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The Appalachian Craftsman

  • Authentic Traditional Appalachian Craftwork and Mountain Heritage Programs
    Eagle Rock, VA 24085
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I am a native Appalachian Mountain craftsman. My family has been in the southern Appalachian mountains for many generations. My parents started married life in an old log house on my great-grandfather's land. What they passed down to me from my scots-irish ancestors has been a collection of folk ways and skills that has allowed us to survive in our rugged and isolated region. I was raised with the attitude of you either grow it, make it, fix it, or do without. Today, I help preserve my Appalachian culture through several overlapping vocations. I make heritage wood crafts, and make large copper kettles for my apple butter production. Along with my craft work, I also give entertaining and informative programs and demonstrations on Appalachian Mountain folklife and culture. For those that appreciate authentic southern Appalachian Mountain crafts, I make wares that will last longer than me, and can be passed down thru your generations. Demonstrations & Programs Let me tell you a story about my homeland... the Southern Appalachian Mountains. It is a land of contrast, and often conflicts. It is inhabited by folks who still cling to the values and traditions passed down to them by their ancestors from old Europe. Many of these self-reliant traditions were common well into the 20th century, and even today still practiced by a few. I offer informative and entertaining programs to share with you some of my Appalachian Mountain culture. A suggestion of topics includes: Traditional woodworking with handtools, Wooden farm tools, Folk toys and amusements, Copper kettles and apple butter making, Sawmills, coal mining, and railroads, Revolutionary war in the mountains, country blacksmithing, Old tool use and identification, Moonshine and its related activities, Gardening and canning, Rural living skills. Programs are normally designed to last 50 to 60 minutes, plus question and answer time afterward. I will work with you and/or your client to develop a program customized for your group’s needs and interest. Rates are very reasonable. Some subjects are not suitable for working demonstrations due to the amount of large tools and/or fire involved. On those subjects, my program will include appropriate handouts, visual aids, and actual samples. Contact me with your specific needs and dates for a prompt reply. Appalachian Mountain Style Woodcrafts It is difficult to describe the old ways of working wood to a modern audience. First I have to make folks realize that it is possible to build functional items with only hand tools, and until about a hundred years ago, it was the only way. Next I point out that one usually works with raw materials that they themselves have harvested. These Appalachian mountain style woodcrafts are based upon methods that have changed very little since Medieval Europe. The skills allowed one to literally walk into a forest, with only a few hand tools, build a cabin and then make furnishings for it. This scenario was repeated many times in colonial America. Today, even in the rural mountain regions, these skills are in danger of being lost, and I am one of the very few that knows how to work wood with only hand tools. Ancient style hand tools with names like draw-knife, spoke-shave, froe, and shaving-horse are used to make a variety of authentic farm tools and rustic furniture. Some wares require the steam bending of wood, another old skill, and rustic furniture is assembled without the need for glue. Also notable is that the logs are not sawed into boards as raw materials, but the green (raw) log is rived apart with sledgehammer and wedges. This method follows the natural grain making each piece stronger and unique. With all this, what you get is one of the last available pieces of an early American culture. Coppersmithing Copper is a very useful metal because it is malleable and transfers heat well. The advantages of using copper have been known since at least the Bronze Age, when the Phoenicians came to the British Isles to mine tin. The current methods of tinsmithing and sheet metal working are only about 300 years old – having been developed by the craftsmen of the American colonial period. Often a tradesman worked in more than one metal such as copper, tin, pewter, brass, or silver. Paul Revere was well known to his peers as a silversmith. I focus my shop on working copper into functional apple butter kettles and flat-bottomed pans. I start with flat sheets of copper. Pieces are cut, hand-hammered, and brazed together. Each kettle comes with a heavy-duty four leg steel stand – sometimes called a “spider”. Two styles of handles are available – the traditional bail loop, or the more practical pair of “pot” handles. As an option, one can also order a matching stirrer beam and paddle. I am proud to be a descendent of moonshiners and the independent entrepreneur attitude that it represents. However, due to very restrictive Virginia state laws, I will not build a moonshine still for anyone unless you have the appropriate federal or state permits. How to reach me: Due to the nature of my business, I do not keep regular hours for walk-in customers. Most times, I am around my workshops, but often I am up in the woods getting a log, over in the next county looking for some vintage items, or gone somewhere to do a program. The best way to reach me is through email which I check several times a week. At this time, I do not publish a phone number because, in the past, I have had problems with a lot of undesired calls. However, I would love to talk to you about my craftwork. Most basic questions can be answered by email. If you need to talk to me, or want to come by, send me an email with your phone number, and I will call you as soon as I can. Looking for something else in the way of traditional crafts? I have an informal network of other mountain crafters. Let me know what you need, and I will try to help you.

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