How to hew beams, all day long
When I was a much younger man, I made extra money to help support my young family by “moonlighting” in flatwork concrete construction. A big part of the work was breaking up and removing old concrete slabs. On many projects I worked with man named Slim. Slim was a tall, slender black man who was seventy years old. He was gentlemanly, soft spoken and had been a laborer all of his life. And, at seventy, he would continually outwork men who were half his age.
On one project, Slim and I had to break and remove some especially old and thick slabs. I started breaking with the maul. (For those of you not familiar with the term, a maul is a sixteen pound sledge hammer, not a tool for the faint of heart.) I was swinging away with this thing like a man trying to ring the bell at the county fair or put a home-run over the center field wall. After ten minutes (or less), I had to sit down and rest. The cycle of equal amounts of work and rest continued for about an hour. Finally Slim said to me, “son, you keep this up, I’m afraid you’re gonna drop dead. Let the hammer do the work.” “What do you mean, let the hammer do the work?”, I asked. “That thing weighs plenty. Just lift it up over your head and let it fall. The weight alone will break that slab. And, if you’re gonna work all day, pace yourself.”
Roald Renmaelmo recently told me that the Norsk Folkmuseum had just put some videos on Youtube that I would find interesting. The first one I watched was two carpenters hewing beams. It is all about “pace”. Slim would smile in agreement.
The Folkmuseum has posted a number of videos that are well worth watching, if you’re interested in traditional craft. And be sure to visit Roald’s blogs at http://www.hyvelbenk.wordpress.com or http://www.skottbenk.wordpress.com.
Remember, you can run one mile or walk ten.
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