Thursday, December 30, 2010

Getting Down to Business.

Sometimes, to do the work, you have to make the tool that can do the work. In making rustic furniture, or wood art, a cleaver of sorts, and a maul to strike it with, come in handy. With such a tool you can hack away at a limb or a pole, or a plank as you might with a hatchet. Or, you can carefully place the blade to the wood and strike the blade with a maul to make a calculated cut. You need good steel for the tool. The old two-man crosscut saw makes a good starting place here.

This is a blade of my own design. I laid it out, but Whidler was the one to take it from there.

The blade must be hardened and tempered to endure the abuse it will be put to. The discoloration here is from heating and cooling in an exact way, it is an art itself.

Once you have the tool, you have to give it the perfect edge.

Finshed! A hand carved walnut handle is attached with adhesive and brass rivets. I still have this blade, and still use it. Thanks, Whidler!

Another blade in the works. Machete-like. Tempered.

No sign of light. That is what you are looking for when filing and then stone honing a blade. If you hold the edge of the blade to your eye, and it reflects light, you have more honing to do. A razor's edge reflects no light.

Finished blade. Ready to go to work.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Hideout

Folk architecture? The wood butcher's art? Nestled in the rolling hills south of Nashville, this little hideout sits overlooking a little pond. It is the handiwork of a Linton wood worker, although signs of his talented work can be seen in many places in the mid-south.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Meanwhile, Back in the Woods

There was no way we could have made the Linton project happen if it was not that Bud also held reign on a hollow a few miles away. Brush Creek Hollow. It was back at the end of the hollow he lived and worked. Once you leave the back road asphalt and drive on dirt ruts about a mile and a quarter, forde a creek along the way, you get there. Once you get there, you will quickly lose track of what day it is. You step out of time. Bud's shack is a simple abode. Instinct has its own sense of architecture.

The back of the shack sat on a bluff about 12 feet deep down to Brush Creek. Made it handy to wash up, clean squirrel meat, or baptize somebody. To my knowledge, the last of these never occurred.

A simple interior with wood stove. A chair Bud made. A sculpture by Whidler.

Just across from Bud's shack was an abandoned structure. Someone's home long ago. There are many stories and legends about the presence of Jessie James in this part of the country. Some say he holed up in this hollow. It wouldn't surprise me. the area is still full of outlaws of one kind or another.

The sawmill sat down from Bud's shack, along Brush Creek. It began with the chassis of a school bus. Atop the chassis sat a band saw on an angle iron track. It could move along the track, and slice a 20' log up into whatever thicknesses we desired.

Another of Bud's boats sits near the sawmill. I think he mede more boats than he had time to sail. Meanwhile, his horse Dick seems to be wandering down to the creek for a cool drink.

And there were goats everywhere we didn't want them to be. Good milk, though.

A night shot. There has never been a sawmill quite like this one. Hand-made from start to finish.

At first, we dragged logs to the mill with a tired and humble John Deere. Still, there was the task of trying to get the log from the ground up onto the mill. Major grunts were required. If you didn't have grit, your name was shit. Somehow, we managed.

When push comes to shove, you have to improvise. Yankee ingenuity comes into play. Like this home-made rig that could actually lift the log to the mill plane with an improvised boom. Still, it is 'Watch your fingers, watch your toes." I don't know if you have ever been around a sawmill, but almost invariably you will find one or more people missing fingers.

Once we got a Kubota, we were able to improve our operations. We could put a shovel on the front end, and temporarily dam the creek, so as to make a washing pool for our logs.

Whidler wades the Kubota out to pick up wet logs. Wet logs lose their bark easier. Rocks and dirt embedded in the bark get washed out. It is easier to eyeball the log for any signs of nails or wire that might break the mill's blade. ( Many trees have embedded metal because of signs once tacked onto them, fences once attached to them, etc. It is best to find these before they find you.)
Suddenly, life got easier. It is a noble thing to do things the hard way when there is no choice. But, even living in this kind of rustic environment, if you can get your hands on a machine, you will. And your back will thank you. the Kubota made it easier for us to crank out boards. With more wood available to work with, our productivity went up.

Linton and the Linton Casket Company

Linton was an unincorporated stretch of highway south of Nashville. There were a number of dilapidated structures there. Bud Hollars, a rustic woodworker, managed to secure a lease on the whole stretch. Initially, he opened one of the structures as "Bud and Al's Trading Post". Essentially, it was a beer hall with a few pool tables. Later, he opened another of the 'shacks' as "The Linton Casket Company". He had an idea about making hand-made biodegradable caskets for people's pets. Over time, the place was frequented by other woodworkers, including myself. We were able to convert the whole stretch of highway into a woodworking compound. As a group, we operated under the name of The Linton Casket Company. The large hammer installed out by the highway became our collective symbol. We had our own sawmill a few miles away, and we worked only with wood from trees fallen by the forces of nature, or which were cut down by others as nearby land was developed into residential areas.
The small boat shown was built by Bud. It had a fold down canopy so that one could negotiate creeks and streams with low bridges or overhanging trees. (Bud liked to fish!)

A view from the road. The wood fence running around our 'compound', was put up with 'green' wood. That is, it was freshly cut, and not cured. By lapping the boards, and leaving one side unnailed, we could allow the wood to dry and shrink without compromising the fence. Building shown is one of the studio/workshop areas.

Bud and Sam in back of Sam's workshop.

The small structure to the left was a 'concession stand' we threw together for an up-coming show. We would offer hot dogs, sandwiches, and cold drinks there for visitors. Also note the wood fence that continues around the perimeter of our 'town', and a few wood sculptures on pedestals; the work of sculptor, Robert Seigenthaler.

Robert Seigenthaler and wife Suzy relaxing on the deck of one of Bud's hand-made fishing boats.

Big Red was indispensable to our operation. It was a reliable old tilt-back flat bed with a power wench that enabled us to gather and transport the fallen trees we gathered. Behind Big Red is 'Linton City Hall', a small hand-built cabin where we often gathered in the morning and talked about our respective projects or planned future shows.

My workshop and/or gallery area was once a horse stall for Bud's horse, Dick. We enclosed and floored it, and added a sleeping loft overhead. The little guy crawling around in the loft is my son, Sam.

In coming days, I will be posting more about the people, projects, music, and events of Linton, and The Linton Casket Company. It was for all of us, a way of life for a few years.