As a family, we spend a lot of time at Valley Forge National Park. The park is within driving distance from where I live, and many weekends we spend walking, or bike riding, or taking in the history of the area.
It is a beautiful setting, in particular during this time of year, and you could easily spend many weekends just taking photographs. We use the park to take photos sometime, but mostly it is a just a peaceful place to spend time walking and talking (as well as checking out the remarkable period furniture at George Washington’s Headquarters, among many other buildings). I often preach about civic virtue, though not necessarily on this blog. I firmly believe that civic virtue begins at home in the maintaining of your house, property, and neighborhood. Though it’s easy to talk about civic virtue, it means little if you do nothing but talk. For some time I’ve felt the need to “give back” to the park, so I would usually bring a small garbage bag with me during our walks to pick up any debris or trash I happen to find. Luckily, the vast majority of those who spend time in the park not only respect its natural beauty, they also respect it as a place that is sacred in American History.
Still, while doing my part to keep the park clean is certainly rewarding, I found myself wanting to do more, so we joined The Friends of Valley Forge Park organization, which is dedicated to maintaining, preserving, and promoting the park as a place of beauty, recreation, and historical significance. Through the group I was introduced to the Hut Brigade, a small group of volunteers who work with the park rangers in maintaining and restoring the many cabins throughout the park. That sounded like something I should be a part of, so I made contact with the group and they happily welcomed me as a new volunteer. This past Saturday was my first meeting and I’m happy to report that it was a great success.
It was a beautiful autumn morning to work, cool with crystal clear and sunny skies. I met with the other volunteers at the site of the Blacksmith Cabin, which has been undergoing intensive restoration since the beginning of the summer. Many rotted logs were replaced, as well as new doorway and window frames cut in and framed out. Under the direction of a Park Ranger, my job was to remove the bracing which was in place to hold the cabin up while rotted logs were in place. Once that was finished I mixed up the mortar and used it to daub the gaps between the logs along with the other volunteers. Not to toot my own horn too much, but I’m a pretty handy guy to have on a job site. My electrical knowledge was next to useless here, but I’m pretty good with a saw, chisel, mallet, drill, and mortar (I am part Italian). The work was not easy, and though I’m not young anymore, I can still work hard, and like the volunteers of the Continental Army I felt that it was my duty to do so. And I think George Washington would be proud of what the Hut Brigade does.
When I returned home I felt the need to woodwork a little. When I first decided to build an Enfield Cupboard, I also decided to make a panel raising jig for my table saw as I would like the cupboard to have raised panels if possible, so I picked up a piece of plywood at Woodcraft for that purpose. When my woodworking projects got put on hold over the summer, so too did my jig. That all ended on Saturday, as I quickly had the jig built and ready to go. I will be honest and admit that not a big fan of building woodworking jigs, but they do have their time and place. This jig should do just fine as a panel raiser for small to medium size panels, as well as useful for making tenons (if I choose to use a table saw).
The last thing I did on Saturday involved a walnut board I almost tossed in the garbage several times. I measured it and found that there was enough there to build a small rack for my screwdrivers. In the spirit of the day, I prepped the board by hand, sawing it to width, and planing the edge straight with jack and jointer planes. The board needed a lot of work, and it made a mess of shavings. When I finally got the edge straight and square I used the table saw to rip it to final width. At that I called it a day.
At the next meeting of the Hut Brigade there will be more daubing, as well as building some doors, which should give me the chance to do a little woodworking. Whatever happens, I will be proud to be a part of it. And if you would like to donate to a very worthy cause, please visit the Friends of Valley Forge web page and give the organization consideration for your generosity; it would be most appreciated.
*Sorry for the lack of woodworking photos, my staff photographer was out with her mom.