Day 6

It’s Monday!.. Back in the workshop, and finally able to try out the beautiful axe I was given on Saturday. I often look forward to going to work (strange I know) but today was extra special, I have a new axe to play with.

The walk through town was yet again a pleasure, I didn’t expect anything else. My new axe in hand I strolled through the streets in the comfort that this was quite normal here and that people wouldn’t call the police because there’s an axe wielding ‘mad man’ walking the streets (they obviously don’t know me that well)…

Upon arrival at the Wheelwright’s shop I was welcomed in by John and Paul, this place is really beginning to feel like home and the routine is becoming extremely comfortable. I can understand why people devote their lives to working here. John is approaching 30 years working as a Wheelwright in Colonial Williamsburg and he stands before me a content man. John’s years of dedication to the craft have proven fruitful, he currently works over the two extremely skilled Journeymen he himself has trained, both capable of building beautiful wheels and vehicles in their own right. I feel inspired by this line of succession, I have for years hoped that one day I will complete the training of an apprentice and ensure the skills and knowledge bestowed on me are passed on. If they can do it here in an 18th century style facing the adversities of being bound by their period then I should be confident to (hopefully) achieve reasonable results teaching a modern Wheelwright back home.

phill, paul, andrew col willDSCF2376

… Anyway, back to the axe… The cleft Oak I wrote about in Saturdays blog was waiting for dressing up by hand, my opportunity to try the axe (and give it a bloody good testing) was here. The Oak was as I mentioned earlier as hard as Iron, but of course the axe performed brilliantly, comfortably and working the Oak was reasonably ‘effortless’. The side axe almost knew the job it had been made for, the fit of the shaft in my grasp, the offset of the head and the grind of the bevel working together in harmony, despite my lack of practice working with an axe. This axe is a copy of an original axe found in excavations in Colonial Williamsburg, I have no doubt that countless generations of craftsmen had evolved this axe to a nigh on perfect tool, fit for this purpose.

After a few hours of chopping I was taken to meet the Blacksmith who forged the axe head, only a young fella himself, I was pleased to see that yet again there is skill in the hands of a younger generation and that it is not just confined to the stereotypical ‘old fella’. I hasten to add that there is nothing wrong with the stereotype, I have spent most of my life surrounded by ‘old fellas’ with grey hair and bushy beards (you know who you are) and have always been grateful of the time and knowledge they have shared with me. The fact remains that young people learning crafts is generally rare but I do see attitudes changing, albeit slowly.



Tomorrow looks to be another promising day where I will have the chance to mortice some naves by hand, another task I have not partaken in for quite some time, this will be slow and painful I’m sure but at the end of the day making anything by hand is satisfying!