About 20 years ago, when I was a young man, I had this hell bent idea that I was going to move out of houses and live in a canvas tee-pee. I did just that and lived in it for about 3 years, including one very cold winter. That was one of the winters that the entire Lake Superior froze. That was a cold one, any way.....while I was living in the tee-pee I was working odd jobs, some of them were in the building trades. One such job I was hired as general labor you know, "grunt labor" general job site stuff, moving debris, cleaning up, and hopefully helping the carpenters. On this job I got to help lay some shingles as the head carpenter was finishing the roof rafter framing on the last of the 6 sides of the buildings roof structure. Hip rafters and Jack rafters...they are the ones that are cut on an angle to match the roof pitch and another angle to meet the other roof member...so an angle on an angle, we know these as compound miters. John, the carpenter needed to fit the jack rafter, it was a little long. Instead of climbing down to get the saw and make the cut he pulls out a small hatchet. I now know the style as a Kent style hewing hatchet. He proceeds to trim with great accuracy and skill the compound miter, with his AXE, cutting right along the pencil line he drew to guide him. I stared off into space for quite awhile as my brain processed this axe thing. I later befriended John and got the chance to house sit while he and his family went for the weekend. The house was built of hewn logs, dovetailed corners, with the laterals (the long edges of the log so to speak) completely scribed to the log below it. The fit was tight enough that the building did not need chinking. Everything in the house seemed to be touched with either an axe, a draw knife or an adze. I still remember sitting and looking up at the floor joists above me, cedar logs hewn to squares, fitted to one another with mortise and tenons....what a thing for a young man to see. It changed my life or at least the direction it was going.
Today it seems like a long time ago, because of this one experience I can say without a doubt that it led me down the green woodworking road. One step after another, reading Roy Underhill's books, acquiring a nice draw knife, buying my first chainsaw, finding a very nice western style handsaw at the landfill, the list goes on and on, all brought me to this place. Presently, I have all the tools, plus some. I've made plenty of things out of wood over the years, houses held together with wooden pegs, boats held together with hand peened copper rivets, production runs of snowshoes, canoes.......I've been a "professional' (whatever that means) for about 15 years. I use both power and hand tools, but most of the time grab the axe before the band saw goes on. This late summer the undying desire for the simple times and simple tools descended upon me. The use of most of my the power tools ended in July. I've been thinking about the simple tools I began with, the mental lightness of owning a few tools and using them well.
I am taking down my shop, which is a quickly built stick framed affair I built 16 years ago and using the materials I can salvage to build a small well built lathe house. This will be for turning bowls, boxes, etc...all pole lathe of coarse. The main shop will be a 16ft yurt, which I am in the process of building. No more table saw. No more band saw. No more thickness planer. No more......dust, extra space for expensive tools, noise requiring ear protection. When I move into the yurt I will be bringing with me what I can fit in my grandfathers tool chest, plus a box of swinging tools (axes, adzes), a chopping block, shave house, and my work bench. I'll be focusing on bowls (turned and carved), spoons, and boxes (turned, bent wood, shrink or bent bark) using mostly if not entirely riven wood.
Keeping it simple.
|hand carved eating spoons|
|pole lathe turned drinking bowl|