Matt Burke’s visit to a friend’s workshop in New Hampshire several years ago began his journey to learning the art of timber framing, a craft he now shares with young and old alike.
“The tools I was drawn to were the mallet and the chisel,” he said.
Burke explained the shop was full of rugged timbers and tools from the past to shape them. “It just spoke to me and I knew I had to do it.”
Burke, a Professor of Sculpture and Sustainability Studies at the University of Kansas is at the Smoky Hill River Festival this weekend to build three kiosks for the Kansas Forest Service and along the way share his knowledge and passion for an old world craft.
“These are 6-inch by 6-inch posts and we’ve got tie beams that are that big and they’re all held together by mortise and tenon joints,” he explained, touching the project.
“I’m working away trying to get those made,” he said. “In the meantime anybody who is interested in working the shave horse, or drilling some holes, I’m happy to help them do that and show them how these old tools work.”
Eleven-year-old Jeff Dickson from Round Lake, Illinois, was up to the challenge and put his hand to the boring machine, turning the bit through the wood.
Shavings twisted out of the hole as he turned the handles like bicycle pedals.
“That’s fifty turns!” he said, counting out loud to his grandfather. “Half way there,” Burke encouraged as the boy soon churned the bit one hundred times and broke through the other side.
Burke’s other offering is a unique auditory experience for Festival goers: an installation made of wood that allows water to flow down a slope and into a wooden tank. “When We Hear Water” can be enjoyed just northeast of the Sound Garden.
The Smoky Hill River Festival wraps up Sunday with hours of operation for the final day from 10 am to 5 pm.