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Endangered crafts

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default Endangered crafts

Post by Chilli-head on 22nd December 2017, 12:12 pm

The Heritage Crafts Association have published this list of crafts considered "endangered" in the UK. That is, sufficiently few practitioners that their skills may not be passed on.

I have had a go at a couple of the ones listed as critically endangered - plane and saw making. Actually I would say that a lot of hand-tool making is dying out, since there is so little demand for them. Hand forging of auger drills for example, which died in the UK when Clico closed recently.

A lot of these crafts are interesting to me, in that the knowledge you need to have a go - to make a wooden plane, a besom, etc, etc is not really that great. What is being lost is the ability to knock them out in the way they would be made professionally. I was talking with one of the few surviving besom makers earlier in the year, very entertaining chap. Initially slightly cagey about his trade secrets, but enthusiasm got the better of him with time and he explained how he seasons the birch twigs to keep them supple (in the dark is key, apparently). But the amazing thing was the speed he could put them together. Complete economy of movement, hands working as if they knew what to do on their own without the need to interrupt his conversation with me. Only by doing something day in day out do you get that proficient !
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Post by Dandelion on 22nd December 2017, 9:54 pm

When we visited the Weald and Downland Museum in the summer, one thing which fascinated me (for the same reason) was some pre-war film footage of men working in a walking stick manufacturers in Sussex. It was amazing to see how quickly the sticks were bent and trimmed; there was a rhythm to the process'
Ha! I've just had a look and found the film...


The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers and sisters.

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Post by FloBear on 23rd December 2017, 11:19 am

I don't know if it's endangered but when we used to take year 3 to Cranborne Ancient Technology Centre there was an older chap, Reg, who was a complete joy to watch with his billhook. He sliced branches for hurdles, trimmed them up and also did more delicate tasks with practised ease.

He was also i/c the forge and could produce useful and decorative items. In those days the children were allowed to have a little go at hammering the iron. I still have a rough but useful knife which is used as a letter openiner.

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Post by Ploshkin on 24th December 2017, 2:51 pm

I recall staying with a bunch of Brownies in a village called Newdigate, probably late 70s / early 80s.  The village church needed the oak shingles replacing which was only done every several decades. The only oak shinglers around were very old men but they were used to train young, local builders who were then able to do the job.
It really is no good being cagey about your craft if you want the skills to survive.

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