The teaching job I was looking forward to the most this year was in Anchorage, AK, with the Alaska Creative Woodworkers Association. I have wanted to visit Alaska since reading Jack London’s “White Fang” as a little boy (yes, I know it takes place in the Yukon Territory).
As it turns out, the state is even more beautiful than I’d imagined. Flying into Anchorage was more like landing in an alien country than an airport. I have simply never seen so much undeveloped wildness.
The woodworkers in Alaska are, of course, just like the woodworkers I have met everywhere else in the world. They are a close-knit and friendly bunch, easy to like and drink a beer with.
The club doesn’t have a dedicated facility, per se. But they hold their classes at the shop of member Don Fall, who has an enormous and fully equipped facility that can easily handle 14 woodworking benches. The shop is on the outskirts of Anchorage, so there is a lot of wildlife.
This morning, the members were smoking ribs for a barbecue, and the No. 1 concern was luring bears in from the woods. And after lunch a moose visited the school and stripped some bark off a birch tree to eat.
This was a small moose – only about a year old – but was bigger than any horse I’ve seen. (I know I sound like a tourist. But getting 10 feet away from a moose is both stupid and incredibly cool.)
For the last two days we have been building precision layout tools – straightedges, winding sticks and try squares – and working on the finer points of sawing, planing and chiseling. Tomorrow we start building Dutch tool chests and will focus on working our butts off.
Some of the fun parts of the class:
• We built Alaskan polissoirs. We made these from a whisk broom and hose clamps. Then we wrapped the whole thing in duct tape. They worked quite well. I only wish the duct tape were camo (so you couldn’t see it).
• Tony Strupulis of Raven’s Edge Toolworks transformed a worthless chisel/rasp into something useful: a bottle opener.
Time for bed. My body still thinks it’s tomorrow.
— Christopher Schwarz