Although I first thought “Argghhh, the timber framers have one-upped the blacksmiths again,” it was really not that way at all. For an instant though, my competitive auto racing background had passed my current and much more relaxed thought process and life here at the Folk School. I will never be able to suppress that part of my past, but I do like the non-competitive environment here in Brasstown.
So what happened was, the last couple of days, timber framer Will Fowlkes from Oregon, came down to my shop and asked to measure up a couple of anvils. He said that the framers were going to carve them into the ends of the of the huge 6″ by 12″ floor joists that support the future classroom over the new forge building. “Great,” I said, without really knowing much about it, then I kept hearing more about everyone pitching in to do it. Tonight Will came down after supper to take a couple more measurements, and curious, I followed him back up to Festival Barn to see what was up.
I expected to see some relief carving or something simple, but these guys, with Will’s leadership, I am told, had carved life sized and accurately proportioned anvils in three dimensions into the end of these beams. Eighteen of them! I had to fetch my camera and however many smiths as I could find to show them too. Here is a picture of Will roughing out the shapes with a nice Mafell band saw. The rest of the carving was done by hand with chisel, plane, draw knife and whatever else was handy.
The framers have been scheming of ways for the blacksmiths to incorporate iron into the frame such as the post bases and other things, but each one was looking for ways to leave their signature as well. Just as our individual iron post bases were unique, each anvil was a bit different. There is really not a competition, but rather an individual and a group spirit to do the best work that we can, and as our craftsmen ancestors did, to leave beautiful surprises for our future generations to see.
I was recently at the Washington National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., snooping around in dark corners of the chapels and crypts with a flashlight, and I saw many examples of all the crafts that make up the cathedral. For each craft, the artisans took the extra, and probably unpaid time, to leave little surprises that some people, and especially knowledgeable crafts persons of the future, would discover. As the framers and smiths return to the Folk School until they are no longer able, they can point and say “I made that one.” And their successors can look on with appreciation for their skill and effort.