Local Heart, Global Soul

March 2, 2014

History And The Changing Times Have Dying Occupations Over a Barrel…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

It gives me great sadness when I discover the death of an occupation. A craft, a set of specialised skills, a trade that was often passed down from Father to Son, gone, leaving behind a long history of hard work forged in fire and with wood.

Such is the case of cooperage at Zaans Schans. Coopers make wooden barrels, barrels that were used in days gone by for the transport and storage of all sorts of goods both locally and worldwide.

Whilst barrels rolled well on stone quays and streets in the centuries before and just after the Industrial Revolution, their round forms did not make for the the most ergonomic shape when filling ships holds and the invention of the shipping container was the one of the many contributors to the death knells of the cooperage industry.

In the case of  Zaans Schans I find a little building that houses the full workings of a cooperage intact. From the information boards I learn:

In the building you see the interior from the barrels and cooperage trade SR Tiemstra Oostzanerwerf & Sons. On the death of the last cooper, Jaap Tiemstra in 1999, he left behind a completely intact cooperage. It’s intriguing to see not just how the craft of the cooper  was put together, but to also catch a breath of the spirit of the cooper in the interior.

Cooperage Tiemstra was established in 1919 by Jaaps’  father Simon Tiemstra. Jaap ran the company together with his brother until 1987. This coopery was a so-called “wet coopery” which means that they made containers for wet goods such as herring, beer and other liquors. After the nineteen fifties demand fell considerably for wooden barrels.

It’s not just the making of barrels that have become a dying trade. so too slowly but surely have the canalside saw-mills once littered the banks of Dutch canals.

Powered by the wind energy of the wind mills above the wood milling buildings these mills were one of the main reasons for centuries of Dutch supremacy at sea, sailing ships could be quickly built and repaired both in times of war and peace because the wind automated much of the milling process that other nations were still carrying out by hand.

The Dutch rather literally made the wind into their economic power-house and the wood produced was used in the building all matter of things , not least  ships, barges and barrels.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Some information referring to an antique photograph tells me: ” Schuitenmakerij Brouwer:  This work shed originally belonged to the ship-maker company Widow K. Brouwer located at the Rustenburg in Zaandam.

In 1964 the shed was to have been demolished in favour of the building if the new headquarters of Albert Heijn Supermarkets.

In 1967 the  shed was rebuilt at  Zaanse Schans. The original shipyard was founded in 1857 by Klaas Brouwer.

After Worlds War I the company specialised in the construction of barges.

At that time  there were still a great number of wind-sawmills, and timber merchants established in the Westzijderveld.

Almost all the timber shipped in at the harbour of Zaandam was bought to the processors and merchants by  hundreds of barges. Of course, as evidenced by one of my blog posts a few days ago,  barge traffic is still very big business on Dutch waterways,  especially for raw materials , so the industry itself didn’t disappear but it  is true that it is no longer visible in it’s old state either: The many hundreds of old wooden barges have been replaced with fewer but far larger vessels, steel giants that transport tonnages that their old wooden forbearers could only have dreamt about.

Keep Up, Change or Die… the mantra of trade and industry throughout the ages. Sometimes we inevitably hold ourselves over a barrel.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

March 29, 2013

I Conquer My Nerves But Am Then Left Hanging By a Thread…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

We are still at “de kinderwerkplaats’ (The Children’s workshop) , getting to grips with scientific and mechanical  playthings. Working boats and  balloon cars have been made from polystyrene, volcanoes erupted, paving stones laid, rockets launched and water diverted. Child’s play, literally.

Now however Kiwi Daughter is a showing some nerves, she’s holding a thin square of wood and the band saw beckons.

She and the older daughter of our friend can think of no more imaginative a shape to cut out than their initials. (That’s the reason there’s no photo of their finished product) but the band saw looks intimidating.

I’ve never used one before either but surely it can’t be so difficult? I do remember my Dad in New Zealand using a skill saw, the round blade eating into most things in it’s path with evil ease,  as a kid I would shudder, keep my distance when it was going and keep my hands  dug deep into my pockets. This machine is  so much smaller but the blade still holds a certain menace that makes my fingers wince.

I wasn’t certain of what made me more nervous, that I would have to use it, or that Kiwi Daughter might blast confidence and gusto and want to go gung-ho on it. I drew a tiny diagonal line across the corner of he wooden square and told Kiwi Daughter that we would just cut off the smallest snippet so that we could gain some confidence at how the machine worked and handled.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

She offered for me to go first and she watched from a safe distance.  I held the wood firmly, took a deep breath and started to cut.  The trick appears to be to go as slow as you want and press the wood downwards as you go, as it wants to lift upwards and then you loose control of the cut. A tiny triangle of wood  shot away as I finished the slice I was making and the result didn’t look half bad.

Kiwi Daughter repeated my maneuver with rigid concentration  with the other three corners and then we got to grips with drawing out the letter she wanted.

Cutting what she wanted was going to require getting a bit closer to the edges so I was nervous she would want to do it, but luckily she was quick to suggest I do it,  so it was my turn to be cutting with rigid concentration and extremely paranoid  placement of fingers.

I didn’t however want her to know that this was freaking me out so I made jokes about girls can do machine tools too, and ten digits safely intact later, the letters were complete.

The next most “dangerous” item on the agenda was the dip candle. You are supplied with a length of wick, a wooden pole to tie it on to and directed to a very large vat of hot wax. Instructions are two seconds dipping a new layer and thirty seconds out in the cold air to harden it somewhat. A father of a toddler turned up to the vat and tired a technique that involved dipping, waiting about 4 seconds and then repeatedly dipping.

Instead of adding new layers quicker he only managed to melt away the still hot previous layer so he was forced to change tactics when he saw that progress was minimal.

Truth be told, not one kid to stayed the course when it came to the candles, a few dips and they wanted to be off to the next thing, leaving  Mama or Papa holding the candle and the little deserters even giving instructions to “make sure it’s a big candle” as they departed. Himself joined me with a good idea, he was dipping for the two youngest kids so he tried a wick to each end of the pole and dipped first one end and then the next. One end could be cooling whilst the other end was going in and out of  the vat.  A seriously good idea.

It was surprisingly therapeutic, and about 40 minutes and probably 500 dips later, my candle was very fat and very long ( far longer than the wick in fact) and was looking amazing when all of a sudden I dipped it into the vat and came out with only the wick on my pole! My fat candle was now floating in a fat of hot wax and in grave danger of imminent return to it’s molten state. It’s weight had caused it to slide off the wick completely and all my hard work was about to go down the tubes.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Everyone frantically dipped their poles into the vat in order to push my candle as far out of the liquid wax as possible, Himself quickly seized it  and got it laid down on the side of the stand the vat was on, Phew! … only now we had a long fat candle with no wick in it.

I asked the staff for some of the saté sticks that they use for the boat masts, and since the candles remain warm and soft for quite some time,  we cut my long candle into three pieces and I gently poked the sticks down the centre of the soft wax, intending to remove them once the candle has hardened and thread the wicks back into them at home.

(I’ve since done that, but the hole down the middle is now wider than the wick so the next step is to tie the bottom end of the wick to a short piece of  saté stick so that the candle is now  resting on a supportive “foot”, I can then fill the cavity around the wick with wax and restore my candles to working order.)

The funny thing was that the kanteen was at the other end of the building and as I carefully carried my soft candles on their sticks there, no less than three children, all strangers, asked hopefully if these were ice-block ice creams and were mightily disappointed to learn that these were not at all edible.

Little Mr practised changing a tyre  and played with the sand tables and then we decided it was time for a well earned rest in the kanteen with a cuppa and a toasted sandwich. By now the kids were confident enough to return to some of the things like the volcano by themselves and we parents enjoyed a second cuppa in relative peace.

At closing time the staff were cleaning up around us and we had to drag the kids away, brilliant concept, amazing fun and kids grinning from ear to ear… One thing  is for certain, by popular demand: we will be back!

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

My repair job, ready for final dipping…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Playing with electricity (the only item I didn’t actually see in action, because I was too busy candle dipping)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

February 6, 2011

Free at last!

Filed under: An Accidental Franken-Foot,LIFE — kiwidutch @ 1:00 am
Tags: , , , , , ,

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Free at Last!

Free of paster casts I mean of course  … anyone who has ever been in one  knows,  you are generally sick to death of  it within after day two of having it put on, so 10 weeks is mind-numbingly long even when common sense  (or in this case, Doctors) tell you it was necessary.

In case you’ve never seen one before, they use a small specialized oscillating saw to cut plaster casts off. It  rather defies logic by being capable of cutting hard materials but not soft ones,  and it does produce an unnerving buzzing sensation though which I can only best describe as semi ticklish. This sensation was at it’s worst when I still had the metal pins in… and whilst it’s not all together pleasant, luckily it doesn’t hurt.

The paster department people told me that it’s unusual that they have to do so many plaster changes on a patient for one injury but that’s simply because I managed to do some rare damage to myself.

Various hospital staff have asked if I would mind medical students and plaster technicians learning from my case (I didn’t mind), so there  have been lots of x-ray studies on computer monitors, and a heap of medical jargon that was the explanation to go with it as people learned something new, (so this stupid fall’s been good for something then! LOL)

Kiwi Daughter was very curious right from the beginning to know what was going on under the plaster works, where the pins were etc, so my pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera went with me to the hospital so that I oblige her curiosity… the plaster specialists were actually delighted by this and had a lot of fun getting into the photos, which helped to inject a little humour into (most) of the experience over the course of my visits.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Staff would ask when I came in if I had bought my camera and we documented progress.

On the desk where the plaster department  handle the administration, there was a wooden doll of the kid that artists use to practice figure drawing and getting proportion right. Their little model had different coloured plaster casts of various lengths all over it’s limbs. There was even one around it’s middle.

I have one of these wooden figures at home and jokingly told them that it needed a cast to match mine… they laughed and to my surprise said that this could be arranged. I needed to have x-rays done after my red cast was cut off, so whilst  I was away they decorated my artists dolly with a little reminder of their department. They even added an arm cast for fun too.

My kids thing it’s a riot that dolly now has coloured paster.

One thing that I didn’t expect is that my foot would be so swollen,  The Doctor said I’m supposed to walk with a pressure bandage for support and to keep my foot raised up at all other times so that the swelling can go down.  A good solid shoe for support is recommended as I start to walk with crutches, but I found when I got home that I can’t get into even my oldest shoes, and it’s hurting  far more than I anticipated so I’m back on maximum pain relief.

Luckily our physiotherapist is also a friend and she says it’s clear there is too much swelling at the moment, so a quiet weekend with my foot elevated is prescribed and she will come over on Monday to see what  the next step will be.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

Today’s pain is less than yesterdays so progress comes in small steps, but it’s a good start…

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