Cool Hand Tools

Cool Hand Tools

My brother Pat wrote me:

Check out “Alone in the Wilderness” featuring Dick Proenneke living alone in Alaska. It’s on our PBS affiliates a lot here (in Florida). He is a true pioneer, a 1960’s “maker” at work, building everything by hand, using tools he made.   He has no electricity. Shoots it all on his Brownie camera. Awesome techniques he demonstrates!

I especially like how he builds handles for his tools. Proenneke says that building a cabin in the wilderness was just “something he had to do” and by doing it test himself.   The YouTube video below covers ten minutes of the show and shows him building a cabin just before winter sets in.

YouTube player

According to an article about him in Wikipedia,

Proenneke remained at Twin Lakes for the next 16 months, when he left to go home for a time to visit relatives and secure more supplies. He returned to the lakes in the following spring and remained there for most of the next 30 years, going to the lower 48 only occasionally to be with his family.

He passed away in 2003.  The complete set of his videos are available.

Ever dream of living alone in the wilderness?  I have, especially after reading “Call of the Wild” but I would not be able to do it.  Now I can vicariously through Dick Proenneke, and idly sit by and watch him do it all.  Incredible.

22 thoughts on “Cool Hand Tools

  1. Rob says:

    This guy was the real deal. I loved these videos. Makes you feel completly inadequate in your wood working abilities (but in a good way)

  2. Keith From Canada says:

    My Side Of The Mountain‘ was what stirred my interest in bush living, back when I was 8 or 9.

    1. Josh from Syracuse says:

      Yes! One of my favorite books of all time!

  3. -_- says:

    Good Job ! :)

  4. Rubber Powerwhyte says:

    It takes a lot of calories to make a cabin. :)

  5. skr says:

    I love that film. That guy is one of my heroes.

  6. David Kavanagh says:

    I saw this on my local PBS station a month or two ago. It was excellent! He has some serious skills with the saw!

  7. Daniel Kim says:

    I saw this years and years ago on TV. I kind of stumbled on it, and was completely captured by his slow narrative style and gentle humor. I did not catch the title or the guy’s name, and TV being what it was, there was no way for me to see it again. I am grateful that it is available on YouTube.

    In later decades, other films have been made to document life in the wilderness, but they have either been idealized into the realm of fantasy (with friendly bears and lots of time spent in grassy meadows) or shown as some kind of grim, macho man-against-hostile-nature deathmatch challenge. This film is so straightforward and low-key, with no agenda. Just a guy with an axe and a camera, pretty much.

  8. Christopher Gosnell says:

    I saw this series some time ago. I was amazed at how he was constantly looking ahead to future projects, like when he was collecting stones for a chimney, and collecting root ‘knees’ for door hinges. He was doing all of this, and also hunting / fishing, harvesting wood for fires, etc…

  9. eldphm says:

    We have courses here in Sweden to learn how to build this kind of houses, this kind of knowledge must be saved for the coming generations because the guys that did it as a profession are easily counted nowadays.

  10. Steven says:

    This would be an awesome setup if other like-minded people lived within walking distance to keep company from time to time. Cabin fever might set in for some of us otherwise!

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

View more articles by Dale Dougherty
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).