After breakfast, we broke into our working groups of six to eight, each with different responsibilities as well as our own truss, to hew, cut, scribe, and assemble. It was wonderful to have the apprentices around. Most of them were young (about 15 years old), and though they were not yet skilled carpenters, their presence greatly expedited the sheer amount of hewing we had to get done. They also added historic accuracy to the project, as on old worksites there were likely a handful of experienced carpenters working alongside boys who did the bulk of the labor for little or no wages. Taking a step back from the action, it was awe-inspiring to hear the axes echoing through the ash trees mingling with the ringing of the smith’s hammer. Through the smoke from the town’s countless wood fires, horse carts trundled past the iron gates of the manor, loaded with wood, grain, beets, and hay – a scene that must have been common all over Europe for centuries.
Evenings were split between exploring the area and presentations arranged by Calame and Sturza. These lectures focused on local trades and traditions and the developmental history of southeastern European axe patterns, alongside presentations by various members of our company on topics ranging from restoration projects to explorations of some of their masterworks. These masterworks are elaborate, seemingly impossible models of structure that they must complete to finish their studies to demonstrate mastery of L’Art du Trait, a system of geometric stereotomy used to arrive at complex compound angles for roof systems and other structures using only developed drawings, without the formulas used in descriptive geometry.
My contribution was to teach a leatherworking and hand-sewing workshop, and many took advantage of the leather I brought to make sheaths for axes, chisels, and dividers. After a few evenings, I soon came to realize what remarkable company I was in. Charpentiers Sans Frontières is an assembly of incredible minds.
–Will Lisak, excerpt from “Carpentry Without Borders: An Exploration of Traditional Timber Framing in Romania,” in Issue Four