Thoughts from the Saw Shop: Lost tools, lost skills, surviving a disaster.


Vern Burke, SwiftWater Edge Tool Works

Skowhegan, ME

In my business, I not only sharpen nearly every blade under the sun and repair a wide variety of hand tools, I also restore the old, high quality, tools that don’t need any gas, don’t need to be plugged in, and out quality almost anything being made today. In this post, I’m going to talk a little about lost skills.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of these militia, hardcore prepper, types getting set for the end of the world. What I’m talking about here are things like natural (or unnatural) disasters. Getting a set of my restored old tools is only half the job, here are the things I think everyone should know how to DO with the tools when it drops in the pot.

1. Cut your own firewood. The power is out, the fuel is out, but you still have to stay warm. Everyone should know how to go from a standing tree to a pile of split and dried firewood. This means knowing how to safely use a 1 man or 2 man crosscut saw and an axe for both chopping and splitting. If you have the right tools and know how to use them, you should never have to go cold.

2. Know how to build shelter. You’ve been pushed out of your home by a disaster and nobody has offered you a free room at the Ramada. Everyone should know how to build a sound shelter at least suitable for whatever climate you live in and preferably for a wide range of climates. This means everything from the axe (for basic, rough, highly temporary shelter) to traditional vintage carpenter’s tools such as handsaws, nail hammers (remember, no power means your electric drill isn’t going to be much good for driving screws!), hand planes, squares, etc, for more substantial shelter. Have the right tools and know how to use them and you can get through a disaster snug and dry.

Finally, learn how to use the tools so you can come up with your own list of things you can do with them to make your life in a pinch easier and more comfortable.

I don’t care if you’re a banker, business executive, or anyone else who figures they can always pay someone else so they never need to lift a tool. Learn to hammer a nail. Learn to cut boards with a handsaw and plane them smooth with a vintage hand place. Learn to split a stick of wood with an axe. Learn how to get that standing tree safely on the ground and cut up with a crosscut saw. You don’t have to make works of art, just get through whatever it is you have to get through.

You may never need these skills from your high rise office in the big city but you never know what’s going to happen.

Oh, and come see me for the great vintage tools that will let you get it done :).

Visit me at any of the following locations:

Elm Plaza, Waterville, ME (Mondays)
Tractor Supply, Skowhegan, ME (Tuesday and Wednesday)
Arundel Flea Market, Rt 1 & Log Cabin Rd, Arundel, ME (Fridays)
298 W Front St, Skowhegan, ME (all other days)

If you’re looking for a special tool, please drop me an
email and let me know and I’ll restore one just for you!

SwiftWater Edge Tool Works provides mobile sharpening services across Maine and mail in services around the world for handsaws, carbide blades, planer knives, hand planes, chain saws, knives, scissors, hair clippers, router bits, and almost any blade!

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