Hand-Crafted

by Sydney Michalski

Hand-crafted items are enjoying a revival in popularity, which is great for craftsmen. But this renewed interest is also set in a market that is used to low prices. And that means that many hand-crafters turn to power tools, like bandsaws and planers and sanders, in order to meet the price-point that buyers expect for the majority of their products. After roughing out a batch of items on a bandsaw or thicknessing a batch of planks with planers or smoothing a batch of product with sanders, the makers then apply final touches by hand. Certain higher-end art pieces may still be made entirely by-hand, from start to finish.

But that’s just not honest hand-crafting. A hand-crafted wooden object is hand-crafted from start to finish, and that’s just what Joe does at Riven Joiner.

Setting up shop outside. Riven Joiner at work on an autumn day in the wild apple orchard on the Michalski homestead.

It’s not that we’re against machinery or technology. We have electricity in the shop, for lights, for the laptop, for a grinder for making and sharpening tools. We take pictures with digital cameras and have an online store. Joe has a chainsaw for felling and sectioning and milling trees. But he is serious about honesty and integrity, and once a piece of wood leaves the chainsaw, every step after that is by-hand, from riving and planing to carving and joining and smoothing, all hand-tools, from the buck to the finished product.

Cottonwood sections, sustainably harvesting damaged-and-diseased for Riven Joiner.

For example, when he took down a large cottonwood tree that had heart-rot, he used the chainsaw to divide it into sections. From here, he used sledges and wedges to rive the sections into splits. Then, he de-barked the splits and shaved them down to rough shape using the draw-knife. On this particular sunny, autumn day, he parked his shaving horse right out in the wild-apple orchard next to the farm, and shaved down some legs while the breeze rustled the leaves and the honeybees buzzed in the late wildflowers.

You can see many of the steps involved in traditional hand-craft woodworking at How It’s Made, and we enjoy adding and sharing all the little steps of the process of making something from the tree for your home!

  • Draw-knifing close-up, Riven Joiner at work on an autumn day in the wild apple orchard on the Michalski homestead.
  • Draw-knifing close-up, Riven Joiner at work on an autumn day in the wild apple orchard on the Michalski homestead.

It seems like it’s the volume of orders, the inability to keep up, or simply the inability to make enough volume at a low-enough price, that drives most hand-crafters to incorporate power tools into their processes. But at Riven Joiner, we just can’t be driven by these types of concerns. We can only be driven by our desire to honor the Lord with the work of our hands.

And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.

Colossians 3:17, KJV

It’s not fast work…it’s not cheap work…but it is honest work!

draw-knifing, on the shaving-horse, in the wild apple orchard
Joe is roughing out table legs from cottonwood blanks, using a shaving horse and draw-knife. This is part of his hand-crafted process, that begins with a pile of log sections, which are riven by-hand into blanks (like those stacked behind the bench), and is completed using hand-tools throughout, to the final product. No band-saws or belt sanders here!

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