Everyone Should Cultivate Manual Training

Does this mean we should neglect our intellect? Absolutely not.

In fact, the opposite. We should strive to cultivate both mind and body to become the most perfect specimen we can become, daily.

I came across this passage while reading a bit this morning from Amateur Joinery in the Home (1916) by George and Berthold Audsley and thought it would be worthwhile to share.

There is a lot of good advice here but the above sentences stuck with me while taking the morning walk. “One never knows when life or limb may depend on the expert use of the hand and ordinary tools.” This could be applied to so many facets of an interesting life and is the basis of human survival that has put us where we are for a million years.

I have been using the down time afforded us by the events of 2020 to catch up on an ever-growing list of books and articles I have been amassing for decades. When I was working in archaeology full-time, the hundreds of pages of reading most weeks necessary just to keep current pushed many other interests into side avenues. I hope you all are using your time in a way that works well for you. In the mean time, this book is available for anyone with an interest in tools and working with their hands. It may even inspire new projects.

Click here to download a pdf file of the book. Amateur Joinery in the Home.

Interview Time

Well this is exciting. I got interviewed at winter count near Florence, Arizona back in February.

It’s heavily edited from a much longer discussion but I don’t think I sound too stupid here talking about the Vardo.  The interview is very close-up and tight but you can get a feel for the interior layout. There is a lot of good stuff on the Cheap RV Living website and I’ve been a reader for a very long time.  Check it out.


https://youtu.be/ktkXcXmR96Q

Pleasant to Behold

“And, pray, what can be pleasanter to behold? Talk, indeed, of your pantomimes and gaudy shows; your processions and installations and coronations! Give me, for a beautiful sight, a neat and smart woman, heating her oven and setting in her bread! And, if the bustle does make the sign of labour glisten on her brow, where is the man that would not kiss that off, rather than lick the plaster from the cheek of a duchess.”

William Cobbett – Cottage Economy 1833

A Gathering Saw

Here’s another small project happening amidst all the “real work” that needs to get done during this quarantine.

24 inch frame saw made from Missouri grown walnut. The “hanged man” style flapper is a scrap of mahogany from some repurposed shelves. The sheath here is pine.

I seem to sell or occasionally give away the saws I make. I needed a new one. The last one went into the Winter Count raffle as the prizes were looking a little scant this year.

I went into the workshop without much of a specific plan but came out with this little gem. Just a matter of removing the unnecessary bits really.

Finally, the pin sheath is stained and a canvas quiver is made to cover the saw when broken down for travel. This one is from old,, heavyweight canvas salvaged from a truck tarp. It will all fit into a neat 24 inch bundle.

I want to keep this one but after inquiries rolling in, it may go into the shop (or another just like it).

Be Safe!

For your enjoyment: a Carpenter from 1589, Mendel Manuscript.

Hunter’s Pouch

Kentucky Hunter’s Pouch –

Few words are needed to show this project.  It is a Kentucky Hunter style pouch of a style popular throughout the 17th and 18th centuries in America.  Its antecedents come from Britain and mainland Europe but changed with the times as North America was colonized.

Most of the components cut out and ready for sewing.

In the days before the common man had trouser pockets he still had a fair few things to carry, especially while out foraging in the forest. Men and women have carried some sort of bag to hold their essentials for as long as we have supplemented our inadequate selves with tools. Things such as food, fire making supplies, sewing kit, or ammunition.

After lining with a medium-weight cotton fabric, the interior pocket is sewn in.

The poor man’s hunting pouch is essentially a single pocket bag with one or more internal pockets to separate out the smaller items.

Closing a bullet hole in the hide.

I chose some bark tanned elk from Joe Brandl as it is sturdy but with a very soft feel.

When using real linen, I often soak it overnight in a hot cup of tea before drying and waxing. This gives a nice reddish-brown color.

Pocket complete.

The body is sewn with a welt to create a tight seam and edging is added to stiffen the pocket and flap.

Edge-binding and the reveal of the interior pocket.

The inside pocket makes small items accessible that might otherwise be lost in the bottom of the bag. When shooting black powder, this pocket is a must.

Hand-pinked and pierced binding at the top of the bag.

People have been adding fringe, ruffles, and other decorations to seams and edges for as long as there have been makers.

This type of bag is designed to stay closed without any fastener but it is good to have a way to really secure the flap when traveling. This simple closure is a type that I like for a rustic bag. The toggle is carved from antler and is secured by a simple loop.

Completed bag with strap and buckle.

Finally, a shoulder strap is added. This one is 7 oz. veg tanned cowhide and adjusts by more than 12 inches. This will accommodate most people but more importantly will adjust with the seasons as heavier or lighter clothes are worn. The buckle is solid brass and will never rust.

Typical attire of the early frontiersman. Nearly always armed for hunting and protection, our gentleman here sports three essential items; gun, powder horn, and hunter’s pouch. “Western Hunter.” Illustration credit: Lewis Collins, History of Kentucky, 1850.

This bag and others are available in my Etsy shop linked here:

Sandals

This post came from looking through a few class photos from Rabbitstick several years ago based on an inquiry. This is one of the years I taught my favorite sandal design, an ancient one though still cleverly marketed as a modern style.

I call them saint sandals as they look like something you would see on a medieval depiction of some holy wanderer from Europe or the Middle East.  To me, these are the greatest sandals I have ever owned.

This design is a good introduction to leather working and specifically, making footwear, which can be a bit more complex than most people know.  Shoes really need to fit well in order to not cause pain or damage to the feet so an open design is a good way to start on this craft.

As I make them, the sewing is fairly minimal and can be eliminated entirely with the use Barge Cement.  The sewing makes them a stronger design and I think adds a sense if beauty and craftsmanship to the final product.  It is also a good introduction to double needle saddle stitching.

With a little dedication, these can be made in a long half day and are ready for use immediately.

Thank you to all the patient students who have learned this and taken home to teach others.  I look forward to this class each time I offer it.

The New Fitness Craze; thoughts from 1914

THE PHYSICAL CULTURE PERIL

And how the nation may easily be saved from it.

An essay by P. G. Wodehouse May 1914. Images added by G. Crawford.

Physical culture is in the air just now. Where, a few years ago, the average man sprang from bed to bath and from bath to breakfast-table, he now postpones his onslaught on the boiled egg for a matter of fifteen minutes. These fifteen minutes he devotes to a series of bendings and stretchings which in the course of time are guaranteed to turn him into a demi-god. The advertisement pages of the magazines are congested with portraits of stern-looking, semi-nude individuals with bulging muscles and fifty-inch chests, who urge the reader to write to them for illustrated booklet. Weedy persons, hitherto in the Chippendale class, are developing all sort of unsuspected thews, and the moderately muscular citizen (provided he has written for and obtained the small illustrated booklet) begins to have grave doubts as to whether he will be able, if he goes on at this rate, to get the sleeves of his overcoat over his biceps.

To the superficial thinker this is all very splendid. The vapid and irreflective observer looks with approval on the growing band of village blacksmiths in our midst. But you and I, reader, shake our heads. We are uneasy. We go deeper into the matter, and we are not happy in our minds. We realize that all this physical improvement must have its effect on the soul.

A man who does anything regularly is practically certain to become a bore. Man is by nature so irregular that, if he takes a cold bath every day or keeps a diary every day or does physical exercises every day, he is sure to be too proud of himself to keep quiet about it. He cannot help gloating over the weaker vessels who turn on the hot tap, forget to enter anything after January the fifth, and shirk the matutinal development of their sinews. He will drag the subject into any conversation in which he happens to be engaged. And especially is this so as regards physical culture.

The monotony of doing these exercises every morning is so appalling that it is practically an impossibility not to boast of having gone through with them. Many a man who has been completely reticent on the topic of his business successes and his social achievements has become a mere babbler after completing a month of physical culture without missing a day. It is the same spirit which led Vikings in the old days to burst into song when they had succeeded in cleaving some tough foeman to the chine.

Again, it is alleged by scientists that it is impossible for the physical culturist to keep himself from becoming hearty, especially at breakfast, in other words a pest. Take my own case. Once upon a time I was the most delightful person you ever met. I would totter in to breakfast of a morning with dull eyes, and sink wearily into a chair. There I would remain, silent and consequently inoffensive, the model breakfaster. No lively conversation from me. No quips. No cranks. No speeches beginning “I see by the paper that …” Nothing but silence, a soggy, soothing silence. If I wanted anything, I pointed. If spoken to, I grunted. You had to look at me to be sure that I was there. Those were the days when my nickname in the home was Little Sunshine.

Then one day some officious friend, who would not leave well alone, suggested that I should start those exercises which you see advertised everywhere. I weakly consented. I wrote for the small illustrated booklet. And now I am a different man. Little by little I have become just like that offensive young man you see in the advertisements of the give-you-new-life kind of medicines—the young man who stands by the bedside of his sleepy friend, and says, “What! Still in bed, old man! Why, I have been out with the hounds a good two hours. Nothing tires me since I tried Peabody and Finklestein’s Liquid Radium.” At breakfast I am hearty and talkative. Throughout the day I breeze about with my chest expanded, a nuisance to all whom I encounter. I slap backs. My handshake is like the bite of a horse.

Naturally, this has lost me a great many friends. But far worse has been the effect on my moral fiber. Before, I was modest. Now, I despise practically everybody except professional pugilists. I meet some great philosopher, and, instead of looking with reverence at his nobby forehead, I merely feel that, if he tried to touch his toes thirty times without bending his knees, he would be in the hospital for a week. An eminent divine is to me simply a man who would have a pretty thin time if he tried to lie on his back and wave his legs fifteen times in the air without stopping. I look forward to a future spent entirely in the society of Gotch, and Willie Ritchie.

There is another danger. I heard, or read, somewhere of a mild and inoffensive man to whom Nature, in her blind way, had given a wonderful right-hand punch. Whenever he got into an argument, he could not help feeling that there the punch was and it would be a pity to waste it. The knowledge that he possessed that superb hay-maker was a perpetual menace to him. He went through life a haunted man. Am I to become like him? Already, after doing these exercises for a few weeks, I have a waist-line of the consistency of fairly stale bread. In time it must infallibly become like iron. There is a rudimentary muscle growing behind my right shoulder-blade. It looks like an orange and is getting larger every day. About this time next year, I shall be a sort of human bomb. I will do my very best to control myself, but suppose a momentary irritation gets the better of me and I let myself go! It does not bear thinking of.

Brooding tensely over this state of things, I have, I think, hit on a remedy. What is required is a system of spiritual exercises which shall methodically develop the soul so that it keeps pace with the muscles and the self-esteem.

Let us say that you open with that exercise where you put your feet under the chest of drawers and sit up suddenly. Well, under my new system, instead of thinking of the effect of this maneuver on the abdominal muscles, you concentrate your mind on some such formula as, “I must remember that I have not yet subscribed to the model farm for tuberculous cows.”

Having completed this exercise, you stand erect and swing the arms from left to right and from right to left without moving the lower half of the body. As you do this, say to yourself, “This, I know, is where I get the steel-and-indiarubber results on my deltoids, but I must not forget that there are hundreds of men whose confining work in the sweat shops has entirely deprived them of opportunities to contract eugenic marriages.”

This treatment, you will find, induces a humble frame of mind admirably calculated to counterbalance the sinful pride engendered by your physical exercises.

Space forbids a complete list of these spiritual culture exercises, but I am now preparing a small illustrated booklet, particulars of which will be found in the advertising pages. The accompanying portrait is from the booklet and shows me standing with my hands behind my head and with large, vulgar muscles standing out all over me. But there is a vast difference, which you will discover when you look at my face. I am not wearing the offensively preoccupied expression of most physical-culture advertisements. You will notice a rapt, seraphic expression in the eyes and a soft and spiritual suggestion of humility about the mouth.

Color-tinted image of one of my favorite authors, P. G. Wodehouse.