If you’re not listening to this podcast, you’re missing out. The Maine Cabin Masters crew, famous for their television show of the same name on the DIY Network, hosts a weekly conversation called From the Woodshed, and you can find the whole series on YouTube. Hosted by builder Chase Morrill and his family of “Maine’rs,” who also own and operate the Kennebec Cabin Company, the podcast covers all things related to cabins, carpentry and Maine itself.
Some of our favorite episodes include an interview with Zachary Fowler, the Season 3 winner of History Channel’s “Alone;” an interview with Maine Cabin Masters co-star Ashley Eldridge about what goes on behind the scenes of the show; reminiscing about the pilot episode with longtime friend “Wild Bill” Davenport and talking to Kennebec Cabin Company crew members about what it’s like to work with the Cabin Masters.
In between podcast episodes you’ll find shorter videos, like “A few of Ashley’s favorite things,” and a series in which fan questions are answered. Those include things like, ‘do the Maine Cabin Masters work outside the state?’ And ‘How do I submit my own cabin to be worked on by the crew?’
The podcast series is a fun way to get to know the Maine Cabin Masters better, learn about all sorts of cool projects happening in the state and get some helpful pointers about doing DIY work on your own camp. NeLMA is a proud sponsor of From the Woodshed.
Maine Cabin Masters season 6 premiered earlier this year, and you can watch episodes on-demand on Hulu, Sling TV, Discovery Plus and Amazon Prime Video.
Set about 23 miles beyond Port Clyde on the coast of Maine, Wheaton Island is about as peaceful as it gets, with few structures and even fewer residents. In the winter, you’ll find hardly anyone around, but in summer, a series of charming white dwellings come alive with the inspiring creative activities of contemporary artists Bo Bartlett and Betsy Eby, who spend the rest of the year at their full-time residence in Columbus, Georgia. Bartlett bought the island in 1999 after spotting it in the distance while vacationing at the summer home of Andrew and Betsy Wyeth on Benner Island.
Bartlett immediately got to work restoring the island’s turn of the century house, barn and guesthouse with the help of Freeport builder John Libby, and after marrying Betsy in 2010, called Libby back in to build two custom “his and hers” artist studios.
“The simple, uninsulated post-and-beam structures were adapted from the company’s 18-by-24-foot ‘Harraseeket’ model. North-facing skylights capture the light so crucial to the artists, while double barn doors open to ocean views. ‘We started with that footprint and went with a steeper roof to give it a bit more character,’ explains John. Made of Eastern white pine, the white shingle-sided studios look nearly identical from the outside, while the interiors have been adapted to suit the artists’ varied needs. Bo’s include a loft space and large north-facing windows, Betsy’s an upright piano, which she plays throughout her workday (‘Going back and forth,’ says Bo). The structures were painted white inside and out, down to the furnishings, making plain canvases, as it were, for the colorful work created within them.”
Libby constructed the timber frames at his warehouse in Freeport, then dismantled them and shipped them to the island by barge. It took a helicopter too set them into their permanent places. Each one is painted stark white inside, giving them a purity and simplicity that instantly evokes feelings of calmness and tranquility. It’s also a highly effective backdrop for art. The studios are powered by solar panels and propane.
“My connection with nature is just so piqued out there,” says Eby. “It reminds me of who I am.”
Interested in learning the art of traditional woodworking? A new school in Maine has officially opened for 2021 after cancelling last year’s planned launch due to the coronavirus pandemic. Set in the scenic coastal community of Camden, Maine on Penobscot Bay, the Maine Coast Workshop is a small woodworking school focusing on hand tool techniques taught by well regarded masters of the craft.
The school is currently enrolling students in classes like Classical Carving, Marquetry and Inlay, Relief Carving, Make a Tea Cabinet and Make a John Elliot Chippendale Stool, all of which will be taught in June and July. Upcoming classes include Nantucket Baskets, Make a Windsor Chair, Shaker Oval Boxes, Ladderback Chair and more. Classes will be limited in size, with most hosting just 6-8 students, and the school is taking appropriate precautions in regard to the pandemic.
“Because of the high level of individual attention from our instructors, many classes are able to fully accommodate advanced to beginner skill levels. If a class is designed for an advanced level only, this will be clearly stated. Our instructors are chosen based on reputation as the best in the world at their craft, and just as importantly, their unsurpassed success as teachers to students of all ability levels. I explained my vision and philosophy behind the Maine Coast Workshop here: My interview with Popular Woodworking Magazine.”
“The focus of our classes is on traditional 18th century American craft. We are not in competition with, but cooperate with other woodworking schools; our difference is in emphasis. We desire to preserve and foster a greater awareness and respect for our unique heritage of fine American craftsmanship while passing on amazing skills of the early American craftsmen and women. We strive to preserve original techniques, many of which, frankly, have not been improved on. We will continue to support and recommend other schools in the area, depending on what students are looking for.”
This is a great chance to learn skills that translate especially well to historic New England Colonial architecture and design, and if that’s of interest to you, you should check out our White Pine Architectural Monographs, which delve into real life examples of the style in our region.
The state of Maine is 200 years old, representing the anniversary of its independence from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. July 26th, 2019 was the 200-year anniversary of the day when voters approved the state’s secession, and that independence became official on March 15th, 1820.
On July 30th, Governor Janet Mills kicked off a 15-month Bicentennial celebration with a helicopter tour that carried her to a variety of events in Presque Isle, Bangor, Portland and Augusta.
Naturally, as the Maine state tree, the beloved Eastern White Pine tree gets its due. Along with State Sen. Bill Diamond and Portland mayor Ethan Strimling, the Governor finished the ceremonial planting of the Tricentennial Pine Grove at Deering Oaks Park.
Other juvenile white pine trees were provided to participating communities to anchor new or existing public park areas, along with a commemorative Bicentennial marker. The tree planting honors Maine’s first 200 years and its next 100 years.
By 2120, those trees planted in 2020 would be about the same size as the trees first encountered by the first European settlers to Maine in the 17th century.
‘The eastern white pine is integral to the history of the state in so many ways,’ said [Maine State archivist Dave] Cheever. ‘We think this is a way to honor something so symbolic of Maine, and whoever is planting it can bring their own symbolism to it as well. And it’s an environmentally friendly thing to do. It never hurts to plant a tree.’
Strong and steady as the towering pines that were once crafted into masts for the British Navy, forestry continues to play a crucial role in Maine’s economy. Visions of evergreen boughs swaying in the wind and impressive lengths of wood shipping downriver have fused to the core of the state’s identity, making it at once a center of industry and home to some of the United States’ most magnificent natural settings. That reputation is set to grow even stronger with a new focus on innovation and collaboration.
A multi-agency team called the Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) brought together local, state and federal partners to build a new strategy for the future of Maine’s forest-based economy, bolstering existing industries and helping the state’s rural communities thrive. Released in mid-January, the team’s report identified new markets and ways to diversify to create new jobs, improve infrastructure and support promising new business opportunities.
Wood-engineered products like cross-laminated tiber are mentioned as one of those opportunities, as use of the materials catch on for new large-scale wooden architecture projects around the world. EDAT notes that Maine is uniquely positioned to become a leader in this emerging industry.
$1.5 million in funding for forest industries announced with the EDAT report join a $4.4 million investment for statewide economic initiatives in Maine from the Economic Development Agency, including funding for Biobased Maine to market the state’s forest resources, and a $3.3 million grant from the Department of Defense for the UMaine Forest Bioproducts Research Institute for Wood to Jet Fuel.
Spotting towering Eastern White Pine trees in the forests and on rocky outcroppings, New England’s first settlers must have marveled at their majestic heights. At the time, the trees had never been touched, growing for hundreds of years until they soared to 200 feet into the sky. The settlers saw in them potential for strong, stable homes – and ultimately used them for virtually everything they made, from eating utensils to masts for ships. The Eastern White Pine even played a central role in the Revolution (perhaps you’ve heard a little story about this tree and the King’s Broad Arrow.)
Mast-suitable virgin pines didn’t last long – it only took thirty years or so through the mid 1800’s to wipe out nearly all of Maine’s tallest white pines. But the tree remained a symbol for Maine’s early prosperity, so much so that the fledgling state put an image of it on its seal and deemed itself “The Pine Tree State.” The white pine cone and tassel is even Maine’s official state ‘flower.’
Today, Eastern White Pine remains an integral part of Maine’s industry and identity and the state is the largest producer of white pine lumber in the nation.
“Maine is the home for the largest white pine mill in the U.S. and three of the top five producing individual mills in the northeast,” says Jeff Easterling, president of the Northeastern Lumber Manufacturer’s Association (NeLMA) in an interview with Forests for Maine’s Future. “As for the rest of the country, only North Carolina and Wisconsin have mills that produce eastern white pine, but low volumes compared to the northeast.”
Mixed pine and oak forests still represent about 25 percent of the timberland acres in southern Maine, and cover about 700,000 acres state-wide. Careful attention to protective forestry methods have helped the species flourish; Eastern White Pine responds very well to shelterwood management, in which the overstory is thinned so light can get to the forest floor. That helps them reach heights of 100 feet with 27-inch-diameter trunks, perfect for producing beautifully long and stable board feet.