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Using the things at hand.

I find a treasure trove of natural materials for use in my projects and creations.

Clearing the trees at the lake for my cabin--"my Walden," or the Sugar Shack as my wife, Di, so aptly named it--I tossed all the balsam spruce I cut into a gully nearby. It was the natural thing to do. I needed the space and had neither the time to haul the brush away nor another place to put it.

Later, I would question the wisdom of my hasty decision as the brush was a haven for mosquitoes and unsightly as it browned over time. I procrastinated repeatedly; moving these piles was not a job I relished.

When I was building the door for my bathhouse, I decided it would be nice to use natural materials. I wanted a rustic look. In searching for a suitable sapling to cut, I happened upon some of the balsam lying in the hollow and pulled out a long piece. It appeared to be very dry and solid. I cut off a section and limbed it. This would make a good handle for my homemade door. I find that I can make aesthetically pleasing exterior doors of inexpensive construction, 2 x 4's, ripped into 2 by 2's, and 1/4- or 3/8-inch plywood. Plexiglas makes a serviceable window. On my last fall trip that year, I collected all the dead dry spruce and balsam that I could find in my brush piles. I was not sure what I would do with it, but I was thinking that I might find worthwhile winter projects for these pieces.

I located a source of homemade outdoor lamp shades and decided to make lamps as Christmas presents; a woman in Minnesota was selling them in an eBay store. My father had made lamps, both table and standing, with a wood lathe, after retiring as a merchant marine officer. I looked over lamps he had given me and thought I could do the same with my natural materials.

The most difficult task is drilling the long holes required to hide the cords. I found suitable drill bits at the local hardware store and inexpensive extension cords and electric lamp sockets at Wal-Mart. I simply keep the plug-in end of the extension cords and cut off the end with the multiple outlet sockets. This is less expensive than buying the lamp kits.

I find that my digital camera is an invaluable aide in recording my work and recovering ideas later. When my wife's niece made favorable comments on the lamps, I decided to make her a modified version, including pictures of her grandparents. I used my computer software to properly size two pictures and then laminated the pictures on my home

laminator. Tracing the ends of the lamp bottom allowed me to cut the pictures accordingly and glue them on the ends.

My woods partner, Bailey, an English Setter, graces the end of one lamp and an Alaskan moose eating willow brush in my yard in Wasilla, Alaska, graces another. I've used pictures of the Northern Lights over our cabin on a winter's night and pictures of relatives, as I mentioned above. There are numerous creative ways to enhance your natural lamps.

Another source of natural materials for woods crafts is driftwood. I often simply use various wood stains and clear coatings to finish interesting pieces of wood recovered from the lake. My mother collected driftwood for years and used it with dried flowers in its natural state.

Gourd birdhouses, from our garden at home, grace the lake front at the cabin and a decayed piece of balsam fits the bill outside the cabin's kitchen window.

The products of nature, the "things at hand," provide many opportunities for creative hobbies and result in useable items and gifts for friends. At home, I used sandstone from local sources for walkways and created a birdhouse from a knothole in my old tobacco shed.
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Title Annotation:Country neighbors; building the house doors
Author:Dishnow, Mike
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 2013
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