The Connection Between Artisan and Tool

At the CSF project in Maine, the carpenters’ hewing abilities were even more impressive than their joggling – they split the line with their axes all day long as if it was nothing. It was clear that they have spent many hours with these tools, and each axe’s handmade uniqueness strengthened the connection between artisan and tool. The axes on-site were highly individual and varied tremendously from tradition to tradition, but most were French, American, Swedish, or German. Many of the examples had a bevel on only one side. The idea with this style is that the “flat” back (actually slightly convex in both directions) guides the tool in creating a flat surface on the timber.

I wish I could tell you exactly how long it took to hew one 8" x 8" timber, but in all honesty I was so astonished at how fast everything happened that the clock was an afterthought. Mike said he clocked Gustave Rémon hewing the single flat on a 14' rafter at about two minutes. Carpenter Loïc Desmonts calculated the average speed of hewing on this project to be 1.19m²/person-hour. By this math, this means that from rough log to finished timber, an 8" x 8" x 12' post took somewhere around three hours to produce.

–Joshua A. Klein, excerpt from “Showing Us What is Possible: A New Vision of Work from Charpentiers Sans Frontières” in Issue Eight


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