Wednesday, April 21, 2010

No Biggie. They Play Football With Their Feet, Too

Marvelous fun to watch. My good Interbuddy Gerard sent it to me. He always finds interesting things by the carload. If the Internet needs an editor, (it does) Gerard should be it.

To people unfamiliar to woodworking, this will seem even more marvelous than it is. That's this fellow's version of a pole lathe. People have been using people power to do woodturning for a very long time. The person making the video takes it closely framed, because he thinks that the man is using his foot to perform the cutting, but he's just using them as a steady-rest and manipulating the chisels with his hand like any other turner would.

He's turning very soft, very dry wood or this method would be physically very demanding. He can only cut on one half of the stroke, and the bow he's got with the string has to be returned for each stroke to start again. He's very sure-handed and efficient. He uses the skew to make really finished work without sanding.

The western version of this was a fellow called a bodger. He'd go out in the woods and make chairs. He worked on green (freshly cut, undried) wood mostly. The bodger would fell and split the tree into usable baulks, then shape it roughly round with spokeshaves. You can see the Morocccan fellow roughly shape the blank round before he put it in the lathe. If you have a powered lathe you might not bother; it would be just as easy to do it with a gouge, but would require a lot of turns on a pole lathe to accomplish.

A Windsor chair is the bodger's ultimate accomplishment. There are still guys around making them without power tools. They make the different parts from different types of woods, each suited to the needs of the component. They steam bend the big curves.

I turn legs on a lathe now, and I recognize everything the fellow with the mighty foot was doing and the tools he used. I was mostly impressed with what was possible when you did the same thing over and over again, as this fellow has evidently been doing. His efficiency and skill was wonderful to watch. The motifs he used were traditional, but you could tell he applied them in his own way.

One dreams of finding some niche item you could make over and over like that, and make it pay, and become known for it. I've run my hand over the piano of possibilities of handwork in my life and never come close. I've ended up having to offer all sorts of things and efforts to make a living. The modern world doesn't like repetition not performed by a machine much. But we react instinctively to it when we see it -- a craftsman is working.

Ultimately, I just noticed that a guy crouching in an alley in Marrakech and making trifles with his feet was wearing better clothes than I was.


Mother Effingby said...

What I noticed - my only woodworking accomplishment being a roughly sanded board with the words Home Sweet Home burned into them - was how he was able to look away from his hands for a moment and not slice his thumbs off.

Sixty Grit said...

As a full time production turner, I have not bothered to watch that video. I have watched Roy Underhill, who is an advocate of western style human powered turning. I built my lathe after watching him build two of them on his tv show - one a traditional bow lathe as used by bodgers, the other a treadle lathe. I put an electric motor on my lathe, however, I really don't need to work any harder than I already do.

And around here we call it "the dreaded skew". Those who know about a skew know why.

Anonymous said...

I'd end up with a pile of wood shavings and missing three toes.


Anonymous said...

Maybe four.......


Michael said...

"To people unfamiliar to woodworking, this will seem even more marvelous than it is."

True enough. That said, it's still amazing to watch someone do something fairly challenging and make it look very, very easy.