Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"Wood"n't you know it?

As a follow-up to our blacksmith interview, today I spoke with Steven Suarez--the Village "jack of all trades"--about woodworking on the frontier. Here's what Steven had to say:

R: What are some of the wooden things that were probably made by hand in frontier Texas?

S: When people traveled to Texas by covered wagon, they had very little room for their possessions--particularly bulky furniture. They would commonly have to make their furniture once they got here to Texas (or whatever other place they were traveling). Families needed beds, chairs, and tables, so furniture-making was quite important. Other useful things were also made by hand, like tool and farm implement handles. If you broke your ax handle while you were out working, you would need to know how to replace it!

R: Why would a woodworker use a shaving horse?

S: The shaving horse was a quick and easy way to clamp wood that you were interested in making round stock (round wood) from. Round stock would be used for tool and gardening handles. You could also use the shaving horse for tapering shakes (shingles) for roofs. The shaving horse's method of clamping (by using your foot rather than having to screw a clamp down) allowed the woodworker to turn and move the wood freely and quickly as it was being shaped. This saved time AND energy.

R: What's your favorite frontier tool to use? Why?

S: I think it would have to be the spokeshave. The spokeshave offers a way to free hand a lot of different shapes in the wood. I've used it to make a hammer and ax handles, legs for a three-legged stool, and other "rounded" projects. It's good for rounding over wood with precision.

R: Which of your woodworking projects are you most proud of?

S: The reconstruction of the Reynold's smokehouse. I hand-hewed two of the replacement logs myself. I enjoyed the challenge of putting it all back together with the proper log placement--it was like working a jigsaw puzzle. You had to look to the wood for clues as to how it all fit together. I draw great satisfaction and enjoyment out of working with wood and creating things with my hands. I feel that God blessed me with the talent, and I'm very grateful to be able to use it here.

Thanks so much, Steven! Come see Steven in action this Saturday!

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