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Working in Circles

I hate working in circles. There once was a time that I came at woodworking as an artist – I wanted to experience, to play, to create unfettered by time or convention. Back then I just wanted to be in the shop, regardless of what I accomplished. I loved making shavings and agonizing over tight-fitting dovetails. During the past few years, though, as I’ve learned to walk in the footsteps of the craftsmen before me, I’ve grown weary of this kind of meandering.  Any good student of historic furniture making will tell you that apprenticeship-trained, full-time cabinetmakers didn’t fool around at their workbenches. As they set out to tackle yet another table build for another customer, they had a construction...

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2x4s and Planned Obsolescence

Author Michael Pollan might be known for his bestsellers on humankind’s relationship with food (such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma or The Botany of Desire), but before he penned either of those books, he wrote about building a house. Specifically, he envisioned a Thoreauvian writing cabin that he would build with his own hands, although he was (in his words) "a radically unhandy man.” My wife found a copy of A Place of My Own in a secondhand store, and I’ve found it entertaining – especially in light of the barn we’ve been dismantling over the past week-and-a-half. Pollan takes his reader through a brief history of building in this country, discussing both architectural styles and construction methods. His cabin was of...

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May it Live on

  These days, even Monday morning is all about heavy lifting. I met Mike U and Mike C at the worksite with a U-Haul bright and early this morning to haul the timbers and sheathing back home. It truly was a backbreaking way to start the week, but a rewarding one for sure. To my mind, piles of ancient timbers awaiting restoration are an embodiment of Ruskin’s vision for artisans to “build for ever.” Timeless craftsmanship of this sort is worth preserving.   When a frame well into its third century of use can be given a new life of sheltering the next generation, we participate in historic continuity – “tradition,” if you will. My children will live and grow...

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Now Just Hauling

  We got it all down by the end of the day. All went well until the last wall, which was lowered slowly but awkwardly. We’ll be in for a little repair but nothing too catastrophic. Thankful to have it all down. Now just hauling the timbers home and worksite clean-up. – Joshua  

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Intense.

This week has been intense so far. We have all been pushing the available light hours this week trying to get this barn frame disassembled in an orderly and efficient manner. On Tuesday, I pulled sheathing while Julia, Eden, and our friend Rachel de-nailed the boards as they came off. I also began taking down a few of the addition’s sawn rafters. As progress moved along on the barn, Mike C was back at home negotiating an Issue Eleven freight shipment debacle. Delay after delay. Wrong phone numbers. No one knows what’s going on. The driver left. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe not. But MC is persistent and was finally able to get them to deliver yesterday morning and got it all...

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The Process is the Product

“I often think about what [hand tools] could mean for the future of our society. I envision this muscle-powered, healthy, kind-to-the-environment, kind-to-your-neighbors way of life – it’s just a better thing all around for you, for your health, and for the planet’s health. And even in the immediate, hand tools are relatively quiet and peaceful. And human-powered tools give feedback that you can respond to with every nuance of the tool – that’s where skills are developed. I did an event at Williamsburg once – it was set up like a wine tasting, but for hand tools. The idea was to have “10 Sensual Experiences in Woodworking” – 10 stations with tasks like shaving with a drawknife or boring a...

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This is the Last One. I Swear.

I can admit that some people might think I have a problem with my relationship to timber-framed buildings. My woodshop is a 1790s Vermont frame, my blacksmith shop is a hand-hewn Charpentier sans Frontières frame, our newly built cottage is a modern rough-sawn frame I bought third hand from a friend, and six years ago, my wife Julia and I took down an 1810-ish cape cod house to restore for our home. When we took it down, we swept in to save it from bulldozing, but we were not ready to put it up right then. We knew we needed at least few years of preparations to get things in our life ready for such an undertaking. We’re finally ready....

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Spoon Carving: The Gateway Drug

“Spoon carving has often been jokingly called the “gateway drug” into green woodworking – and for good reason. Often, after carving your first few spoons, the allure of other greenwood projects is hard to resist. Other cooking utensils are an obvious progression, but there are also carved cups and bowls, coat hooks from small limb crotches, and shrink pots. One of the beauties of green woodworking is its connection to the past, in which wood was the material of choice for everyday objects. Learning to make things that we use in our daily lives is a great feeling. We can drink our tea, hang our coats, or store dry goods for later use, in and with the wooden things we...

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"The Trade Cards" Poster

Everybody loves a good poster, right? The ideal design should emblazon your wall with inspiration or beauty – a gorgeous photograph or thoughtful statement, rather than your sister’s old “MMMBop” poster from the ‘90s. In celebration of Mortise & Tenon Magazine’s first 10 issues, we’re releasing this beautiful image of all 10 issues’ wax-sealed trade cards, laid out on the M&T workshop’s wide pine floors, in poster form. The image was technically quite difficult to capture, requiring a complicated sliding platform (built out of rough lumber, of course) to keep the camera in plane to take multiple images. These were seamlessly spliced together, and the result is impressive: The wax seals and card edges seem to leap from the poster...

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