Monty Saulmon, a 1964 Berea alumnus and a former industrial arts teacher in the Washington D.C.-Maryland area donated a collection of approximately 1000 tools to the college with the understanding that the tools, some of which are more than 200 years old, were to be used by students, not just displayed.
The Monty Saulmon Early Technology Lab is not only filled with authentic – and operational – hand-powered tools and machinery, but the classroom itself has been transformed to resemble a 19th century woodworking shop.
The 24’ x 28’ laboratory was built and set up in only four weeks during the summer of ’02 with an Undergraduate Research and Creative Projects grant from Berea College, by assistant professor Brad Christensen and TIA majors Carrie Causey, Ben Ingram and Ethan Minney, who had a hand in every aspect of its creation. The beams, posts and 2200 board feet of lumber used to panel the floor, walls and ceiling and to construct cabinets and shelves, came from 16 pine trees cut from the Berea College Forest. After cutting, the students sawed the trees into lumber and them dried it in the Technology Department’s solar kiln. The lab’s computer is camouflaged in what looks like an old slant-top desk, and electrified lanterns hung from the wooden posts also add to the lab’s vintage look. Labels with each piece of equipment provide information about origin and use.
In the lab are more than 100 tools and pieces of hand or foot-powered equipment, from augers and clamps to large band saws. The largest item is also one of the oldest in the collection – a Great Wheel Lathe made before 1800 that requires two people to power and operate it. Only about 10 per cent of the approximately 1000 tools in the Saulmon Collection are currently in the lab. Over time, as tools are researched and repaired, they will be rotated in and out of use.
A computer database of the collection that includes all information known about the origin, manufacture and use of each tool has been started also, and will eventually be accessible online.