My wife loved her tiny plastic dustpan from walmart, she really did. It was light, she said. It was practical, cheap, and efficient she said. I hated it, really I did. The sad thing though was not that I hated it, for I knew deep down somehow it was evil; no the sad thing was that I could not really put my finger, nor any body part on what was so bad about a 99cent dustpan. So it lived in our tent, along with all the other cheap, efficient and bright colored plastic things that practicality forced me to have and use. Until one freezing snowy day, when I stumbled and sent my size 15 shoe down upon its shiny plastic head. It exploded into a shower of fluffy shards. My wife was sure this was planned, my unfounded hatred had killed her favorite tool. So in an effort at diplomacy I duct tapped it back together and we continued to use it for a month or so. Until I stepped on it again…Now was my poor wife’s turn to be diplomatic.
“its ok, she said, we can just throw it away and buy another one at walmart for 99cents!”she exclaimed in loving understanding.
It was this exclamation which finally shocked into frozen clarity the truth (for me) which had been but a hazy gut feeling. (Just throw it away and buy a new one) this dustpan now epitomized to me the highly evolved disposable consumer lifestyle which drove me into the mountains to begin with. I resolved at that moment I would not “buy a new one” I would try as I might to emulate what people would have done in years past, make something to fit a need, and develop a skill in the process.
We had made spoons, spatulas and bowls from wood, so why not a dustpan? I started with an off cut from the dough bowl poplar log and hewed it into rough shape with the broad hatchet in much the same way I would shape a large spoon.
I then used a gouge to open up the interior going across the grain to prevent the blade from digging too deep.
Once the bowl was finished I smoothed everything up with a carving knife and shaved down the edge with the large draw knife until it was thin and flexible. As it is it flexes to fit any contour of the surface being swept, very important in a tent with a floor which is anything but flat!
After a few coats of my beeswax blend and a paring with a corn broom it was on to the important test, being vetted by the boss. Lucky for me she loved it!
There is a joy in making things, everyday simple necessities of life. This joy was daily life in the past, and perhaps seen as drudgery. I see it as freedom, as a small step toward a large change, and even if its just a change for our small family, its enough for us.