The Hard Way?

Yesterday I spent the day at a wooden canoe and boat show. It was held at a little known spot in Spooner, Wi at the Wisconsin Canoe Heritage Museum. The Museum has many very nice canoes with some that date into the 1870's and 80's, which is the early years of wood and canvas canoes. At that time they were replacing the previously made birch bark, lapstrake, and dug out boats. This museum although fairly small rivals some of the museums out east. They also have a few birch bark canoes one made by Henri Valliancort who is one of the more famous of builders. I brought along the 16ft canoe I built last summer and set up my wares as well. The day went well until the pouring rain and winds arrived. I packed up my tent but the weather didn't keep folks away. Many folks stayed and enjoyed the boats in the rain. The skies finally parted and it cleared up a bit. Having put my display/handwork away I decided to hew out a canoe paddle and demonstrate the earlier techniques and concepts of woodworking. I started with a hand split ash split board about 2 inches thick and 10 inches wide. While I was shaping the paddle and reducing it's mass, a friendly woman made a statement that I was "doing it the hard way". I've heard this many times over the years so I did not come a shock to me or upset me. I smiled and those of you who know me know that I love to talk about our present relationship with craft and "doing things the hard way" I could not help myself and it went something like this...
"The hard way? well I'm not sure of of that. This piece of wood was a tree just this morning, and it took me all of 10 minutes to split out the plank that I'm hewing into a paddle. I'm using 2 simple tools that have their origins with the early years of man....1000's and 1000's of years old, it's just that they are made from steel instead of stone. If the iron is an issue I could collect the bog iron around my area and smelt the iron myself and then forge it into the axe and knife blade using less wood that I heat my house with over one winter. I'm using the same techniques as that earlier time. In about 2 hours I will have a paddle that I can paddle my canoe here with, pointing to my birch bark canoe which was built in the same way.... 2 simple tools and a few hours. Now the other way I need a pile of lumber, that needed power and a large supply of materials, some glue, clamps, saws of varies types, many are large and expensive and need building to be in, maybe a thickness planer, sanders,sand paper to put in the machines, etc. oh! plus I need power to make those machines work. To get the power..........well that has to do with world economies and very large amount of energy to get the power for the tools to make the paddle.....and even with all those tools and modern technology it will take about the same time to complete the paddle. Hmmmm, what is the hard way?" she laughed as I was breaking this all down for her. She did end up buying something from me and was a very nice lady. It just goes to show that we in our modern time sometimes forget that things can be very simple and fairly easy. We tend to make things way more complicated? Don't get me wrong I have all those tools I mentioned or at least most of them and I use them as well. But understand, I know what the hard way is and for me having the knowledge and skill and an axe is not the hard way.

Here are a few baskets April has completed. Pack Baskets heading to their new owners and a really nice decorated basket for a very special friend of ours.

jarrod4 Comments