20 September 2011

Way too cool.

This website and the project it details appeal to me in many ways. It is about a group of people building a castle in France using only medieval tools, materials and methods. 

Apparently, the area of France in which they are building it is somewhat depressed.  Building the castle is providing people with jobs and training, and also it is drawing in tourists and school trips, so it is generating money for the local economy.  I imagine re-enactors and Renaissance Fair crowds would treat this place like Mecca.

In that, the building project resembles the old cathedral and castle building projects of the medieval era.  The work gangs and stone masons would be the most obvious ones, but they would need carpenters to do woodworking and scaffolding, who would need woodsmen and sawyers to cut the wood.  Both the stone masons and the carpenters would need blacksmiths for their tools.  They would also have glaziers, and the people who made the mortar,and the baskets that carried the mortar, or the barrels that held the quicklime, and so on, and so on, not to mention the quarry, and the oxcarts and barges which carried the stone to the work site.  All these people would also need to be fed, and to have a place to stay while building, which took years, decades and often centuries.  towns and marketplaces and farmers markets, and weavers and fullers who could make the cloth or the clothing for the workers, and would soon appear around the building site, and the building would be a boon  to the area.

Another group in a depressed area in Germany have applied for permits to build their own medieval structure, this time a monastery with a cathedral attached.  I can't find that website again, but trust me, it is out there.  I imagine they too are hoping to get in on the Cathedral effect and boost their own economy.

This seems to be a bit of a trend these days.  I suppose it started with Sam Wanamaker building the Globe Theatre in London, or perhaps it began with the rebuilding of Windsor castle following its fire some years back.

I would love to work on something like this, except there aren't any going on around here. first of all, it isn't part of our history.  Pioneer villages are about as close as we get.  A job at one of them would be great, except they are all seasonal, and the employees face unemployment for a fair chunk of the year. 

Secondly, a project like this around here, before it even began, would face municipal by laws, building codes and safety regulations.  It would have to be built with fire safety in mind, multiple exits, wheelchair accessibility, washrooms, etc, within proper zoning regulations, have to be put under various inspections. and so on.  The building would have to meet safety regulations, and- while I wouldn't advocate people putting themselves at risk- many of the medieval techniques are not exactly safe.  The workers on site would have to wear hardhats and construction boots, safety harness, and such.  I don't have a clue if the medieval crane- that's the guy in the hamster wheel- even remotely fits any safety standard.  What this means is that the illusion of a medieval construction site would simply not exist here.  Lastly, the skills may simply not exist here, even though such a project would be a way of teaching and maintaining such skills.

Even so, fascinating.


At the opposite end of the spectrum is this woodworking website, entitled "Woodgears- woodworking for engineers."  It's a power tool woodworking website, where, among other things, the writer for the website designs and creates his own power tools and sells his designs.  It is fascinating to see how he works his way through the problems he encounters while designing the tools, or his other projects (which include a small pipe organ).  On a practical level, this is not the most useful site for me, as I use hand tools as opposed to power tools, (in an interview he was critical of people who use hand tools, as the results are always somewhat unpredictable, and impossible to exactly replicate), plus his furniture designs really do little for me, (they basically look like stuff from Ikea) and my garage would never hold and of his tools, although I will admit there are a few Way Cool tools of his design that I could be tempted to build if I did have the room.  Still, it is fascinating to see what a determined intellect can create using the tools at hand. 

He sells his plans for his tools, as I mentioned, which makes me wonder if he is insured.    One of the reasons I stopped selling wooden toys and other projects (apart from general unprofitability) was because I was warned about the danger of someone or their children getting hurt with one of my toys and such.  I called an insurance company to ask about their rates.  They wouldn't even consider it for me, as it was too risky.  I wonder, therefore, if he is insured or not.  If someone were to get injured using a tool of his design, even if the injury were due to inferior materials or improper construction techniques rather than design flaws, he could be on the hook for a lot of money in damages.

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