Cabin Life: Utensils9 min read
The idea of making simple household utensils has always appealed to me and, even moreso, since I saw Richard Proenneke's films a while ago. I've been meaning to try my hand at making my own, but I have only a few carving knives. And they were cheap solutions bought from Amazon and the like to solve immediate problems; Not necessarily what I would need in an actual cabin living situation.
Best of all, when the utensil reaches the end of its useful life, they can be turned to kindling or discarded to be reclaimed by nature.
Last year, around this time, I was visiting Ossining and stepped into the Public Library. It was the first time I've been there since the renovations years ago and wanted to see what the changes were like. It's a nice place to spend the day and I've been suggesting to anyone I know in the area to drop by.
One of the books that caught my eye was Woodcraft by Barn the Spoon.
I appreciated the gentle introduction and a from-the-basics approach the book took.
I have some experience with woodworking, but my stock was almost always directly from the lumber yard.
Whichever pieces I have remaining are leftovers from my scrap-collecting, since an apartment isn't really best place to have a full wood shop. I haven't actually worked with a raw log before and it might be an interesting challenge to try one day.
The Woodworking book begins with the most rudimentary utensils.
Solar power isn't terribly practical for high demand electric appliances without a very large, and very expensive, battery reserve. An electric dryer would be just such an appliance. I haven't figured out laundry in the cabin yet, but I'd like to use a line to dry out my clothes as much as possible. To that end, instead of factory made plastic clothes pins, or the cheap wood ones, I'd rather make smaller versions of this.
Godliness applies to personal cleanliness and personal living space. It's remarkable how quickly dust and other detritus builds up in any dwelling with actual habitation. The photos of pristine living spaces you may see on social media aren't actually lived in. Or at the very least, there was an army of cleaning people to make the place look spotless and photo-ready before the selfie.
Since I'll have no such army at my disposal, I'll be handling cleaning matters myself. I don't know if this is something I'll be using for every floor surface, but it will be very handy for the front entrance and the location near the wood stove.
Every cabin dweller would enjoy a home-cooked meal. I'm a fairly decent cook, but almost all my utensils so far have been either silicone or metal. The metal ones are basically bulletproof, but will ruin the bottom of my stainless cookware and scratch the seasoning off my cast iron. That leaves silicone, which I'm still not 100% sure is terribly healthy over the coming decades. Enter the wooden solution.
I don't know if I'm too keen about storing liquids in wooden bowls, since cleaning thoroughly will be more of a chore. Most of my bowls and plates are ceramic and glass. I'll likely be keeping the same ones in the cabin kitchen. But for dry foods, I can see how this would come in handy.
The secret to maintaining a wooden cutting board is to never let it dry out completely (of oil), but do let it dry out completely (of water). These two things are often overlooked, which leads people to go the HDPE cutting board route that doesn't require oil nor drying.
I have an inexplicable affinity for small containers. Something about the size and shape that draws me in whenever I've gone to any kind of woodwork shop or market. I don't know if I would make full use of a container like this when I do prefer glass for storing most long-term ingredients, but I'll definitely be making this. If only to satisfy my own itch.
Wood turning has been around for almost as long as woodworking proper, and I'm sure I'll be making use of quite a few turned pieces. I don't know if I'll have the space for a manual lathe, but it's an interesting tool.
All-in-all, I'd like to keep this book in my library for whenever an idea pops into my head. It's a nice companion for someone who hasn't made anything like this before and wants to have a starting point. The material of choice is very important for each of these and raw logs are the best option as it's possible to precisely select the grain and have thick blocks with ample freedom to carve.
There really is no substitute for practical experience in woodworking since a book can only get you so far, although, there was another book in the Ossining library that I think is a good close second. The Complete Practical Woodworker by Stephen Corbett, with photos by John Freeman, is a very handy book for all sorts of projects and as a reference when selecting materials.
Drying out wood after selection and cutting is a little-known skill. Even finished pieces continue to dry and adapt to the surrounding environment. Lumber comes from a living thing after all.
In keeping with the reference style, the book is a wealth of information about specific kinds of woods, their origin, and properties which will lend well to certain kinds of projects.
The book goes into several projects which can be made at home.
I haven't quite decided yet if the cabin will be Thoreauesque, but a nice table and a chair would come in handy for certain tasks. Any flat surface in my presence has a tendency to accumulate detritus and I will need to control that before moving in.
I don't know if I'll do much carving in the cabin, but a nice entry here is a good starting point. As far as craft work is concerned, most of my pieces would be for functional use for myself and small, personal, aesthetic choices.
While specific types of furniture is still a choice to be made, this piece is so small and requires so few completion steps, it makes sense to try making it, even if it will get barely any use. The sitting surface lends well to being upholstered at a later date, if left flat.
Storage in the cabin will be a delicate issue. I dislike having too many "things" though the few I do have will need to live somewhere. The walls are likely going to be occupied by at least some shelving, but the corners are also a great place to keep anything that doesn't need to be on the floor.
A lot of great ideas in both Woodcraft and The Complete Practical Woodworker. Both will be fine additions to my library as well.