The heft and feel of a well-worn handle,
The sight of shavings that curl from a blade;
The logs in the wood pile, the sentiment of huge beams in an old-fashioned house;
The smell of fresh cut timber and the pungent fragrance of burning leaves;
The crackle of kindling and the hiss of burning logs.
Abundant to all the needs of man, how poor the world would be
Without wood.

Everard Hinrichs, quoted by Eric Sloane in A Reverence for Wood


Monday, August 26, 2013

Great Designs in Wood (45) - The Traditional Finnish Log House

This weekend was the signal weekend for us here in central Pennsylvania, that weekend that is just cool enough in the mornings that we know Fall is here and Winter will be here before we know it. Some thoughts turn to hunting or football. Mine turn to firewood, and getting the house and yard ready for winter. Problem is, every year that goes by, it takes more to get me outside and working.

That's where YouTube has helped out. I may not be able to work outside like I used to, but I can sure watch others do it. And after doing so, I feel motorvated to get up and push wood around, or something.

This year, I've been a little under the weather all summer and feeling sorry for myself. I needed something especially inspiring. Even more inspiring than impossibly humongous stacks of firewood. I needed to see real men doing something to remind me that I aspire to be a real man one of these days.

And then I found the Finnish carpenters.

These guys are building a house the old-fashioned way, one log at a time. With hand tools. In the winter.

Now, the narration of this video is in Finnish, and I can testify from my short time visiting that country that Finnish is absolutely unintelligible to anyone other than a Finn. I think the original Finns found themselves caught between the Swedes and the Russians, and couldn't decide which language to use, so they just combined the Swedish and Russian syllables together, making every word about twenty-seven letters long. As a result, the Finns don't talk very much...and their country seems to be the better for it.

Fortunately, the work in this video speaks for itself. It is mesmerizing to watch from the very beginning. Every scene unravels another amazing feat of craftsmanship and woodworking magic. And they make it look tape measures, no cords, no laser or chalk lines, no T-squares, and the only time I saw a level used was in mounting the windows. These guys are not good, they are great.

There is a way to turn on English captions, but I strongly suggest just watching the video first without them because they detract from the magic of the saws, planes, hammers, adzes, draw knives, and axes. Just watch and admire. Then, if you want to know the details like what is the stuff they're using to chink the logs (tar oakum and moss), or what in the heck kind of foundation they're building, you can re-run the video and click on the "CC" icon to turn on the English sub-titles.

Oh, the meal in the middle of the video is a traditional Finnish celebration of the ridge placement. Even the Finns have to take a break sometime.

Thanks, boys, I'm gonna get after it this coming weekend. After the football game, that is.

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