Civil War-era Furniture Reproduction by a Reenactor and Woodworking Expert
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Civil war-era woodworkers Civil War-era woodworkers pose with their trade tools from that era in a photo from 1865 (Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

Woodworking author A.J. Hamler is, like most people, not solely defined by his woodworking: one of A.J.’s major hobbies is Civil War reenactment. In his new book, Civil War Woodworking, he’s found a way to combine the two interests.

Civil War Woodworking is both history and how-to. It combines insight into the type of woodworking practiced by Civil War soldiers with step-by-step plans for reproductions of the sorts of things they might have used. Such plans include a hardtack crate, a folding camp stool and folding camp table, portable bucksaw and more. A.J.’s also included historical photos of these wooden items in use in Civil War camps, a recipe for hardtack and an introduction into the levels of authenticity strived for among different groups of reenactors.

Woodworker A.J. Hamler in Civil War reenactment uniform Woodworking expert A.J. Hamler is also a Civil War reenactor in his spare time, and tries to reproduce era-acurate furniture and other projects.

His own philosophy is that it’s impossible to create a completely authentic reproduction — after all, he points out, back in the 1860s, a pine 2x4 likely came from an old-growth forest and actually measured, well, 2" by 4"; whereas today, purchased pine has likely come from a managed new-growth forest and a “2 x 4” now actually measures 1-1⁄2" x 3-1⁄2". Wood was also locally harvested, with Northern soldiers more likely to build from white pine; Southern from yellow.

Reproduced Civil War-style camp table One project that Hamler was able to reproduce was this Civil War-style camp table which is being used by the 179th New York regiment.

Still, A.J. offers tips for creating greater (or less, if you have other uses in mind than battlefield camping) authenticity in your own creations of his projects — what marks you should remove if you use modern tools, how to apply the rivets that were often used for Civil War-era joinery of two pieces of wood that pivoted against each other, and what finishes you should apply (if any: most pieces created by soldiers in the field were left raw).

He also notes that the bucksaw comes in handy not only for cutting up firewood in a reenactment camp, but also around your own shop and yard.

Civil War Woodworking is published by Linden Publishing; ISBN 978-1933502-28-1.

posted on June 1, 2010 by Joanna Takes
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One thought on “Civil War-era Furniture Reproduction by a Reenactor and Woodworking Expert”

  • Anna L. Quealey

    Hi AJ it's always so nice to hear from other Re-Enactors, my husband Scott and I live in Modesto CA and we've been re-enacting for almost 4-5 yrs. We belong to ACWA and can see our club online at We're part of the Confederate Calvary and are the 2nd Mississippi Cav. We strive to be as authentic as possible. I'd love to get a copy of your book. Does it have a sling chair? The kind you just slide the fabric onto the top and bottom? Thank You A.Quealey

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