I travel a lot and one of the great things about these journeys is that I meet extraordinary people who inspire me. Because of their humble intentions I feel they could use some extra attention and this is why I have decided to write about them here on the Fabula Lignarius blog.
Jeremy Brodbeck is a Breton shipwright who converted from using modern power tools to working strictly by hand and left the electric machinery aside. Choosing this path in today’s modern society is a bold decision but he is clearly someone who follows his heart and believes this will take him to his goal. What follows is based on the conversations we had.
“I quit school when I was 17 and because I wanted to be a carpenter I applied at the Association des Compagnon. During the application interview I quickly realized that this was not going to work for me and turned around to find my own way.”
The nature of the organization and it’s strictness were not compatible with his free spirited-mind and he decided to follow his own path instead. It was choosing the difficult and long trail instead of the more or less paved road that comes with a structured apprenticeship.
Initially it took him some time to find the training that he was looking for but after only nine months of training as a shipwright he was already hired to work on commercial fishing boats which he continued to do for several years. The choice to become a shipwright was obvious to him since he was under the impression that in this trade there was still a lot of work being realized with hand tools.
Unfortunately he experienced the economic reality of our modern time and was expected by his employer to use power tools to get the job done. This led him to grind his teeth out of frustration when he realized that handtools where not considered a mandatory part of a shipwrights toolkit anymore. Not being able to take peace with the noisy power tool approach he decided to move on once more and became an independent carpenter. He now had the freedom to work in the traditional way he prefers, mostly with hand tools. Today Jeremy also does timberframing, green woodworking and joinery since this enables him to attract more work then the limited pool of potential boatbuilding work.
He tells me it is not always easy to make a living and support his family like this but so far he succeeded. Trying to work in the way he chooses means a lot to him and it takes continuous effort to keep these traditions alive and eventually pass them on to the next generations.
“I want to take up the responsibility to rediscover the original methods and skills of woodworking and maybe one day be able to pass them on.”
It is noble to train yourself to pass on what you have learned, the practice of carpentry becomes a heirloom worth nursing, not just for yourself but for the generations to come.
According to Jeremy one of the problems with shipwrighting is that there have been too many trade secrets. This was a good thing in the past when there was a lot of competition and where you had to secure your work. Today we are in very different situation and many trades and traditional crafts have become extinct already. To preserve what is left we need exactly the opposite and try to transcend our ego and share as much knowledge as we can in order to keep our craft alive.
“Just like in life there are no secrets in carpentry, you can tell everyone anything you know. If you share your trade knowledge with an idiot it will go in and out, it won’t stick and he will do nothing with it. Share your knowledge with a talented soul and he will use it to his advantage and in the best case become better than you. He might raise the standard of our craft and inspire others to do the same. That is true progression…”
If you are interested in quality carpentry made entirely by hand visit his website here. By hiring Jeremy you invest in much more than the structure you commission him to make.