Making a Shovel

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Re: Making a Shovel

Postby AlexanderTheLate » Sun Dec 22, 2013 6:15 pm

Looks like a nasty big crack up the middle of your big spoon there.
I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.- Unknown.
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Re: Making a Shovel

Postby alexyerks » Mon Dec 23, 2013 8:55 am

AlexanderTheLate wrote:Looks like a nasty big crack up the middle of your big spoon there.

I should upload more photos after I adzed out the bowl. That dark line was just black marker I used as a center line.
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Re: Making a Shovel

Postby AlexanderTheLate » Mon Dec 23, 2013 3:46 pm

Ah, figured it would be a shame for all that work to go to nothing. :) (yes, show us the pictures :!: )
I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.- Unknown.
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Re: Making a Shovel

Postby alexyerks » Mon Dec 23, 2013 4:27 pm

AlexanderTheLate wrote:Ah, figured it would be a shame for all that work to go to nothing. :) (yes, show us the pictures :!: )



Ok here is my article and writeup. More of a ramble, sorry for the story book!

'The Last Shovel Maker' ... until now.

[edit: 09_19_13]
I decided to email folkstreams last night to tell them about this project. I figured they might get a kick out of seeing someone in 'today's world' trying this.
I guessed they would respond with a thanks, see ya later deal. I did not expect this...

I got a response this morning from the team and they were flattered and he forwarded my message to the Jack Ofield, the filmmaker!
He also mentioned he was interested in seeing some of my films as well. Jack also filmed Ben's Mill and many others... I think Jack needs to visit kuksa land.

Onto the original post.
Some notes from the vault:

I have an enourmous and endless list of projects that I add to on a daily basis. The inside of my brain probably looks like a lightning storm on Jupiter, constantly thinging of new ideas or directions.
So you could imagine how long it takes me to cycle thru an idea before I move onto the next one. Sometimes it takes me a year or two to get around to crossing some of these things off my list.

Well for a couple years now I've watched this short film documentary on a man named Harvey Ward 'The Last Shovel Maker' about seven billion times.. He was an 87 year old man who axed wooden shovels for $8.00 a piece up until the 1980s.
Just a week ago I watched the film again, and did some research and realized he lived in Upstate New York as well. So that was that, I finished my lunch and hit the shop to give it a shot.

If you're wondering.. why a wooden shovel?? Well in most cases these were used in ammunition factories because metal shovels could spark and blow the place up. But there was other uses where wood was a choice over metal.

I recommend watching the full length film (10 minutes in length) before moving onto my photographs. The way this guy works with his double bit amazes me. This guy schools me. I use axes everyday and I feel I have pretty dead on aim.
If I focus my eyes on a target, the axe always hits it. I'd say I can prove that because I swing my axes inches from my fingers year after year and I still have all ten.

In the film he was using Tulip Poplar or as he called it "Popple"

So I went to the tree pile to select something suitable for a shovel. I needed about a 4'-6' tree trunk about 20" diameter. Unfortunately... as my luck goes, I didn't have any easy wood to work like poplar.
I had Black Cherry which is some pretty tough stuff. It makes chopping Poplar feel like chopping a plate of buttermilk pancakes.

Movie Trailer was removed.

[Unfortunately I seem to have caused a bit of trouble posting about this film. The film maker wrote back to me and I seem to have offended him, so I have removed the movie trailer as to avoid any troubles with Jack Ofield, New Pacific Productions]
You can watch the full legth film here.

[Some of my notes before we embark on my visual journey]

-One can chop towards one's feet safely. I know there are some non-believers of this but you can. Just look at these Japanese woodworkers hewing timber barefoot while standing on the timber!... Scary, but safe if done right. I think Robin has a video demonstrating that.

-I loved the sequence when they show the modern shovels being made. This was filmed in the 70's and I bet they're not made as well even though... I do not believe in production line having 'real' quality. You get what you pay for. That clip just really made you see what we've lost as a nation since the mechanized era.
Folks like Harvey were a dying breed in the 1970s... now they're more elusive than yeti. Skills, pride, conservation, humbleness, and utilizing your surroundings, most don't practice this anymore because 'there is an app for that.' Anyways not to be negative.
The contrast in ambience is really a great example of why one would dislike working with powered machines. Folks ask why I dislike band saws, chainsaws, etc for my carving style. Well listen to the ambience when they shoot back to Harvey's woodshop after the factory.
He gets to listen to the wind, trees, and birds. The other guys will lose their hearing by age 35.

So you are wondering... "What does this have to do with kuksas and spoons?" Well.. in some ways this is just a giant spoon.
I wanted something for my shop to help clean up the mountains of woodchips I make weekly. What better suited than another hand made tool to get it done???

I really tried my hardest to follow Harvey's methods as close as possible. So this is a tribute to 'the last shovel maker.'
I'm not going to lie.. this was exhausting work. I did this 5 days ago and I'm just today feeling tip top again. I chopped from noon til about 7 o'clock. I took some breaks in between but.. darn did Harvey kick my arse.

Also you can imagine how heavy half a tree trunk is.

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This was a monster piece of Black Cherry. I'd say almost 20" diameter.


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Split like a charm


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I decided to give this a shot using his methods. So my very old double bit was employed.


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I knew this handle was going to fail eventually, it just didn't feel 'right’. This axe is almost 100 years old and the handle was probably original.

The confusion on my face is hilarious. I shot these in time intervals with my camera on tripod. So I just ignored that it was there running.

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I'm keeping my legs really far back here. Also this is the most abuse I've put on this birch axe helve (with pith) It worked like a champ.

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Break time. I was listening to old 1940's blues, eating cold watermelon on a hot day. Can't be any better than this!


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The cloud of gnats around my head was a bit annoying in 90 degree weather.


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alexyerks
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Re: Making a Shovel

Postby AlexanderTheLate » Tue Dec 24, 2013 1:37 am

Looks like a fine job. I've had hammer heads come off in the middle of a job, always flying backwards and knocking something off a wall, gives you quite the start :lol: .

I don't know if 'popple' was really Tulip poplar, I've heard some people in the northeast use popple to refer to Apse, which is related to Poplar. The wood in the video looks like apse, not sure about the bark, but apse does get that grey furrowed look when it gets old. :)
I fear the day that technology will surpass our human interaction. The world will have a generation of idiots.- Unknown.
AlexanderTheLate
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Posts: 132
Joined: Thu Dec 27, 2012 1:10 am
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