We recently asked about a photo of some bar clamps that was posted on the Toolemera Press website. The clamps were very unusual and we wanted to know what they were for.

The answer is: they were used to glue up the pieces for curved coffin tops. The drawing below (also courtesy of the Toolemera Press) is from the 1920 catalog of the Hartford Clamp Company.

Given the number of curved-top coffins that have probably been built it's hard to believe I've never heard of these clamps. When I was in my 20s I worked for a furniture maker in Boston and two of the older guys in the shop had once worked for the New England Casket company. They never mentioned these clamps to me, but then they didn't like talking about a job where their best work got buried.