Reclaiming America.

Some of the most beautiful lumber I have ever seen was felled over a hundred years ago and was put into an attic.  Unfortunately, it wasn't for sale and if I had taken it, the building I was in would have collapsed.  The lumber stood as massive beams in an old mill I was invited to inspect.  Wood that is nearly impossible to get anymore often resides as forests of structural members in old buildings now.  It is for this reason (among many) that I love reclaimed lumber.

It breaks my heart when I see a demolition site with piles of old growth timber heaped in dumpsters with all the other demolition waste.  Fortunately for those of us obsessed with wood who enjoy beautiful lumber, some folks have made a profession out of working with demolition contractors and building owners to salvage lumber from old buildings.  One such company out of Cambridge, Massachusetts is doing just that.  Longleaf Lumber reclaims lumber and mills the salvaged wood into all kinds of beautiful architectural goodies.  They also have a soft place in their hart (see what I did there?) for woodworkers.  In addition to inventorying lumber for woodworkers in their showroom, they have started a friendly competition amongst wood fanatics.  The contest is called "This Is the End Grain."  Once a month they will post a photo of end grain lumber on their facebook page and accept guesses as to the type of wood.  They'll randomly select a winner from all the correct guesses, and it seems that prizes will be "reclaimed, wooden, and gorgeous."  Maybe in the spirit of eliminating some of my competition I shouldn't have posted this here!

In all seriousness, however, I really respect what the folks at Longleaf Lumber are doing.  Getting people talking about, and using reclaimed lumber helps connect us to our past and gets people thinking about conservation.  Just think, many of the timbers they are salvaging were growing while the pilgrims were sitting down to the very first Thanksgiving.

Here are some videos I found which are about Longleaf Lumber and the work they are doing.


Just Shoot Me.

If you have one of these:

 You should make one of these:
(Psssst...It's A Shooting Board/Bench Hook)
Here is how I made mine...


"The Ox" - Words Fail Me.

Other People's Videos

I was in the middle of writing my post for this week, and I paused for a moment to watch a video (I'm easily distracted and I'm a short film addict).  After I watched the video, I sat speechless for a moment and put my post on hold so I could share this beautiful piece with you.  

Everything about this short film impresses me.  I am constantly searching for inspiration, which is partly why I love short documentaries about craftsmen, and this film didn't disappoint.  Mr. Eric Hollenbeck owns and operates Blue Ox Millworks out of Eureka, California.  He and his wife Viviana operate an architectural millwork company on the site, however, they also operate a school and a historic park on the grounds.  Outside of the millworks the Hollenbecks also maintain a huge collection of human powered equipment from Barnes Manufacturing, a functioning blacksmith shop, a ceramics studio, a boatbuilding area, an apothecary where they make their own stains and varnishes, a plaster shop, a working print shop, a logging skid camp, a cook shack, a cafe, a herd of animals (including two Belgian Blue oxen), and knowledge and equipment for just about any other craft you could imagine.  I bow before this man in true "I'm not worthy" fashion.  I also enjoy his candor about his military service, his well thought out spring analogy, and the way his school is planning to help other veterans.

The director, Ben Proudfoot, should be immensely proud of his film.  There is a lot going on in this ten minute spot, yet he has managed to keep it all cohesive and at the same time wrapped it in a beautiful package.  I can't wait to watch his other films and I hope he has another coming soon!

Brace yourself for the overwhelming urge to run to your shop and make something.


Give Thanks.

"If you are really thankful, what do you do?  You share." - W. Clement Stone

It is the time of year, in America, where we are encouraged to to name the things for which we are thankful. I am really thankful for a lot of things this year, safer welding helmets, x-ray vision, mind control, twerking, The Lady's Brunch Burger, and this!  On a more relevant note, I am really thankful for folks willing to share their woodworking, toolmaking and maker experiences online.  I wrote a ridiculous article on this serious topic a while ago: World Wide Woodworking.  My belief in the willingness of woodworkers to share, both good and bad experiences, was reinforced this year at the WIA conference.  Nine online pioneers were asked to speak at an "online round-table" to discuss what they do, why they do what they do, and some of their experiences.

This round-table, to me, was just as useful as the excellent class on cutting dovetails.  Kudos to Ms. Megan Fitzpatrick and her staff for putting this together.  So many woodworkers both brand new and "well-seasoned" don't have access to costly classes, conferences, or apprenticeships.  The dwindling emphasis on the industrial arts in schools also means that these skills aren't necessarily being taught in classrooms anymore either.  The large (and growing) group of online makers has encouraged many people, especially of the younger generations, to try making something with their hands.  Those folks then are able to share what they made, with thousands of people, with just the click of a mouse.

The group of folks chosen for the WIA 2013 online community round-table included:
(from right to left in the photo above)
Ellis Walentine of Woodcentral.com and formerly of American Woodworker Magazine
Matt Vanderlist of Matt's Basement Workshop
Shannon Rogers of The Renaissance Woodworker
Wilbur Pan of giant Cypress
Mark Spagnuolo of The Wood Whisperer
Steve Schuler of The Literary Workshop Blog
Chris Adkins of High Rock Woodworking
Tom Lovino of Tom's Workbench
Dyami Plotke of the Penultimate Woodshop

Everyone on the panel was very willing to share successes as well as frustrations and failures.  It seems that just about everyone encountered some of the same problems at one time or another but their message of stick-to-it-ness really came through loud and clear.  Whether you are just starting your woodworking journey or you are looking to add that next level to your skill set, I encourage everyone to check out each of these web pages.  Each of these sites has something different to offer in terms of skill sets and information. One common theme among all of these sites, however, is the passion that goes into creating them, and the willingness to share their knowledge.  You don't, however, have to start a website to share your experience with someone else.  If you are a woodworker or a maker, please find someone to share your knowledge with and encourage them to make something.  The reward is unparalleled, I assure you.