"We must achieve the character and acquire the skills to live much poorer than we do. We must waste less. We must do more for ourselves and for each other. It is either that or continue merely to think and talk about changes that we are inviting catastrophe to make. The great obstacle is simply this: the conviction that we cannot change because we are dependant on what is wrong. But that is the addict's excuse, and we know that it will not do."
—Wendell Berry

Saturday, 31 December 2011

On wheelbarrows and old tools

"You would be amazed by what I can do" is usually my smart arse response whenever someone expresses surprise at our achievements here on the cloud farm. I want to put it on my grave stone along with instructions to wait three days.

Almost a decade ago I was shopping for a new wheelbarrow. My old one had finally decomposed into a pile of rust and corroded rubber after too few years of rather poor service. I was frankly glad to see it go and was looking forward to buying a new flash top of the line 'barrow. However I was quickly disappointed when I went through the local hardware stores. I was utterly appalled at the quality as well as design, not to mention the prices! Don't get me wrong, these were not the home cheapies either, I am talking about the top quality builders barrows. According to the salesman (a pimply teenager who obviously wanted to be elsewhere) you could get up to five years out of one of those barrows. He said it like it was something to be proud of.
What happened to the old attitude of making something to last a lifetime? You still see those old barrows in antique shops- and many of them could still be used for work. I have hundreds of woodworking tools, mostly eighty years old or more that still function as well as the day they were made and I can tell you they work better than the modern Chinese or American rubbish in the shops too! Doesn't anyone make anything to last in this day and age? I had to resist the urge to punch the salesman as he shrugged.
So I built my own.
I am a woodworker by trade and so I built a wooden wheelbarrow. The design is that of a traditional English barrow and it is the best wheel barrow I have ever had. It also cost me nothing at all. I had never made anything like this when I started this project, nor did I have any plans, just a few images in a book. I was actually surprised at how easy it was. I am also continually surprised at how well it works. It is more rugged than any modern barrow- it is going on ten years of solid work for almost no maintenance. It weighs about the same as a bricklayers barrow and can carry over one hundred kilos with ease. Ok, the spoked wheel is a conceit. I just wanted to see if I could make one.

1 comment:

  1. I completely agree about the attitude to buying stuff and throwing it away. The attitude seems to be "Let's just buy cheap crap from China and throw it away in a few years, get some more". Global warming anybody?

    It is really hard to find wooden furniture in particular that is well made. There's an awful lot of particle board and MDF out there, or pine, but little solid timber, at least not in the mid-20th century, minimalist style that we like :)