Blog — Issue Eight RSS





Not Yet Converts

M&T: You’ve long talked about this idea of “subversive woodworking.” What does it mean? RU: Subversive woodworking is about getting people to question their dependence on the glow of the power company. It is partly a Thoreauvian idea of trying to help folks gain personal self-reliance. My ideal image of a woodworking school envisioned an old downtown location with a big glass window in the front. Passers-by could look in and see what was going on, see work done at workbenches with handsaws and planes. The students inside are already converted, but the people outside have maybe never thought of this way of working before. They’re looking in the window, thinking, “What the heck is that?” and then they’ll start...

Continue reading



Back Stories

When the time comes around to pore over our authors’ newly submitted rough drafts, I can't help but reflect on the process for past issues of the magazine. It might be because we print the magazine “just” twice per year, or because we invest ourselves so heavily into our authors’ worlds and spend a ton of time with each and every sentence, or because we intentionally don’t recycle content, but every published article sticks out in memory with a funny or compelling story behind it. Some, you might easily guess. For example, spending days hanging out with Roy Underhill for Issue Eight was a riot. We went for lunch one day at his favorite local burrito joint, then strolled to...

Continue reading



Sabotage

For many of the folks working on this timber-frame project, the axe was and is the physical embodiment and symbol of these alternative possibilities that are available to us. The simple act of taking up tools is a trailhead to the path toward independence. With them, we wield the means to build the world we want to see. It is a small thing to learn to use an axe. But a life comprised of many such down-to-earth and constructive decisions is the framework for a new way of seeing the world – one rooted in empowerment, compassion, and freedom. As one of the CSF carpenters, Florian Carpentier, put it, “[The axe is] one of the most basic tools since humanity...

Continue reading



Is There Enough to Go Around?

My shop power is a mix of human power, photovoltaic panels, and fossil fuel. In deciding how big our off-grid system should be, I have tried to keep in mind Schumacher’s words in his chapter entitled “Peace and Permanence.”  When wondering whether universal prosperity is possible, he asks, “Is there enough to go around?” He points out that the modern economist has no concept of enough. “There are poor societies which have too little; but where is the rich society that says ‘Halt! We have enough’? There is none.”  My system has 500 watts (.5 kW) of solar panel capacity. From this I power lights in the shop and my home, a freezer, a small table saw, charge batteries for...

Continue reading



Connected to Our Resources

I grew up in an area of the U.S. that can be described as prime timber land. We lived directly on the Mason-Dixon Line and about a mile from West Virginia, as the crow flies. I did all the things you might expect when you think of rural living in the U.S. I helped can vegetables from the garden every summer, and we had family gatherings centered on harvesting corn. We children built and maintained hay castles in the barn and split and stacked firewood in the fall. My mother taught us how to manage our garden and pick the harvest. “Pinch this bean. See how plump it is? That means it’s ready!” My father took us on walks on...

Continue reading



Thoreau and the Flow of Handwork

For all his potential hypocrisy, there’s no debating that he knew his way around hand tools. The first chapter of Walden, “Economy,” includes a fussily detailed description of the supplies, carpentry, layout, and furnishings of his cabin. He describes how he first visited his homesite in March 1845, bringing an axe he’d borrowed from a neighbor. He notes that “it is difficult to begin without borrowing, but perhaps it is the most generous course thus to permit your fellow-men to have an interest in your enterprise.” (He also reassures us that he returned his neighbor’s axe “sharper than [he] received it.”) He spent days felling and hewing the timbers for his home, sturdy pine studs 6" square. Thoreau rhapsodizes that...

Continue reading



Lines for Hewing Timbers

To lay out lines for hewing, the timber’s cross-sectional dimensions were drawn onto both ends of the log, with their sides established plumb. The Americans typically used spirit levels to do this, but some of the French carpenters used plumb bobs to establish these lines. Once the ends were drawn, they were connected down the length of the log with the snap of a chalk line, making a straight timber from the natural, irregular tree. In most cases, the carpenters peeled a strip of bark only where the lines would be snapped, rather than peeling the entire log. This served two purposes: First, it saved labor because peeling bark in areas that were going to be hewn away would be...

Continue reading



Watch a Human-powered Bandsaw at Work

Mike just reminded me that back in 2019 we took video footage of Harry Bryan’s human-powered bandsaw in action. Just the other day, we posted an excerpt from his article in Issue Eight, in which he describes this arrangement and how he’s used it in his off-grid boatshop for many years. The above is a compilation of few clips of Harry at work. He swears by the simplicity of clever, human-powered equipment applied in just the right ways, and this saw is a great example of just that. I’ve not had a bandsaw in my shop for several years now, but Harry’s rig looks like a blast to build and use. Maybe someday I’ll have to tinker with such an...

Continue reading



Strange Times

This is a strange day for two reasons. After canceling the packing party because of the COVID-19 scenario, Mike and I (with help from Grace and our families) wrapped thousands of copies of Issue Eight in brown paper, adhered a wax-sealed trade card (done by my wife and me over many evenings), slid them into rigid mailers with a white pine plane shaving, and applied the postage. Considering that the printing of postage alone takes us 8-10 person-hours per issue, this special wrapping process is a monumental undertaking. We love every minute of it, and that’s why we’ve always invited 25 volunteers to help out for two days. But we knew this wrapping would soon be coming to an end...

Continue reading



Last Day to Subscribe for Issue Eight!

  Issue Eight is on its way soon! We’re stoked about how this one turned out. Each issue, our printer has been fine-tuning their work to our specifications of premium paper choice, etc, and this one is absolutely gorgeous ­– they nailed it!   Just wait until you see Issue Eight in person! It’s just the kind of reading you need for your socially distanced time off. Tomorrow, Tuesday the 24th is the last day to subscribe to get a wrapped copy of Issue Eight!  Link to order here:  https://www.mortiseandtenonmag.com/collections/magazine/products/magazine-subscription   – Joshua  

Continue reading