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The Hidden Powers of The Forcola

How can a single oar give orders to a 36-foot boat that weighs 350 kilos (772 pounds) and why does the gondola obey? The answer is the forcola (FOUR-koh-la), the gondola’s oarlock, which is characterized by a unique, serpentine shape and is made of nothing more than wood. Each rowing position on each type of…

View “Building a Gondola”

Venice, Gondolas, and Black Magic

After suffering a year of twin terrors—historic floods and the Covid pandemic—the makers of Venice’s legendary gondolas are struggling to survive. To understand the unique design, history, and mystery behind this much-loved boat, our correspondent spent a year with Roberto Dei Rossi, one of the city’s last master gondola makers.

By ERLA ZWINGLE

The Living Traditions of the Chumash Tribe

Once a maritime people, the Chumash inhabited the Santa Barbara coast and the Channel Islands for at least 13,000 years before their population was decimated, first by the Spanish, then the Mexicans, and finally by more European settlers. Today the largest remaining Chumash tribe and the only one recognized by the federal government—the Santa Ynez…

The Lost Art of Traditional Bow Hunting

Over the years, the technology for rifles, scopes, and other hunting gear has gotten so powerful there’s little challenge left in the sport. Hunting with a bow and arrow, therefore, has been steadily rising. But now that even hunting bows have gone high-tech, a small band of purists — like Gabriel Miossi — have turned to a traditional Native American weapon: the stick bow.

By MEGHAN WARD

Listen to “Japan’s Gorgeous, Precarious Fishing Poles”

Japanese master craftsmen can command up to $100,000 for turning bamboo into a fishing pole. Yet, this time-honored craft is at the brink of extinction — and it’s not the only one. How could this happen in a country that, for centuries, has served as a model of handmade perfection?

In Praise of The Makers

In his new book “Material: Making and the Art of Transformation”, master furniture maker and designer Nick Kary explores the roots of craft, through stories of makers and their essential materials.

By WILLIAM BRYANT LOGAN
A review of “Material: Making and the Art of Transformation,” by Nick Kary
 (Chelsea Green Publishing, 2020)

Watch “Whitehall: An Homage to a Classic Rowboat”

The Whitehalls, classic wooden rowboats designed centuries ago as working crafts, are still alive on the San Francisco Bay.

The Beauty of a Timeless Rowboat

Centuries ago, a fleet of rowboats called Whitehalls plied the waters of the San Francisco Bay, helping the chandlers at their helms ferry goods to and from the giant sailing ships working the city’s port. Today, descendants of those early crafts are being built, rowed, and occasionally put to work on the same waters.

A documentary short by WENDY “PEPPER” SCHUSS
Story by TODD OPPENHEIMER

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