Saturday, August 15, 2009


Northerners like to make things by hand. This tendency is fuelled by three basic things: physics, geography, and economics. Physics, because it takes time and effort to get things from point A to point B. Geography, because point A is usually a long way from point B. Economics, because because it costs money to transport the stuff from point A to point B. Sometimes it's just more efficient to make it yourself.

Money is often the clincher. Take my brother Paul for example. He wanted a good skinning knife, which was normal for an outdoorsy Upsala teenager in 1976. A Buck or Schrade was out of the budget (there was no budget), so he created his own out of a hunk of steel and a piece of wood using a hacksaw and a file. He doesn't like to show off that first attempt, but it planted a seed, and 30+ years later, he is a custom knife maker that can proudly take his place with the best. Click here to read a brief history of Beebe Knives. And it all started because a teenager couldn't scrape $25 together to buy a decent knife.

In the early '90s a highschool student from British Columbia worked as Paul's apprentice. He later went on to create his own unique line of work which you can see here.

Erinn and I like to visit various handmade shops in Thunder Bay on our annual anniversery get-away. Some of our favourites are stained glass by Kleewyk, natural bees wax candles at Bee Happy Candles, and a silversmith at Northern Lights Gallery. You can see more listings by clicking here (you'll probably have to do ctrl+ to make the page bigger unless you've got better eyes than I do). Lots of talented artisans living in a small city.

I have to draw the line on the handmade stuff when it comes to firefighting though. I had a young firefighter that wanted to make his own version of the Jaws of Life. I'm an encourager, so I said go for it. He got pretty far into the project, but finally abandoned it. It might have had something to do with the 40,000 psi required to do the job. Sometimes you just have to find the cash to pay an expert to make what you need, especially if people's lives are hanging in the balance. Things like fire hose, hooligan bars, and turnout gear come with high price tags, but in the end they are worth it.

That's the problem with any kind of firefighting equipment . . . the price tag. Attach the name "fire" or "rescue" to it, and the price goes to the moon. A basic set of heavy hydraulic extrication tools starts at $25,000, a lot of cash for a village of 200 people to fork out. We opted for the next best thing to making it ourselves . . . we purchased our equipment second-hand . . . at about half the price. It isn't top of the line, but there are quite a few people out there walking around that are thankful we had it.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have a comment? Go for it! It's lonely out here in bloggerland . . .

Search This Blog