Tuesday, March 24, 2009


This is a picture of the parts of the broadfork handle that will never make it to your hands. This pile of sawdust won't go to waste; it will be sent to a factory from here to be used as fuel to fire a boiler. 

I get to see my handle man tomorrow. I first met him by phone last summer and saw him for the first time just a few weeks ago when I went to his 'factory' to say hello and order some more handles. Mike's just a little over 45 minutes away, which is dangerous because I could spend a lot of time visiting if I'm not careful. I consider him to be a partner in my business because without his handles, the Gulland Broadfork would just be a doorstop.

I like to support small businesses like his. On the day I was there, 3 people were working, including Mike, and when his business peaks in the summer, there may be 4 or 5 at most. He spent a lot of time with me showing me around the log yard and the sawmill, and explained how everything worked. His building burned down several years ago and he rebuilt from the ground up, salvaging and rebuilding a few irreplaceable specialty machines, pulling himself up by his bootstraps, and trying it again. I don't know if I'd have the courage to do what he did, but Mike's a man of strong Faith and he's really good at what he does. I hope all his customers appreciate him as much as I do.

After the logs are cut into slabs, two men set up at the saw (above) and feed the heavy pieces through the beast, over and over cutting square pieces from the slab until there's nothing left on the in feed side. Ash is a heavy, dense wood, and although the slabs get smaller every time they pass through the saw, there is a nearly endless supply of slabs in a day's work. 
On the off feed side, the square pieces are stacked and stickered to insure that air can circulate freely around them so that they can be kiln dried more efficiently. Mike's drying room is run off of wood scraps that fire a boiler that provides the heat. The drying room runs constantly and this pallet of handle material will spend a couple of weeks stacked wall to wall and floor to ceiling with other handle stock before the real work of shaping and finishing them begins.
There are about 38 dozen handles on this stack. One in ten handles will meet the quality standard that I specify for my customers. To put a visual on that, essentially, the top 3 rows on this stack will be good enough to go to my customers. 

I'll have about a dozen dozen handles to work on after tomorrow and I really enjoy the woodworking portion of broadfork making. I look forward to the peaceful, quiet work of sizing the handles with my block plane and soaking them in the linseed oil and turpentine mix. This has been a fantastic project so far and I'd like to thank all of you that have become my customers and my friends along the way. 

I saw a t-shirt this week that said something like, "If you find a job you love to do, you will never work a day in your life." Thanks to you, it's going that way for me.



  1. Gulland, many people go years or decades or even their whole lives without doing anything they truly enjoy. You are blessed to have found your metier.

  2. Hi Nudge,

    Every customer I have had seems like a person I could easily invite home for dinner. There's something very wonderful about the spirit of folks that pick up hand tools and learn to take care of themselves. Sometimes I feel as if we've started too late, but most of the gardeners I have dealt with are way ahead of me at understanding how to grow food.

    I got a call from a woman in northern Idaho a week ago. She said there was still a foot of snow on the ground, but she had ordered a broadfork from the website because she knew the snow was going to go away and she wanted to be ready when the ground thawed.

    I hope she realizes how important that statement was to me. We've all got to begin to look ahead at what is coming and we've got to learn to take care of ourselves with lower and lower fossil fuel inputs. In a very small but significant way, I feel like I am providing a tool that will make a difference in many people's lives.

    To have this feeling about my job is truly a blessing and I would hope that more people can find honest and honorable work to do as we go through the changes we are making in our lifestyles in the country today.


  3. Hi Gulland. I regret to say that we're still at the stage where few people seem to be looking at what's coming next as fossil fuel depletion bites. The general public's limited capacity for bad-news-absorption is at the present being forcibly occupied by the stuff about the economy. As if there's nothing happening out there except the economy.

    What's happening now is that the means of most people to afford fossil-fuel-based [whatever] are being drastically curtailed, be it by income lost via continued economic reversion to sensible levels of business, outright job loss, or cutoff from credit sources. Lot fewer cars on the road these days in many places.

    Mrs M and I have enjoyed many discussions about this stuff. She is already getting started on her garden. Reversion to norm (with norm being 1880 or perhaps earlier) means that a lot more of us will be engaged in growing food (mostly our own food, at that) and that most of this activity will take place without the assistance of fossil fuels. Evolved & efficient hand tools (like your broadforks) will be much in demand.