Wood Chips and Coal Smoke

Wood Chips and Coal Smoke

Today, the wood chips started flying, and there is sawdust everywhere. I love the aroma of fresh cut pine as it reminds me of trout fishing next to a small sawmill where I grew up in western Montana. Here, it mixed well with the smell of coal smoke wafting it’s way up from the blacksmith shop and from the small forge that I set up amongst the timber framing.

I set up the portable forge near the action so that there could be a melding of the crafts, both skilled, and both ancient, during this event. It is especially fitting since the group is building our new forge building. I started by making small give away items like bottle openers and such and then began making specialty tools and things for the framers. The more tools that I made the more ideas that they came up with. I really like to make tools for craftsmen, especially ones that are not available anywhere else. It is comforting to know that even today, with all of our technology and conveniences, people still have to seek out a blacksmith to have certain things done. I don’t think that will ever change.


As I spent some time walking around and talking to these folks and getting to know them, I got the chance to see them using their tools and watching them practice their craft. A fledgling timber framer myself, I am fascinated by what they are doing and trying to soak up as much as I can. They are also interested in what I am doing and asking a lot of questions as well.




Some of the wood joinery is complex, and while the precise layout was complex and time consuming, the cutting is equally fussy. There are all manner of saws and chisels in use, and I never knew what a wide array of equipment was available. But even so, each joint still must be finished smooth and to dimension with good old fashioned planes and chisels. There was a big talk about sharpening, and all are encouraged to keep it sharp for both accuracy and safety.

Tonight, after a dinner of eggplant Parmesan and olive bread, the guys taught me how to play a game called Stump. As I watched them play, Ira explained the rules to me. Each player gets a big nail and starts it straight into the top of a stump or big timber, and then takes turns driving each other’s nails all the way in. To determine how many swings a player gets he or she must flip their hammer up in the air and catch it by the handle. One flip, one swing, two flips, two swings and so on. Flipping it under the leg doubles the score, and behind the back triples it. Some of these guys were pretty good, and the last nail standing wins. It was a lot of fun.

Tomorrow, more forging and cutting.

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