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					The Country
  Craftsman
     Written by Janice Arinello
    The Country
      Craftsman
         Written by Janice Arinello




4
Jerome Rooney’s barn harkens back to an
eighteenth century woodshop. The warmth of a
cast iron boxwood stove, the smell of wood
shavings, and the rows of hand tools lining his
workbench combine to create the workshop of the
Country Craftsman.

Whether he is painstakingly refurbishing an antique
fire engine or steaming and bending the sack back
of a Windsor chair, Rooney is at home in his
workshop in Tuftonboro, N.H. “We retired up here
in 1980, and I haven’t stopped working yet,” said
Rooney. Prior to settling in Tuftonboro, Rooney
lived and worked in Littleton, Mass.

Rooney began his creative career in the military during     Jerry investigates a model plane owned
                                                          by Ann and George Hackl. It is in the
the early 1940s. He painted pictures of the wives and
                                                                shop for service and minor repairs.
girlfriends of the pilots on their planes. More formal
training began a few years later when he learned how to
paint signs. “When I got out of the service in 1945, I went
to school in Boston to learn how to do that,” Rooney explained.

He began woodworking shortly after, and in 1949 he established himself as a furniture
craftsman by trade. Windsor chairs are his specialty. Rooney takes great pride in the
eighteenth century methods he employs to create his faithful Windsor reproductions.
His chairs are made by steaming and bending, boring angles, and intricate spindle-
turning.

The results are stunning. There are examples of Rooney’s craftsmanship at every turn
in the antique cape he shares with his wife, Marion. Their home is the perfect showcase
for his work. A wood country cook stove greets visitors as they enter the kitchen from
the barn. The smell of
home cooking and the
sight of original
exposed beams
contribute to the
home’s historic appeal.




Restored steam pumper built in
1873, now displayed at the
Manchester Boston Regional
Airport.



                                                                                                      5
    Throughout the home, there are side tables, dining tables, built-in cabinetry, hutches, a
    writing armchair, and even a spinning wheel – all crafted by Rooney. And of course
    there are his Windsor chairs. The gracefully curved sack backs are understated and
    elegant. The dramatic comb backs command attention with their towering spindles
    and intricately scrolled combs. Perhaps the most aesthetically pleasing Windsors are
    the impressive continuous armchairs. For this style, Rooney uses the complex
    technique of steaming and bending one piece of wood into two directions to create
    each chair’s backrest and the armrests.

    Rooney crafts them all in his own barn, using the time-tested techniques of his
    colonial ancestors. Now that he is in his eighties, Rooney is finding himself spending a
    bit less time in his barn. He is repairing furniture more than building it, which allows
    him to appreciate the fine work of the craftsmen before him. “I like working with the
    old things much better than the new,” said Rooney. “When you think of the craftsmen
    who did it all by hand years ago, there was a lot of work to it.”

    He pointed out several repair jobs in progress, the broken curve of a Windsor chair
    and a loose table leg. He will repair the leg with a wooden pin. “You’ll never know it,”
    he said.

    Among the repair
    jobs in progress are
    pictures of past
    projects, old plans,
    and trade
    magazines. Patterns
    for custom order
    hutches are hanging
    on the walls among
    various table legs
    and chair spindles.
    On the adjacent
    wall there is an
    unexpected
    addition to the
    Country
    Craftsman’s
    workshop –
    an example of Rooney’s exquisite painting for one of the seven antique steam-
    powered fire engines and fire wagons he has restored.

    This turning point in craftsmanship began when Donald Hallock, former president of
    the Wolfeboro Railroad, asked Rooney to restore a seat on the train in the early 1970s.
    Before long he found that his barn was occupied by antique steam-powered fire
    engines and fire wagons for a year at a time.

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They came to him looking tired and tarnished, but they left his barn with sparkling
chrome steam pumps and gleaming red paint. Rooney painstakingly returned the
gold leaf to the wheels and restored the dull hardware to its original shine. He
explained that the fire engines had elaborate decorations for a reason. “Each fire
department had a competition with the next one,” he said.

Completions of these restoration projects were sometimes marked with ceremony.
Rooney was present for a parade in Hanover that showcased one of his restored fire
wagons being pulled by horses. He was also present when one of his restored steam
engines was put to the test. “They took one down to Nineteen Mile Bay and
pumped it,” Rooney said with a smile. It worked. Another of Rooney’s restored fire
engines is on permanent display at the Manchester Boston Regional Airport.

Rooney’s fire engines are admired in
public by many, and his furniture is
appreciated in the private homes of
the people who enjoy them every
day. With the skill and dedication
of this Country Craftsman, they are
all certain to be enjoyed for many
generations to come.

Left: Donald Hallock, former
president of the Wolfeboro
Railroad, and Jerry discussing
the repair of a seat for the
Wolfeboro train. The project
inspired Jerry to restore seven
steam pumper fire engines.


Right: One of several
Windsor chairs at the Rooney
residence. This chair is part of
a dining room set built by
Jerry.




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