Woodwork and Sustainable Living

Whatever else the New Age is going to be like it's certainly going to be woody. What other natural resource can be grown so quickly, provide for so many of our needs and even draw back CO2 from the atmosphere?

If you could only learn one skill that would help you to be a part of the future woodwork wouldn't be a bad thing to choose. It's a part of just about every building and a garden is often full of it too in the form of raised beds, path edges, polytunnel frames, sheds and so on. It can all be done with handtools - even sawing up logs into planks as in the pic below. It's so much more work doing things by hand but a relief to have a break from all that howling woodworking machinery.
Rip-sawing a log by hand
So get some hand tools if you haven't already and have a go.
 The "Green" of Green Woodwork isn't just referring to sustainability but also to the idea of working with freshly felled wood. It's a lot easier to saw in this state. The builders of yore just worked with the twists, turns and shrinkages of the wood as their structures dried out - hence the wiggley shape of old oak frame buildings:
The original builders would have simply worked around the twists and turns their oak frame took on as it dried out
Anyway, here's a few of the woodworking projects I've been involved with over the years:
Composting toilet at Chickenshack - green wood poles and reclaimed stirling board

A duck house I made on my first visit to Tombreck

The finished duck house
QUALITY: always do the best job you can - your work will last longer, give better service, it respects the materials and even if it's just fixing up an old gate it's practise for when your work has to be really good for a bit of furniture or something. There's a hippy ethic you come across that you just sling things up any old how but to me that's just lazy, wasteful and un-skilled. And on the subject of quality, what a load of crap so much modern furniture is - chipboard, hardboard and mdf barely able to hold together long enough to be taken to the skip, what a waste of time and materials and what a missed opportunity to make something beautiful and enjoyable.
DESIGN: you'll get on better if you adapt your design to suit your tools and materials. I struggled in my early guitar making career because I wanted to make electric guitars and so much of that design is actually based around machines, eg a stratocaster body is designed to be made with routers and is not an easy thing to make with hand tools. What is emerging is a whole range of designs for things suited to making them with hand tools. Also a range of finshing: before planing machines, table tops were finished with adzes - (take it easy with those if you haven't used one before!) One day before too long our houses and the stuff we use everyday will have to be designed to be made mainly with hand tools from our local sustainable material.
DESIGN WITH RE-USE IN MIND: we use the same bit of wood many times over here on the farm, so for some things screwing things together is a better idea than nailing and so on...
Rabbit hutch made from that much used source of recycled materials, the palette - we've just put up a whole wall made from palettes at Treflach

My yurt under construction in the garden at Southwick. That's the clinic I converted from a garage for Debi and me in the background, complete with copper pyramid on its roof.

Bending the roof poles, steamer box in the background. I used all sawn wood for my yurt just because that's what was nearby - they are just as easy to make with greenwood poles

Inside the finished yurt...

...and from outside at nightime

I worked on this roundhouse with Nigel and Cassie at Lammas for three rain-swept weeks at Lammas a few years ago

A busy day working on the roundhouse at Cwm Harry - it attracted lots of volunteer help, one day we had a dozen or so people working on it. Some had done some woodwork but others had never touched a hammer or saw before in their lives. Great co-operation on the project right the way through from design to construction

I did scale drawings for the Cwm Harry roundhouse in Photoshop

Some photos of the recoprocating roof going up - a great day

Richie fitting the door, interesting patterns in the roof

Tombreck again, doing a bit of stonework to build up the wall head on the byre for its a new roof

I really enjoyed working with Ewan - two people working together can do the work of three people working on their own

The finished roof

Lots of raised beds at the moment - Richie and I working on a prototype for Radnor Raised Beds

The x-brace, guitar making inspired repair I did at Culdees

My good friend Joyce and some raised beds with her last time I was up in Scotland...

...and another good friend, Fran with some beds I made for her - it must be Raised Bed Year or something...

Lending Chris Dixon a helping hand with his barn conversion

There's a surprising amount of woodwork in a large garden - here I am laying paths at Cwm Harry

The drawknife in action - a great, simple, vesatile tool

Early woodworking days, shaping the neck on a bass guitar
So sharpen up your chisels and planes and get woodworking.

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