There is a magic…



There is a magic to this work, and a sadness at its completion. The magic begins with a fancy, a passing image of a tiny cabin nestled into a hillside, just enough for two, carved from the surrounding forest. It dances from the mind, not containable, onto a roughly sketched scrap of paper late one night, candle light dancing about across the page, rude shapes and simple math cover corners as the little dream takes shape.

There is a magic as this dream is carved, hewn and sawn from stoic timbers of oak and pine. As cold polished chisels devour fat chips and leave straight bold mortises in their wake. The chorus of a many toothed saw as its rhythm strikes long curls of richly scented pine spiraling to the undergrowth.

There is a magic as the timbers come together, as long oiled tenons slide easily into their rightful mortise, the knock of the mallet and thud as a joint slams home, the permanence of each joint reverberating in your bones.

There is a sadness in its completion, like the ending of a much enjoyed book, when you are rudely thrown back to the cruelness of reality. The fantasy and joy gone too soon, and what of all your favorite characters, best friends and enemies no more…? The moment comes gradually into fruition, you double check your measurements, your wedges, your foundation. The work goes fast, with so much preparation, like a swift sleigh ride down a snowy hill, you slam one mortise home, drive this wedge, shove that timber, insert that joist, then…then…its done…its all together, there beautiful before you, but done, and you want more!

Yes there is a sadness in its completion, but also a joy unmeasured, a satisfaction money cannot buy, and a pride justly earned! For you have given wings to a dream, and so long as there will always be more to build, there will be a magic in every day!



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45 Responses to There is a magic…

  1. bbrewer71 says:

    Your words make beautiful pictures of my thoughts and emotions. Thank you for your videos and thank you for your words.


  2. Mike Montgomery says:

    Such a well thought out, beautiful, sentiment. It comes across in your videos that you are a confident craftsman. I don’t know the story behind how you acquired your woodworking skills, your videography skills, or your collection of hand tools, but I am impressed.

    Michael Montgomery

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill Read says:

    I know how you feel, I built a 1and 1/2 story post and beam house in the bush back in 1986 and still live there

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Tyler Woods says:

    I’m truly enjoying your videos and learning from your skill.
    As for the sadness of completion… Though sad that a dream is now done, it opens the way to begin another. I look forward to following you through that one as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. metaspencer says:

    That’s quite a structure with lots of potential

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tyler Woods says:

    The sadness of a beloved project completed, gives way to the excitement of a fresh start for a whole new dream. I’ve enjoyed watching your videos and I’m learning as I watch your craftsmanship. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Adam Comfort says:

    Truly, the best days are the days when you build. When I find a way out of the rat race of the city, I would love to build daily, progress towards something I will use and cherish for the rest of my days and my children’s days. The more I work, the more I want to work for myself and do the things that need to be done the right way, and not how this society says you should do them now. Technology is great but there is something we have lost from the past, and we have become lazy. Thank you Mr. Chickadee for sharing your thoughts and craftsmanship, it really is encouraging and it strengthens my longing for a better place and a simpler life.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Mark Palmer says:

    I know that emotion exactly! Thanks for putting it into words. I built a pergola once, and it stayed exactly how I liked it. The “bones” were beautiful and lasting. I built my dream home … and then covered up the beautiful framing with equally beautiful “icing” and I could not understand why I was a little sad. Truly enjoy seeing your work.


  9. msjoy1234 says:

    Yes we all need magic in every day. You and Mrs. Chickadee are a big part of that magic! It’s great to see you writing again. Maybe when you get this built you will be inspired to write a book. I am one proud mama bear!


  10. Thanks for being a doer and not just a talker. Great results that you both can be proud of for the rest of your lives.


  11. C.H. McCants says:

    Welcome words, and brilliantly stated.

    Are those sketched plans still available? I think it would make for a neat reveal.


  12. terence says:

    where is situated


  13. Mike Jose says:

    I am also a fervent follower and romanticiser of our underappreciated past. Industrialisation brought with it money and speed, but it displaced the love and fastidiousness of the craftsman’s hands. Cast forward nearly a century and I don’t know many informed who could say that the industrialisation of our country benefitted it altogether as well as was promised to us. After all, the industriousness of a person was not measured by the amount of work they accomplished, but what that accomplishment was. Current day spends its time muting the philosopher and shunning the artist in us all. You bring back to all of us what we forgot we had–a curiousity, a passion, and a care for our dreams that they may one day take shape.

    I would also like to inquire further about opportunities you may have had or been offered to teach others in a more educational fashion. I participate in a yearly event hosted by a museum in the midwest doing a small talk on craftsmanship during the mid-1800’s. Firstly, would you ever be interested in participating in such an event, and what would be your terms, if so. Secondly, if there is a more appropriate way to contact you, please feel free to use the email address associated with this comment to get in touch with me.


  14. Dave says:

    Thanks to the internet I have found I am not as weird as I once thought…..There are like minded souls scatter through out the country. Thanks for letting me share your journey.


  15. scott ingledue says:



  16. Mark says:

    I would like to know more about the man behind this blog and YouTube adventure


  17. Mark says:

    I would like to know more about the man behind the blog and YouTube videos. Quite the achievement to do this mostly by yourself and without the use of modern power equipment.
    Well done


  18. Rick L. says:

    Great work, no grass grew under your feet. The furniture and small framing projects that I did by hand have a special glow about them much cherished by family. They have outlived anything I worked with electricity. Heart and soul goes into hand work. It’s just different.


  19. davedacus says:

    You and your wife are inspiring. I admire your passion and work.


  20. G Panis says:

    I’m reading Roy Underhill’s first book and Jack Sabon’s Timber Frame Construction and they are so great pieces of advice I just can’t stop reading them. For a couple of years my girlfriend and I have been cogitating going back to the countryside. After finishing our studies in Brazil, we’ve spent a lot of time researching and visiting ecological farmers in order to learn how to make a sustainable living, and in these places I’ve become aware of the potential of the old tools. Meeting farmers and discovering the way they do things was the best thing I’ve ever done so far at age 27. Then, 3 years had passed and we finally bought our land so we could start small projects. There we’ve encountered an abandoned house falling down without knowing what do to with it. Then I’ve been looking into how my Italian ancestors used to build and, in the middle of the way, found Dick Proenneke, which became my major source of inspiration and retargeted my research. Since I don’t have experience with building, I want to ask how much time have you been dedicating to building? Just to have a parameter. I already learned so much from your videos that I felt the need to share this with you. Thank you!


  21. Hoping you all are well, and that winter preparations are going smoothly. Hope that the fires there in E. KY are not bothering you.



  22. Clifford Logan says:

    Ah, the magic of building and working with your hands. You know it’s been a good day when your pants pockets, shirt and socks have a layer of sawdust in them and your arms and hands ache from making said sawdust. I love your videos and your blog. I love the fact that you don’t talk in your videos, in a very powerful way it expresses how wonderful it is to use hand tools, to feel and hear them work with your hands is part of the magic. We live in a very noisy world, to be able to think, work with ones hands and think is real life. As a 67 year old man who is recovering from knee replacement surgery I feel lost without my workshop and tools around me. I stumbled upon your blog and videos by accident, or maybe it was meant to be. I’ve learned a long time ago that there are no accidents in this world, everything happens for a reason. Keep dreaming, keep working with your hands, it truly is a magical world.


  23. Salko Safic says:

    What beautiful words, so well written and I’m equally stunned and bewildered by your level of knowledge and skill. Watching you build tirelessly with accuracy and precision with hand tools brought to life from the past is so gratifying to my soul. But I keep asking myself reaching to no satisfying conclusion as to how does someone young as you possess such skill and know how. There isn’t an aspect of a particular craft you displayed in your videos but a vast variety from working with wood, splitting rocks right through to blacksmithing. I’m just simply astonished, amazed and totally mind boggled and not to mention the vast array of tools you have in your possession. Well done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mrchickadee says:

      Thank you for the kind mention on your blog of our humble channel.

      I don’t know about tirelessly, I stay pretty tired, but happy in the fatigue…’)

      As to my training, I find if one just gives of themselves completely to the journey, making mistakes as you go but pulling up the bootstraps each time and carrying on, the needed skill will come.

      Life on the homestead necessitates the “jacking” of many trades, therefore, I doubt I will reach mastery of any one gild craft, but I will have fun in the process!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Salko Safic says:

        It isn’t often I give credit to someone but I think you deserve the credit as I don’t know anyone who not only has the necessary skill sets in the various crafts but also lives the meaning of the craft. I know that working with hand tools isn’t for everybody especially living powerless, but I’m glad that a young man as yourself with a like minded partner has chosen to live the way you do. I wish you both much success in your lives.


  24. Carl Langner says:

    Ahoy! so heres my Blip from me to you! Firstly my condolences on the passing of your sweet little princess. A good friend of mine lost his furry friend Padi before the summer of 2016, for 10 years she had been one of my best friends, maybe the two of them are chasing rabbits and squirrels together in dog heaven tonight. I sincerely hope so!

    looking for my first vintage crosscut saw on ebay I stumbled upon your series and just watched from hewing to window building, reading some of the comments after each video.

    it is great to see someone who can stay so positive! you-tube commenters can be pretty harsh especially about stuff like this!! way to go stickin to your guns as I call it! let no nay sayer get your goat!

    anyhoo now is the time I walk my two animal friends, winter has finally made it to Austin, TX and it is in the mid 20s tonight! time to bust out the dog sweaters and get frisky!

    I live with my family and help manage several houses we rent! we had a lot of oak trees die of a fungal disease and I am left to figure out what to do with all this great wood! after much frustration with melting electric chainsaws and many triumphs with a trusty pole pruner, ive decided old school saws are the way to go!

    any fun ideas from a truly true craftsman like yourself, or your kindly wife would be appreciated! it is Live Oak wood, some good wood! ive considered wood statue art, big chess sets, some of it has already become firewood! structure had crossed my mind but I was not sure if I was up to the task!

    it is very sad some of the trees were big and perhaps as old as these United States.

    anyway thinking and dreaming is fun so I’m sending ya’ll a humdinger!
    what do I do with some good wood!

    Best Wishes!


    • mrchickadee says:


      Ive been to austin a few times, lovely, and bad traffic haha. If you haven’t see her, you have a national champion live oak downtown, I believe between 5th and 6th street, called “the treaty oak” dates back at least 500 years.

      ANyway. yes live oak is very dense and hard wood, much harder than other oaks on the jenka scale, Im sorry to hear of the dead trees, and jealous of the wood, Id love to have some! haha
      If any of it is straight enough you could try riving it into billets for chairs and other furniture, it would be lovely quarter sawn. You may even find a local person with a bandsaw mill who could come and cut it up for you into whatever you want.


  25. Lara Chan says:

    Very beautiful words. Amazing work. How did you learn all of these techniques. You make it look like you’ve done this all before. Watching your videos I always wonder what thoughts go through your mind while out in the woods with your chisels, mallets, and saws… the sounds of wood being pounded, cut and split alongside nature’s soundtrack is absolutely beautiful. Thank you.


    • mrchickadee says:


      Thank you so much for the kind words. I learned from reading books by Roy under hill and from practicing myself. Hmmm thoughts? I think of the work of course, but also about those who worked in this was in the past, with hand tools of necessity since that was all to be had. I bask in the glow of nature, thinking of each bird who sings his heart out in the glades…and I think how lucky I am to be able to do this work I love every day!



  26. John Mead says:

    Firstly thank you for sharing your project with the public . Your woodworking brought up many memories for me , especially ones about my Dad who did all the things you did but had since forgotten.
    Long ago, with his brother they used to build high quality homes after WW2 , in the late 40’s. Like you they had to become expert with these very same tools. Sadly, like it became later there was not much of a market at that time for 100% premium built homes. The ” cardboard box” trend existed back then and stripped the market share from those putting quality before quantity. So the venture was dropped after 5 years of very hard work. The uptick from that was that there was nothing my Dad could not create with his metal and woodworking skills, this he applied to many home projects and would expect building contractors to not ” cut any corners” whenever we moved into a new home or have them sub contract to build a garage , etc. Anyhow all of the tools, the long moments of sawing or hewing wood, that all brought back those memories for me.
    Once again, thank you for sharing. I hope that the serenity and peace of nature will always be there as a place to reside for you in such a troubled world.


  27. Nick Prince says:


    I have been watching your videos and following your blog for a few days now. I have been aspiring to build a timber frame cabin and I have completed a few small timber frame projects. I plan to attend a timber frame workshop this Fall, but I have read Jack Sobon’s and Benson’s books religiously.

    After watching your youtube videos, I plan to utilize your foundation style. I do want to inquire about your enclosure method. How do you plan to flash/weatherproof your windows and door openings? Also, how did you build up insulation for your roof? Thank you for all you have shared and I will continue to enjoy everything you post,



    • mrchickadee says:


      Our frame is insulated using Wall or Larsen trusses (google will give lots of pics) We hung these on the outside of the frame, then a thermal break of roxul board, then rain screen gap (also google for pics) then exterior hemlock B&B siding. The widows and door are framed through this thick wall without flashing on the outside, roof overhang and the vented rain screen mitigate and need or worry about wind driven rain, so no other flashing. We did burn and oil all exterior siding and window frames in the yakisugi tradition (google). T&G boards were laid on the rafters, then felt, then larsen trusses were hung over the roof, filled with insulation (R60 roxul batt) then metal cladding. I WONT DO THIS AGAIN NOR ADVISE OTHERS DO!!! never again, we had space concerns and needed/wanted the loft space in the house so went with the cathedral ceiling, a better plan would have a high ceiling covered with insulation, then a cold attic above. This is traditional practice and much better way, if I ever build again that will be the way.

      Ask more questions if you have them !



  28. Good heavens, for such a quiet guy you sure can write!
    Yes, you summarized the finishing of a project with beautiful precision.
    I had an Israeli friend tell me it was a custom of theirs to always leave something a little undone so they could hold onto the feeling of the job still in progress 😉


  29. benDE says:

    Howdy Josh,

    In lieu of me delivering the gushing praise you rightfully deserve, I come with a personal request for your expertise through experience. I am sourcing materials to build a design also existing mostly in increasingly dirty and crumpled sketches. I am confident about all aspects but that of the sill girth.

    I see in your timber frame that you use piers between sill beams instead of a running foundation wall – like you have in your shop. I have the same idea and I would image a similar motivation for doing so but alas, we are a rare breed – I can find so few examples of this pier construction where these sill beams also support the floor joists.

    The new structure will be a 14’x14′ shop attached to an existing bombproof but ‘too big to heat’ vertical log garage I overbuilt about a decade ago built on a continuous foundation. I wish to only sink two new footings to support the outside sill beam corners and tie the other two into the existing structure. I can engineer the roof to be totally carried into the corner posts and onward to the footings. My questions are thus: What is the maximum span between the piers in your house? What dimensions are the oak sills? Is it now solid? Do you feel you over or under built?

    I’ve been using load tables and they give me a 12X10 beam which seems like extreme overkill; Ten years ago overbuilding was a source of pride for me but at some point when the testosterone begins to ebb, the mantra of ‘smarter – not harder’ is more appealing….. I would love to get your take. Thanks in advance, Josh.

    Germany via Wisconsin


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