Paul Bunyan watches over the operation -
Among many other things, The Blue Ox Mill is home to “the world's largest functioning collection of human powered equipment from Barnes Manufacturing, one of the most efficient manufacturers of human powered tools in the 1800s.” "Human powered" simply means without electricity. I'd never given thought to how wood was cut or sawed way back when. How did Victorian homes get all those fancy corbels and doodads?
On my visit, I took the Eric-guided tour and it was fascinating. If you have any interest in tools at all, you really should see the page linked above. In fact, spend time with the whole web site. I'm not the least bit mechanical but I found myself really interested in these antique tools. They were surprisingly fast and efficient and really cleverly made.
This is Eric demonstrating one of the vintage machines -
In his hand he's holding a fence picket he's just made with one quick move. I think the big machine pictured is a rip saw from 1890. Now I wish I'd taken video of the demonstration. Next time.
I took a picture of this 1909 printing press because it's from the same year as our house -
The Blue Ox is a combination Millworks, Historical Park and School of Traditional Arts.
Its web site describes the millworks as “a custom shop specializing in Victorian architectural details and historic reproductions. Blue Ox manufactures everything from hand carved newels to custom wood windows, from 24 foot columns, to custom redwood gutters, gable decorations, siding, corbels, moulding, and more." Eric is one of the few craftsmen in the country doing authentic restorations of historic homes and businesses.
I wondered how many of these were created at the Blue Ox -
Eric is also one of the few craftsmen allowed to salvage old growth redwood from fallen trees that remain on forest floors. Old growth redwood can also be recovered from riverbeds. Felled trees were transported by water and occasionally would fall from their conveyance into the cold river where they’ve remained submerged in mud for a 100 years or more. At one time those trees weren’t worth recovering but they are now. Old growth redwood is in demand by those who demand truly authentic restoration of Victorian period homes but those old trees aren’t there for harvesting anymore. The few that remain are protected in parks. Ninety six percent of these trees, trees that had lived for over a thousand years, were cut down to build homes like mine and like Mr. Carson’s. I shudder to think what trees were felled to make the playground bark I trampled in my childhood, while my state was governed by a man who famously claimed “if you’ve seen one redwood tree, you’ve seen them all.” Like with so many of our natural resources, there's always more until there is none left.
Eric also showed us where he makes his own wood stains using substances like walnuts in vinegar -
As if woodworking, printing, and stain making weren't enough The Blue Ox also serves as a school for youth who haven't found success in a traditional class room. There are also classes in blacksmithing and ceramics and even more!