Bill Coperthwaite & the Arts of Culture

A review of A Man Apart, Bill Coperthaite’s Radical Experiment in Living, by Peter Forbes & Helen Whybrow

A Man Apart, Bill Coperthaite’s Radical Experiment in Living, by Peter Forbes & Helen Whybrow

I met Bill Coperthwaite in 2007. I had recently read his book, A Hand Made Life, and was deeply impressed by his stories and practice, and the way he was trying to live out an answer to questions that, by our denial of them, define our culture:

“Can you have ‘culture’ without violence?”

“Is beauty useful?”

“Are justice, democracy, and peace possible if most all of our technologies require violence?”

Like Gandhi, Bill figured that whatever he could make for himself meant less dependence on an imperial master, but where Gandhi lived with hundreds of others in an ashram in India, Bill lived alone on a couple of hundred acres in Northern Maine, at the end of a mile and a half footpath.…

2015 – Green-wood carving classes: make a spoon from a branch

Green-wood carving classes, spring, 2015. Carving green wood is much easier than carving dry wood, and in the days when most people didn’t have woodshops with power tools, vises, clamps, and hold-downs of all varieties, carving green wood was something you did in your lap while you were sitting around of an evening. So that’s pretty much what a spoon-carving class is all about. I’ve been teaching it mostly at primitive skills gatherings (this year I’ll be at Buckeye, and maybe Echoes in Time), but this year friends Charlene and Richard Murdock white invited me to teach at their wonderful home/garden, which they’re turning into an educational center called “Nana Cardoon.” For a class description and schedule (April and May), go here.…

Cabin Stove/Sidewinder Build Sequence

This photo-essay documents about 2 days of experimentation that resulted in a pretty stupendous new variation on Max’s “Cabin Stove.” The overall footprint of the stove determined the firebox size, and the geometry resulted in a rectangular heat riser that took hot gasses from a vertical throat in the corner of the firebox — unconventional, but it worked amazingly well. More to come! (Ed. Note: This stove, like so many others, is merely one more in a long line of innovations and adaptations, all based on the same basic principles: burn the fuel fast, hot, & clean, and extract and store as much heat as possible prior to venting.…

Earth Oven builders in Ecuador (Manuel (10), Juan Carlos (6))

A builder in Alaska sent me this story about an earth oven she built in Ecuador, with two helpers. At the ages of 10 and 6, they are clearly competent. Margaret writes:

Winters in Kodiak were beginning to get to me. I had it in mind to snow goose it away in a warmer climate for the coldest, darkest part of winter. Alan and his girlfriend, Loretta were due to get married on their farm [in Ecuador]. They invited me to the wedding. And so I went.

I had always said to Allan that if I did ever get to Ecuador then I would build them an oven.…

Wood-fired, earth-oven pizza grows a family business in Cedar City UT

Wood-fired, earth-oven pizza grows a family business in Cedar City UT

The Murray family needed extra income to pay dad’s college tuition; he had already made a little backyard oven, and decided he could make a bigger one on a cart and run an outdoor pizza business. My favorite line from the video (below) is Jason expressing amazed gratitude for his wife Cindy’s support: “How many wives would let you make some stupid oven in your backyard out of mud and then put it on a trailer and go out on the street, you know?” They were so successful tho, making pizzas outdoors in every kind of weather, that after several years, they’re now opening an indoor restaurant!…

A Beautiful Spoon

Friends Charlene and Richard in Forest Grove let me sleep in their Garden while I was attending Aikido Summer Camp. They have converted their one-acre suburban lot into a beautiful permaculture garden and food forest that not only feeds them (and a local Latino family that uses part of it for their own market garden), but has also given them the means to develop an interesting educational program. They had talked to me about teaching spoon carving up there, so one evening they showed me their collection of spoons and kitchen utensils. One jar of spoons they had gotten from a friend who had traveled the world collecting beautiful things.…

Increase wood stove efficiency with a Heater Hat: Free plans!

Free plans to increase wood stove efficiency

Lovely friend Erica Wisner (she’s the cute one on the right w/out the fuzz) put the heater hat details down on paper and gave them to us to share — and I’ve finally figured out how to post them as a new “product” in the bookstore — available as a free download, here. If you wonder what the heck I’m talking about, a masonry heater hat is a smallish amount of masonry (300 lbs or so) that you can add to a conventional metal box stove to improve performance, reduce wood consumption, and increase your comfort.…

Earth-Art: Maia’s Mud Mural

Earth Art in Oregon

Maia Fischler and friends made this mural on Maia’s house using local earth and powdered concrete tints mixed with waterglass. Maia said “I hadn’t planned to paint the brown areas but as time wet by the mud turned a pretty boring color so I decided to do it at the last minute. Sadly, [the masonry supply place] was closed for the weekend, so I went to Home Depot and got some liquid concrete tint, which wasn’t as nice. (You couldn’t control the consistency so it was pretty runny when mixed — a little less than 1 to 1 — with the waterglass.)

Beautiful work!…