The life of the craft

We came to the sawmill by the water built by him and other local men.  It looked rough at first sight, but up close I could see it was not.

home made sawmill in a shed

sawmill, Little Harbour

The blade is a fearsome thing that sings as it spins.

blade of the sawmill, about 75 cm. in diameter

With this saw, they cut the wood to make the boats.  First, they find a tree that had grown along the rocky ground before lifting upward, and cut it down.

standing tree showing the root that will also be used to build a boat

Balsam fir for boat's stem or ribs

cut stem and rib logs with a strong bend at the bottom

cut stem or rib logs

Once sawn to the required thickness, a lead bar called a ‘mold’ is bent to the right shape, and the wood marked for cutting.

a lead bar is taken from its sheath to use as a mold to trace the final shape

the lead 'mold' is taken out to use

the lead mold is bent to the desired shape to trace a line for cutting

the lead mold ready to trace a cutting line for stem or rib

“Are you teaching your son all this?” I asked.

“No, he’s away at college learning something useful”, was his reply.

This straightforward truth about life at this time and place in history went through me like a crack of lightning, and I haven’t been the same since.  If you are not sure why, have a look at these apparently simple boats, but built without blueprints using ‘molds’ handed down and skills taught to sons, shared with brothers, cousins and neighbouring men and boys, when it was useful.

In the most straightforward way, I suppose, it’s no longer useful.  But, what struck me so hard is that these men today carry a knowledge and skills that will disappear like waves when the wind drops. Anthropologists call it ‘intangible culture’.  The boat is quite tangible; the knowledge is not. The Wooden Boat Museum of Newfoundland and Labrador ” . . . archives, conserves and exhibits our wooden boat history and it’s contribution to the province’s economy and way of life”.  They do it by involving people from across the province and beyond, and happily, Twillingate has become involved.  

One response to “The life of the craft

  1. Pingback: Lobster dinner in Little Harbour |

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