efforts to get the top even.  

20-foot SeaLand containersGLUING:  I was chicken to glue the block back together.  My excuse was that I might move, and yes, the whole thing did go to Germany  with us, but we traveled with His and Hers SeaLand containers and didn't need to take any furniture apart.  The real reason for not re-gluing was that I didn't know if I'd ever get the top perfect.  You must accept a corner on an individual piece (or two) that cannot line up because it became misaligned during use and that corner got rounded off.  Now that it's perfect -- now that we know all pieces can slide into alignment  -- I say, Glue it.  

Use only animal or  "liquid hide glue," as a curator or restorer of any piece of antique furniture would.

EXPANSION/CONTRACTION  AS  THE  SEASONS  ROLL:
 :  The wood "works".  Even with air conditioning, the block expands in summer and contracts during the dry winter heating season.  If you don't tighten the bolts as winter sets in,  you may lose it.  If you forget to loosen a sixth-turn (15 mills) every once in a while in summer, the washers will crush their way into the knife holders as the massive wood object expands.  When that happens,  the block has changed shape -- permanently.  During the next winter contraction, it will be looser.  If the block were glued, the bolts wouldn't have to be tight enough to cause a "summer expansion crush".      Everything's OK so far, but glued would be simpler in the end.  


Butcher block legs  
click to enlarge

Putting butcher block legs on - tilt



  
PUTTING  THE  LEGS  ON
  
If you just put the legs on and expect to tilt the block back up, then you need guys prepared to lift 400 lbs of dead weight.  And there is no hand purchase.  This means your guys should have canvas belts (like piano movers) and know how to use them.  




Raising 385 lb butcher block with wooden wedges I made a support that went under the knife holders, and had my helpers in Germany put the block up on the supports. I raised the block  3 more inches with two pairs of wedges to get the legs into their holes, then lowered the block to drive the legs in.  After adjusting the legs' fox tail wedges for a tight fit for each leg (see below), I took the supports away.  

You could bring this technology from the age of the Pharaohs to the Industrial Age by creating a support with enough free space for a couple hydraulic (car) jacks -- see diagram.  





 foxtail wedged legs of butcher block




4x4 stock is turned  down to a 2" diameter "dowel" to fix each leg in place.  The 3" long dowels slides into 4" long holes.  As they hit the hole's bottom,  foxtail wedges are forced into the dowel, locking the leg tight.  The length dimensions are very critical.  The legs are keyed to their holes and the wedges can't trade legs.  You shouldn't be satisfied with anything less than a perfectly tight leg -- no wobble -- so put half a 3x5 file card folded into the bottom of the hole to push harder on the wedge and lock the leg a little tighter.  Move up gradually.  If you overdo it, the leg will lock before it is seated and you may not be able to get it out.  Rub the dowels down with an old candle if you can't find beeswax.  Believe me, making a 2" diameter dowel slippery so you can position it is not a problem.  It will lock up like solid steel when you get the wedge (& file-card filler) right.     





foxtail wedging of butcher block leg      bad orientation for butcher block leg     butcher block leg good orientation

The foxtail wedge runs obliquely inside the leg, corner to corner.  With the tops of the legs aligned with the corner of the butcher block itself, we find a bad and a good orientation  for the wedge.  The bad orientation splits the corner out of the block; the good orientation puts pressure against the tensile strength of the steel bolt on one side, and against a long stack of boards on the other side.  

blind foxtailed mortise and tenon joint    through, foxtailed mortise and tenon joint  
Blind (left) and exposed or "through" (right) foxtail-wedged mortise & tenon joints.  

The foxtail wedged joint is traditional in furniture joinery.  A century ago, it was often "blind" (hidden) as the leg joints of the butcher block are.  In  modern times, through-joints are more common; the fox-tailed mortise and tenon joint is considered decorative.  (In a mortise and tenon joint, the tenon is the "tongue" that sticks into or through the other piece being joined.)  

THE  OWNERS BEFORE  1970

The block was on the family farm of Donna Elaine Fischer (Swarthmore College, Class of 1968)
Alumni Office address in 2009:
10 Lighthouse Way
Lewes, Delaware 19958
tel (302) 645-7922
Signed up for 40th reunion in 2008.

Sometimes goes by Donna Fischer-Scrivo, taking the name of her 2nd husband.

The Fishers,  a  Quaker family, have lived in Lewes at least since the Revolutionary War. If we can get in touch with Donna, we could learn if she is part of that family but uses a variant on the spelling of "Fisher", or whether the names are just a coincidence.  All of us (Donna and her first husband, Robin & I) certainly met at a Quaker-founded institution, Swarthmore College.  In any event, the length of time her family owned the farm property would be helpful for dating this butcher block.  The date her father or grandfather  launched into corn and hog farming points to the date a butcher block became needed and might have been acquired.  As noted above, this butcher block  is not older than 1907, based on the variant of the company name once stamped on it.  
--end

31", 400 lb butcher block ca. 1907


FAN LETTER (thank you!)
Date: Mon, 4 Apr 2011 
Subject: RE: butcher block story
From: LM
To: jerry-va@speakeasy.net
RE: http://www.nerdylorrin.net/jerry/r+j/MyButcherBlk/ButcherBlk.html

I just had to thank you for your wonderful write up on your old butcher block.  I fell in love with one myself, back in my early 20's, and saved it from an old home in Corktown outside of downtown Detroit.  I'm still amazed that I managed to get it out of the 1800's house it was in; however, we broke the dowels on two legs in the process.  It sat uncared for at an old boyfriend's house for years, without oil, laying on its side under a staircase.

Fastforward to present day- I managed to get it to my current house, legs still useless.  I remade the dowels, and got into a heated debate with every available strong man on the best way to get them on and get the block upright.  A quick google search produced your webpage, and, with a little luck and ingenuity, we got the block standing again last night.  I attached two pics of the massive thing, just because I'm excited to share.

Thank you again for the wonderful read on the restoration and history! 
--end

Old rectangular maple butcher block, early 1900s  


top of this page ("A Butcher Block from Ridgway Refrigerator Co.")
Part I;  The Butcher Block's Life
Specifications
Boards, butcher blocks, and counter tops
Ridgway Company history
Lumber barons in Pennsylvania
G. Pincho vs. J. Muir
No more farms, shops, butcher block (Custodianship)
House movers
Part II. The Butcher Block and Me
Acquisition 1970
Restoring a butcher block
Gluing a block together again
Putting legs on a butcher block safely
Fan letter  
YOU  ARE  HERE
home for this Website (such as it is)  UCAN RETURN w/BackButton

Suggestions for changes, fixes:  jerry-VA  at  removethistext speakeasy dot net 
Rev 4Nov09; 17Jun2016 text flow/ambiguities; fan mail begun