What’s New at WDS – September 23, 2020

Everyday Living at WDS

“The sea connects all things…” This week Will Conard-Malley explains how the former
commercial harbor in Wethersfield Cove linked the Webb and Deane families to the Connecticut
River, the Atlantic Ocean and international commerce in “The Atlantic World, Part I”:

Collections A-Z – “S” is for Spills

So, you think you know what a spill is, eh? We’ve all experienced spills, particularly in the
kitchen. Then there are “thrills and spills” one might delight in at, say, an amusement park or
waterpark. But there is another kind of spill you may not be familiar with, and it relates to
domestic life in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Before the advent of commercially produced matches, in roughly the 1820s, how would one light
a candle or even a pipe? An obvious fire source would be a fireplace, but you might not want to
reach in and grab an ember with tongs to light your pipe. A safer solution was to use a spill,
which is essentially a wood shaving that serves as a taper. 

Spills were made using a specialized wood plane called, you guessed it, a spill plane. It produced
a thin shaving that was tightly wound into a long spiral, looking something like a miniature
unicorn horn. A board about 3/4” wide would be used to produce this spiral; soft woods like pine
or even poplar were favored. The length of the board determined the final length of the spill.
Within a few minutes a carpenter could produce a bundle of spills, which were sometimes stored
in vases on a mantel. Sharp-eyed visitors may spot spills in both the Deane and Webb houses,
but don’t “spill” the beans!

Around the Grounds

This week in “Around the Grounds” Dick shows us the new grass sprouting in the areas on the
north and west sides of the new Education and Visitor Center. Most of the hydroseeding has

been done, and the seeds are germinating. This new lawn will give the landscape a finished look
and provide a beautiful view of the backyard under the trees!