Rick's Journal

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meet Aspen, Our Newest Camp Cabin Frame

Hey! Here is the reason I haven't been blogging lately. It's called timber framing and we have been building and cutting the frames for two more cabins in the past couple of months. Craig Boynton taught us last August about the techniques, which are traditional methods, using square rule and lots of heirloom chisels, slicks and corner chisels. It is fun, a lot of hard work, and addictive, as almost anything done by hand is when done well, and we have been enjoying our work in the barn, making rafters, posts, plates, girts and braces, not to even mention all of those pegs!

Barry Keegan champhers the edge of the top
plate beam in the Hawk Circle Barn
Aspen is the first cabin that I measured and did the layout for, without Craig's guidance. I made a few minor errors but nothing that impacted the beauty and strength of this wonderful space. It felt really great to see all the beam and pieces come together to form a strong structure that will last for generations.

It is the second cabin completed in our Sustainability Campaign, as we move from tents (disposable, non-biodegradable, prone to breaking, short lifespan) to cabins (long lasting, secure, traditional and built for four seasons). Last summer we built the Adirondack Lean-to, moved one of our previously built cabin frames up to our new campsite, enclosed it and another small cabin for our staff/student use, built the hand washing station and first aid deck as well as cut the frame for Spruce, our first cabin in the series. That was a long summer! Now Spruce is enclosed and awaiting bunk beds, and Aspen is going to quickly follow. Next up is the third cabin, which is Maple, and the beams for her are almost all cut and ready to be assembled.
Tim Brown checks the sill beams for level.
Our forth cabin, Pine, is awaiting funding before we can get started, but we are hoping this will happen in the coming weeks. We have plans for a small campaign to raise the money soon, (as soon as I can stop framing and write some letters and newsletters and let our awesome community know!) We are just amazed about how much support and love has poured in to help our camp move to a new place that continues to make a difference in the lives of our students, campers and staff.
Rick adjusts the stone base of the
cabin frame.
People, I can't expressed how beautiful it feels to be inside one of these cabins, and how peaceful it is to sit back and look at the handcrafted beams and enjoy being inside this new space. (I'm talking about Spruce now, as Aspen doesn't have roof just yet, as you can see!)

Raising the second bent!
The wood comes from local forests, in most cases less than twenty miles from the camp. That's the wood for the beams, the siding, the roof, the battens and all of the trim. The only wood that is from any significant distance is the plywood for the floors. It feels so good to know that it was done in a sustainable manner, and almost no electricity either. The chisels, slicks, drawknives and other hand tools are almost all heirloom tools that are decades old, worn and used by craftsmen and women before all of this modern technology existed.

Raising the top plate beam.
The barn has become the cool place to hang out, work on an arrow or bow while we work on the frames. The floor is piled with wood chips from our axes and drawknives, and it feels good to work slowly, carefully, towards the completion of the next frame. It is exciting and calming, healing and energizing, all at the same time. We are careful to stay in a focused, positive frame of mind as we work, and take a break if we get sore or tired, to do something else.

Fitting the second plate beam onto the posts.
In addition to the frame, we are getting an awesome garden rolling, as well as making buckskin, bark tanning, bows, bark baskets, and helping our heirloom apple orchards along. It is good, honest work, and our caretakers, visitors, students and staff appreciate the feeling of a job well done at the end of the day!

Noah guides the plate into the
post mortise, while Barry fits
the brace into the pocket.
The bottom line is that these cabins have helped us in more ways than just shelter. They have taught us about doing our best work, to focus, to work hard, to pay attention, to keep our work area clean, to talk and work at the same time, to marvel at the gift of wood and metal and hands and vision. We have learned something ancient and new, through this skill that is still valued today. Anyone who has worked on our cabins has stood a little taller through being a part of this mission. It feels good, now and going forward, far into the future. We are building life skills, for ourselves, for our friends and our students, our children and our coming generations.
The Aspen Frame, finished and fully
raised.   A good day's work!
The interior, after installing the bunk beds.
Building Aspen, I feel like I know a little more about the concept of thinking ahead for seven generations, to insure that the good things that we have in our lives now will be there for our children, and our children's children, for seven generations ahead. You are helping make it happen, and it is real, and it is good. Thank you!