Shaving Horses and Portable Woodworking

For bow makers and other wood crafters…A shaving horse is an invaluable tool if you create or work with odd-shaped objects that are otherwise difficult to clamp or need to constantly move around.

This simple horse was created in a morning from a large oak branch blown down in a storm and a couple spars from recent clearing.

I don’t know how I would get half my projects done without one.  A horse, in combination with a small bench or two of the same height can act as a complete workshop that is reasonably portable and adaptable.  Carpenters, furniture makers, coopers, shoemakers, jewelers, and carvers all have their specific designs and no one type will be the best at everything.  Some need to be very adjustable, while others have a very fixed purpose.  With a little patience, planning, and luck a great horse can be built for cheap or free with just a very few tools.

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A Cooper’s Horse.

I’ve collected few images of shaving horse (a.k.a. work horses) images and show some I created over the years.  If you are looking for inspiration or information on designing one for yourself, these should give an adequate starting point.  I wish I had photos of my very first horse but unfortunately, it existed at a time when I seem to have taken very few photos of my own projects and the internet wasn’t much of a place for sharing this sort of thing.

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Click the image to learn what this peasant is making.

In the old days of pre-internet (some of you may recall this with me) there was very little information floating around about these simple but nifty devices.  People like Roy Underhill (The Woodwright’s Shop) and Drew Langsner (Country Woodcraft) had them.  I recall seeing them rotting in yards in the Ozarks or slowly decaying in the back of family barns as a kid. While researching them later, the one consistency I discovered was the complete lack of consistency on their size, shape, height, length, or actual use.  Obviously, every bodger, tinker, and shingle maker had his own ideas and was probably limited by material availability. This ancient tool is as unique as each builder.

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“Goodman identifies the (above) relief as a cobbler making a wooden last sitting astride a small bench (‘horse’). The workpiece is held firmly on a sort of anvil by means of a strap passing down through the bench top, and held taut with his left foot. (Photo: Goodman 1964, p. 184, Museo di Civilta Romana, E.U.R., Rome. Reproduced without permission citing fair use).”

While my first horse was designed primarily around dimensional lumber found in my shop an it’s ability to fit cross-ways in a truck bed (F-150) with ease, it was perfectly functional for what I needed; primarily for shaping bows but also for carving things like spear throwers and tool handles.  Experience and use taught me the good and bad points about this model and the result has been these  better and later designs…

0106This was a good horse designed for the bowyer. Hickory arm and head, poplar cross-stretchers and a long, adjustable-tilt table to accommodate a wide variety of bow stave thicknesses.

0699Another of similar design. The base is the same but is has a square head and wider treadle to use easily with either or both feet.

0658A horse in use.  This is how they are best seen.  I actually stopped tillering for a moment to take an “action” photo in the old shop.

0321Here is another action shot fixing the tiller on someone’s bow at Winter Count several years ago. I wouldn’t normally have a giant, heavy stave leaning on the horse but the photographer insisted on it for some reason. I was just hoping it wouldn’t bean me with a very sharp draw-knife in my hand (hence my switch to the rasp for the photo).

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This is not my herd but that of a fellow bowyer.

Here are a few others I encountered at a bow making class in the Midwest several years ago. I liked the simplicity of these made for teaching new bowyers at the Bois d’Arc Rendezvous hosted by FirstEarth. You could make one of these with nothing but a few well-chosen scraps and a few bolts.

And my personal favorite…

Design was kept as short as possible for transport. The cross bolt where the arm hinges is a salvaged bolt from an old truck spare tire holder.

This design was kept as short as possible for transport while still being practical. The cross bolt where the arm hinges is a salvaged from an old truck spare tire holder.

Higher, more ergonomic table.

A higher, more ergonomic table and a large treadle area make this one more practical for me.

Finally, the horse above has been my more-or-less permanent workstation for the last few years and has traveled many miles around the western U.S.  Used in conjunction with a small saw bench (built Winter 2015), I have a very complete work setup that packs into the bed of the tiny Toyota pick-up.

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Click the image for more information about this project.

With all the gentrification of woodworking that has grown out of some fine blogs and books of the past few years I think it’s important to remember the roots.

Bench hook and tools. The holdfasts store in the legs so that they are always handy.

Not everyone needs to own every tool, jig, or gizmo… nor should we want to.

Few amateurs can have an enormous, dedicated work space surrounding a one-ton French-style Roubo split-top workbench, nor will he need one.  Once you figure out what you want to create, then the tools can follow as needed.  Sometimes, the big projects can be goals for the future.

The sawbench in operation with a few years, many projects, and a lot of miles on it.

If you are in need of a sturdy place to work, a portable setup that includes a saw bench and a shave horse will really improve your life.

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Priorities

“A professor stood before his philosophy class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, he wordlessly picked up a very large and empty jar and proceeded to fill it with golf balls. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was.

“The professor then picked up a box of pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles rolled into the open areas between the golf balls. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.

“The professor next picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. He asked once more if the jar was full.. The students responded with a unanimous ‘yes.’

“The professor then produced two Beers from under the table and poured the entire contents into the jar effectively filling the empty space between the sand. The students laughed..

“‘Now,’ said the professor as the laughter subsided, ‘I want you to recognize that this jar represents your life. The golf balls are the important things; your family, your children, your health, your friends and your favorite passions. If everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house and your car. The sand is everything else—-the small stuff.

“‘If you put the sand into the jar first,’ he continued, there is no room for the pebbles or the golf balls. The same goes for life.

“If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff you will never have room for the things that are important to you.

“Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness.

“Spend time with your children. Spend time with your parents. Visit with grandparents. Take your spouse out to dinner. Play another 18. There will always be time to clean the house and mow the lawn.

“Take care of the golf balls first—-the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.

“One of the students raised her hand and inquired what the Beer represented. The professor smiled and said, ‘I’m glad you asked.’ The Beer just shows you that no matter how full your life may seem, there’s always room for a couple of Beers with a friend.”

An older story but a good lesson to remember.

The Stonebridge Folding Lantern

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Unfolded, ready for use.

The Stonebridge Lantern; a classic, lightweight, packable candle lantern that was very popular once upon a time in the U.S.  The Stonebridge is an ingenious piece of design work as it folds almost perfectly flat for travel; like origami in tin.  Weighing in at only 11 ounces (.31 kilos) without a candle it’s a camp luxury without much sacrifice to weight.  The downside, it only delivers one candle-power of light, assuming a very clean and clear window.  I’ll be honest, we like this stuff just because it’s clever sometimes; and who doesn’t need a bit light on a dark night?

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Rear view, showing hole for wall mounting.

The body is held together by rivets and hinge pins and the windows are comprised of clear mica.  There is a handy hole punched in the back, reinforced with a grommet, so that the lantern can be hung on a nail against a wall.

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Folded for travel or storage.

What kept this little piece of genius from vanishing into the obscurity of time was the continued enthusiasm around classic wilderness gear expounded on by Horace Kephart and other classic campers throughout the century.  Before I owned this one, it obviously saw years of hard service either in the wilds or, as often happens, as a kid’s toy.  A couple reset rivets and a little cleaning went a long way to make this lantern great again.

I have to admit, I don’t really need this gizmo in the wilderness, but I like it enough to pack it along when I can.  If nothing else, it keeps a candle lit in nearly all weather and provides a little warm, cheery light on a dismal night.

Click for full sized image. Maybe a tinsmith out there can make use of this.

Click for full-sized image. Maybe an ambitious tinsmith out there can make use of these plans.

I am considering replacing the mica windows on my lantern as they have been a bit abused over the years.  From scanning around the web it seems that mica is fairly cheap and easy to find for crafters.  If it seems feasible, I’ll try to document the process to help others who may need to undertake this.

Garret Wade Tool Company sells a copy of the lantern.  Click the image below for the link.

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Replica sold at Garrett Wade. Click image for lnk.

Happy trails…

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A Fun Little Fashion Project

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Here is a little Boho Chic bag made from a beautifully bark-tanned hide by Joe Brandl (#absarokajoe). It’s a bit outside my normal style but people have loved these bags over the years. Heading to the Oregon Country Fair, Burning Man, or just the beach? This is an accessory for you. Oh yeah, it makes a a great possibles bag too!

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Here’s my unapologetic SALES PITCH…

This hand-made bag was created by me and is adorned with a lunar crescent and four sea-shells collected on the Oregon coast. The leather is extremely soft to the touch and was tanned with an all natural process using the natural tannins from tree bark. It is double needle stitched with heavyweight hemp thread waxed with pure beeswax from another friend, Benjamin Pixie. The strap is a three-strand braid from the same hide and is very soft and supple.

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The crescent and shells are stitched with real buckskin (not commercially made) in keeping with the authenticity of this bag. It is the perfect size for a day in the wilderness, beach, or at a festival. It is beautiful enough to work as an everyday Bohemian purse in town. I have made several of these over the years and they have always been the envy in any crowd.  Wanna look like the coolest Shaman on the block?  This bag will get you there.

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The edge is bound for stiffness to hold its shape.

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Specifications:

  • Length – 7″ (17.75cm) long
  • Width –  5″ (12.75) wide
  • 4″ (10 cm) fringe
  • Strap length – 58″ (147 cm) to hang low on the hip

If you are looking for the perfect gift for the outdoorsy Lady or Gent, we are here to help you out.  Our new webstore will be filling up as we learn our way through the Matrix.  In the mean time, check us out at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/LostWorldCrafts

Frugal Friday ~1917

Another gem from Erin O’Reilly’s blog.

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Convivial Supper

Happy Friday, all! Made it through another week. I was in the car the other day with The Boy and we heard a public service message about food waste. Did you know:

Consumers are responsible for more wasted food than farmers, grocery stores, restaurants, or any other part of the food supply chain, so changing household behavior is key to reducing the problem of food waste. 21 percent of the food each person buys goes to waste, with the average American family of four spending $1,800 per year on food that they don’t eat and each individual tosses about 20 pounds of food per month, adding up to 238 pounds of wasted food a year.

The Ad Council put together this video on the life and times of a strawberry, a product that’s near and dear to my local heart.

Now, our family is as guilty as the next. Leftovers…

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Ida Tarbell says:

Here is a great and insightful quote from over on Musclehead’s blog by Ida Tarbel.
“Ida Minerva Tarbell was an American writer, investigative journalist, biographer and lecturer. She was one of the leading muckrakers of the progressive era of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and pioneered investigative journalism.”

The Müscleheaded Blog

“If it has taught us anything, it is that our present law-makers, as a body, are ignorant, corrupt and unprincipled; that the majority of them are, directly or indirectly, under the control of the very monopolies against whose acts we have been seeking relief.”

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A Concise History of Home Distillery

I’m sharing this little introduction to home distilling. If you’ve never thought about this before, it may be worth looking into. Enjoy!

Convivial Supper

Distillery.

The science of distillation has been around since 3000 BCE. There are four types of distillation: laboratory, industrial, herbal/perfumery, and food processing. These last two, herbal/perfumery and food processing, are the two we concern ourselves with today.

What Is Distillation?

Distillation is a process of purifying liquids through controlled boiling and condensation. A liquid is converted into a gas/vapour through heat, and then recondensed through cooling to return the vapor to a liquid form.

How Do You Distill?

You’ve probably seen an apparatus called a retort, or alembic, a glass container with a long, bent neck sloping downwards. As the substance heats up, the vapor travels down the neck and cools. A separate container catches the vapor as it returns to a liquid state. Figures III and VII below show two vessels that could be used to distill (1727).

Chemical_Vessels_1727-Alembic-Retort Fig. VII shows a distillation setup. 1727

As you can…

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Cocoa ~1861

A perfect for a wintry day. I agree that once you make the real stuff you’ll not want to go back to the package junk.

Convivial Supper

To Make Cocoa.

Who doesn’t love a mug of hot cocoa in mid-winter? This particular recipe, I believe, is missing a key ingredient: sugar.

I was out of instant hot chocolate the other weekend and was scouring the cupboard for a special breakfast treat for the kids. The Hershey’s powdered baking cocoa has a phenomenal recipe on the label. Will never go back to the instant stuff again: 1/4 cup cocoa powder dissolved into 1/2 cup water whisked and heated in a pot. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 4 cups milk, dash of salt, dash of vanilla. Heat until warm. Rich. Delicious. Amazing. Mrs. Beeton’s version is no doubt equally as delicious, assuming you add sugar. Bitter!

From Mrs. Beeton’s recipe collection c. 1861.

To keeping warm in January!

More Fun Discoveries from Antique Cookbooks

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Weaving Wagon

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This is an excellent idea, especially for a skilled willow weaver.

If you need a bicycle wagon and can get a lightweight frame built, this seems to be a great, eye-catching option.  I suggest watching the short videos on their site as well.  I find their site somewhat difficult to navigate, but who am I to talk with all the clutter around here?

Here is a quick link to the video about the Weaving Wagon:

Click here for their full post  about the Weaving Wagon and I suggest looking around.  They have some neat stuff going on.

https://earthanddotcom.files.wordpress.com/2017/06/20170604_163142-collage.jpg?w=1000I think I would really love to have something like this.

Carrot Soup ~1819

Great little recipe.

Convivial Supper

Carrot Soup Recipe.

Take a close look at this recipe and you’ll notice a small, but important, detail. A detail which may seem minor, but underscores the scope of genetic engineering, selective breeding, and the industrial food complex in altering our mental image of a carrot.

CarrotSoupRecipe_1819Source: American domestic cookery, formed on principles of economy, for the use of private families. 1819

More Fun Discoveries from Antique Cookbooks

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The Appalling Case of the Diligent Scout Master

The dangers of being an outgoing Scoutmaster in the 21st century.  Please give me your thoughts on this or better yet, comment on the original article (or both).  I am very interested yet very skeptical of the modern professional Scouter.

Living Dubois

Joe has no idea who reported him. It’s difficult to imagine anyone in town doing that. More than likely, some well-meaning visitor to the campground saw the empty kayaks floating downstream, and called 911.

As everyone in town knows (who has not been comatose, away all summer, or boycotting Facebook) that incident led the Boy Scouts of America to suspend our long-time Scoutmaster, Joe Brandl. The BSA has now denied his appeal.

It was a routine outing last May, a typical outdoors training exercise for the troop that Joe headed for many years. The Wind River was predictably high with the late-spring runoff of snowmelt, and some of the boys were tipped from their kayaks.

None of the scouts was hurt or even (in the other sense of the word) upset. This had happened before, and was hardly unexpected. Thanks to Joe’s guidance, they already knew what to do. In…

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The Ideal Tool Cabinet

Arranging your workspace and tools is critical, and one of the most difficult things to do. Here is a good post of an excerpt from Charles H. Hayward – The Woodworker. It is pitching a reprint of the book but worthy of a read nonetheless.

Lost Art Press

Fig-2 FIG. 2. DOORS OPENED SHOWING TOOL ARRANGEMENT When doors are opened back flat the position of every tool can be seen at a glance

Fig-1 FIG. 1. CABINET WITH CLOSED DOORS With lightly rounded corners and a painted or lacquered finish, the cabinet makes a most attractive as well as useful item. The closed size is 2 ft. 9-1/2 ins. wide, 3 ft. 7-1/4 ins. high, and 11 ins. deep. These dimensions can be varied to suit special tools


This is an excerpt from “The Woodworker: The Charles H. Hayward Years: Volume IV” published by Lost Art Press. 

A sense of orderliness in woodworking is an important factor contributing to good work. For instance, the bench should be clear of tools, excepting those in immediate use, and when a tool is no longer required it should be replaced in the rack or tool chest. By far the most convenient arrangement is to…

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Feast for the eyes

Sad news, but not surprising with massive growth, industry given free reign, and populations far beyond that which our planet has ever seen.

nature has no boss

The World Wildlife Fund just released their living planet report for 2018. Up front it seems it seem the report could well be  titled the dying planet instead of the living planet report given the summary  states “On average, we’ve seen an astonishing 60% declinein the size of populations of mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, and amphibians in just over 40 years, according to WWF’s Living Planet Report 2018. The top threats to species identified in the report link directly to human activities, including habitat loss and degradation and the excessive use of wildlife such as overfishing and overhunting.”

You can read the full report here.

or here

https://www.worldwildlife.org/pages/living-planet-report-2018

Please pass along the report to all who care and even those that may not.

Photo: Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, 2018.

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Cozy Camp

I made it out for a brief stay in the eastern Ozarks this week.  The rain and cold came back just in time for my outing making it a little less comfortable than it could have been but I still enjoyed the time out.

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I chose to stay fairly low-tech with the exception of a sleeping bag instead of the old blankets and I sheltered under an old military poncho instead of the more usual canvas.  Since I was out, in part, to work on some crafts I packed in very heavily with tools and a few raw materials.

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It’s easy living for the most part in the Ozarks and I think I could happily live primitivly in this environment indefinitely.  There is not much legal hunting this time of year as the furry critters are off procreating and having babies so I brought some basic foodstuffs with me.  I’m back in civilization now but expect to get back out very soon.  Maybe the sun will stay out for a few days and dry things up as a preview of Spring.  I’ll post some follow-ups about gear and some things I’m working on very soon.

~gtc

Swallowtail Jig

Since my playing time is very limited I’ve learned to connect with other musicians via the internet.  Having a great selection of “Play Along” tunes lined up on YouTube has really helped me out, especially when trying to keep up or understand variations in a tune.  There are so many great garage artists out there that it’s easy to pick four or five versions of a tune to really learn it inside and out.  I suspect you would have been a lucky itinerant musician to have stumbled across such an assortment in the slower Pre-Industrial days.

Here’s a fine English fiddler performing the Swallowtail Jig.  I’ve been playing along with him recently and I suggest checking out the rest of his videos if this type of music suits you.  He has a nice version of the old classic Old Mother Flanagan I particularly like as well.

What is the Real Price?

Henry David Thoreau once wisely wrote that,

“The cost of a thing is the amount of what I will call life which is required to be exchanged for it, immediately or in the long run.”

Or, in essence, that in the abstract economy in which we live that we pay for any goods or services by giving up a portion of our lives to another person in exchange for a credit to be spent elsewhere.  We are so deeply entrenched in this thinking that most of us don’t even realize that this is how the system works. 

If we want to eat, we no longer wander out to hunt, gather, or farm our food; we go somewhere, perform an abstract task, and receive a token.  The tokens are then counted out and given to another in exchange for food that they likely didn’t hunt, gather, or farm either.  And we’re in too deep to change this now…

At best, we can remain conscious of this fact and hopefully remember this lesson when we spend most of our allotted time away from our loved ones, our interests, or our real passions.  Who wouldn’t prefer to go on a bike ride, spend time with their children, learn a new skill, or just sit on the banks of a creek?  Instead, we rush to work, ignore our better selves, and spend our remaining hours seeking entertainment and distraction. That’s what we were trained to do.

I’ve been there myself.  I spent too much time working away from home, living in motels; too many hours in overtime, for what?  Even in doing a job I found extremely interesting, I began to resent the time lost from the things I could be doing for myself or my family.

I have no real answers.  Just the knowledge that an awareness of the trade-offs may help us budget and balance our short time here on Earth. I know, just another late night ramble so please take this with a grain of salt.

Do good things.

Caligae – Boots of the Roman Army

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It has taken me quite a while but I’m finally posting a bit about my caligae, the standard soldier’s shoe of the Roman Army.  Of course, the design changed somewhat over several centuries and as the army moved into different environments but the basic plan remained the same.  I have finally field tested these enough to get the gist of how they perform in various terrains and feel on the feet.  A modern westerner would have difficulty thinking of these as “boots” due to the openness of the uppers but I can attest to their substantial feel when worn.  I don’t generally feel the need to wear them with socks but it is winter here now.

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The archaeological basis – Shoes, and leather goods in general, do not generally survive well in the archaeological record but there are enough examples discovered to understand the constancy of the design.  Also, the Romans created a lot of sculptural art celebrating the soldiers, athletes, or documenting historical events, recording the clothing and footwear of the subjects.  As with modern footwear, it appears that the civilian population adopted the style for general use as well.  These boots follow the same essential pattern as the carbatina but have the addition of a replaceable outer sole and are obviously much higher on the ankle.  These are not coming off easily.

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Why the open design?  Well, some of this is educated conjecture on the part of the archaeologists and historians of early Europe but the bottom line is that less is more when it comes to equipping foot soldiers.  Earlier closed boot designs were not as adaptable and had to be precisely fitted to each man or serious trouble would ensue on long, sustained marching campaigns.  The boot is arguably the most important piece of gear to an infantryman.  The Legionaries marched thousands of miles and depended solely on their feet and legs to get them there over mountains, woodlands, wetlands, snow and ice, and across countless streams and rivers.  You cannot really keep the feet dry anyway, you might as well make them well ventilated to avoid moisture-related problems such as trench foot.  The flexible uppers also allowed for an inner sock of woven wool or leather to be worn as dictated by the weather.  In some designs, the big toe is completely open to relieve the pressure associated with ill-fitting shoes.20180219_143655_Film4_resizedCreating the caligae – After looking at every scrap of information I could find regarding archaeological caligae, as well as recreations made by museums and reenactors around the world, I sketched out a pattern primarily based on the example below.  These take a lot of leather, so there was much hesitation and caution exercised during the design phase.  Looking toward the long-term, I chose the best leather I could find which is 12 oz (3/16″ thick) vegetable tanned leather from Hermann Oak.

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Cutting out the parts – There are four essential parts to the caligae: the upper, or body of the shoe, the mid-sole, sewn to the upper, the outer-sole, and the lace.  An optional insole was added to mine from a thinner leather to protect the upper from inside wear and to help avoid the possibility of a hobnail working through to the foot.  I wear a size 13 so a fair portion of a hide was committed to this project.caligaeschnitt

Pattern and Assembly – I apparently failed to photograph my cutout patterns but the one above is very similar in shape and design.  When it is at this stage, it’s a good idea to put a couple of temporary stitches up the back, lace it loosely and test for fit.  I felt that even if they weren’t perfect for me, I would be able to find someone they fit so I pressed on.  Fortunately, they fit well.  From this point, I cut out two mid-soles and out-soles and sewed the mid-sole to the upper and the out-sole to the mid-sole.  You can skip the mid-sole for frugality but the point is to provide a solid base to attach a worn out out-sole later on.

I hope this brief tutorial is enough to get you started on your way.  Comments and questions are welcome.

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A point of departure – The above fragment of a bronze statue depicts a variation on this theme; a lightweight sandal that laces up above the ankle.  If you are thinking of making a pair of these, an image search will find many depictions in art for inspiration.DSC_0126 (10)

Finally, I added hobnails for authentic traction and feel.  If I remember correctly, there are about 113 per shoe.  Warning, hobnails are great in soft terrain but stepping onto a hard surface like a tile floor or even into a street have little grip.  It’s a bit like hitting an ice patch and must have been something to contend with in days when hobnails were common.

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An important anecdote about the dangers of hobnails:

The Jewish chronicler Josephus, writing about the Roman siege of Jerusalem in AD 70, recounted the death of a centurion called Julianus.  After seeing his soldiers put up a poor defence against the rebels, he charged into the mass of Jewish rebels alone. He killed many and and gave chase to the rest the inner court of the Temple.

“he was wearing the ordinary military boots studded with masses of sharp nails, and as he ran across the pavement he slipped and fell flat on his back, his armor clanging so loudly that the runaways turned to look.”  the Jews crowded round him and aimed blows from all directions with their spears and swords … Even then as he lay he stabbed many with his sword;…but at last, when all his limbs were slashed and no one dared come to his aid, he ceased to struggle.”

RS2017 Caligae and carbatina

Here’s the maker taking class signups at Rabbitstick 2017.

Monday Morning Music

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I can’t find any info on this photo.  I think is says Prairie May at the bottom?

A little cowboy movie music isn’t a bad thing.  Hollywood has produced some good music with the vast resources it has at its disposal.  Here is a link to My Rifle, My Pony, and Me / June Apple from the film Rio Bravo (the hot links will take you to lyrics).

If you know the Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, and Martin movie The Three Amigos (a family favorite around here) the first song reminds me of their homage tune Blue Shadows on the Trail.  Take your mind away from work stress, cowboy up, pick up the guitar, and dream of a life on the trails in the Old West.

Giddy-up!

Classical Time – for the Banjo-ista

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If this doesn’t draw in the banjo enthusiasts, I don’t know what will…

I should say it’s Classic Banjo Time.

The modern banjo has ancient roots and shares much with it’s African antecedents.  Its connection to the lute family along with the whole array of drum-headed cousins crossed many lost cultural boundaries in ancient times.  This makes it the perfect candidate for bridging musical genres and styles, from the Sub-Saharan and Arabic music the banjo, with it’s almost ever-present drone string, morphed into creature we know today.  Most non-players only know it from the post-war music known as Bluegrass or maybe even Old-Time Country but there is, and always has been, a broad range of music brought to life on this bright and varied instrument.

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Cowboy Singing – Thomas Eakins

I read somewhere long ago the real instrument of the American Cowboy was the banjo due, in part, to the timing and population of the very people who became cowboys.  Forget the 1950s movie stereotype, most cowboys were freed slaves, their offspring, or poor younger sons of Euro-Americans looking for a job and adventure.  Those who were not were likely caballeros from old Mexico or the west in general; they brought most of the guitarras to the scene.

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Thomas Eakins, Home Ranch 1888

Where I was going with this ramble was that the humble little banjo can do more than Mumford and Sons or Yonder Mountain String Band patterned rolls.  Nifty and tight as they may be, some of us want to reach beyond and find the real soul in our hands.  Don’t get me wrong, these are fine musicians, but really just one narrow style in a giant spectrum of sound.

Here’s a great example.  What could be better than Bach and banjo?

I suggest checking out more of Mr. Raphaelson’s videos if you want to add a little novelty to your listening lineup.  Whatever your instrument, love it, learn it, and expand upon it.

RPPC

Since we opened the post with a banjo beauty shot, it seems appropriate to end with one as well.  I love this inlay, by the way.

The Musician – 1887

By Léon François Comerre, French Academic School.  I think this familiar looking instrument comes from Africa via the Arabic world and is generally called a tanbūr. A sort of distant uncle to the modern banjo, America’s African instrument.

the-musician-1887

The only thing missing is the drone string.

Who Says Bigger is Better?

Okay, in some cases maybe.  This cute little combo caught my attention a couple years ago and I’m just getting around to posting it.  A truly minimal teardrop trailer that I suspect can just sleep two with about one suitcase each. I found it labelled “The 1941 Kozy Coach Travel Trailer ” but a search around the internet didn’t turn up anything confirming this.  My only real fear in pulling this micro home on wheels would be the complete lack of rear visibility.

perfection

A perfect little combination.

All I have is conjecture and observation for this one.  If anyone knows more and wants to share then please post in the comments section.  As a scooterist myself, I’m a bit jealous of this rig.

CMAonScoot

And for some continuity, my great-grandfather on his brother-in-law’s scoot just after the war.

Back in Business

DSC_0119 (7)Greetings from the great middle west of the United States, where I currently reside.  The vardo is in the outbuilding awaiting some much anticipated upgrades and paint.  I have projects and side-projects and unfinished work to complete in every direction I turn; not to mention the fun little things set aside to try on a rainy day.  There’s a new energy happening here and I hope to share the good stuff when I can.

I have back-orders I let slide and half-finished items to put out for sale; three upcoming talks to write, an article collaboration, and more.  I’ll catch up or die trying.

DSC_0045 (1)

All dressed up and no place to go.

Be back soon…

It’s Time for a Change, for the Better…

Hello all fellow travelers, campers, and makers who love the wilderness! 

It’s time for a serious re-tooling of this blog and focusing on the important things in life.  In the coming days and weeks many posts and pages will change, some will vanish forever (they are rubbish), or (hopefully) be improved upon.  Your constructive feedback is greatly appreciated and I look forward to reading it.  It can be shared or not as you choose so feel free to ask or comment away in the space below.  This isn’t a commercial page so I don’t really profit from it and thus, it often falls by the wayside in the rush of daily life.  However, I enjoy the writing and rambling and have made many great connections over the years that I’ve done this so I’m in for another round of adventures, projects, and philosophy as we cross into the new season.

I hope you enjoy!

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Long Term Classes

Well said.

futurenecessities

There are so many options out there these days. Whether you are looking for rewilding, Wilderness survival, Homesteading, How to survive the apocalypse, experimental archaeology, or whatever. You can choose a 4 hour class, a 1 day workshop, a long weekend, a week, or you can do a year, or a season. I have taken lots of several hour to 1 day classes. I have gotten quite a bit out of each of them. However, Every single class that I have taken that was hours long, I had to go back and relearn the skill later. The classes that I have gotten the most out of are the ones that were months long. Think college. If you take 1 class you can say you went to college, but to get the benefit of the education you have to go for 4 or 6 or 8 years. This is so, because…

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