Thursday, May 26, 2011

Field Trip to L.L. Bean Manufacturing.

During Our visit to Maine, we had the absolute pleasure of going for a tour of the L.L. Bean Manufacturing Plant in Brunswick. It was a rainy morning, and my stomach was full of butterflies. I could not believe I was going into the birthplace of my favorite footwear. As we waited in the lobby for our tour guide we were asked if we were the "Canadians", with a smile we replied "Yup!”. Our Guide Jeannine, greeted us with the warm smile, and we were off on our way. The first stop was to the leather cutting area. Pallets of waterproof sides surrounded the area and the smell of leather filled the air. We were introduced to Norm, a leather cutter who has been with L.L.Bean for over 20 years. Norm took the time to show us the cutting dies (some 15 years old) and the techniques for cutting; the wealth of his knowledge was absolutely incredible. Next stop was the repairs, looking at the process of attaching new rubbers to the customer’s old leather uppers. Looking into the bin of disposed bottoms you can see that the people wearing Bean boots really put them through the ringer. Beside this station was the new boot construction area. Small stations with smiling people skiving the leather and shearling, sewing the pieces together for the uppers. A good laugh was the gentleman gluing the uppers and lowers together saying he unfortunately made the cutting room floor for the current L.L. Bean Commercial showing the construction of the boots! On one side the Massive triple stitch sewing machine attaching the bottoms to the uppers sounded like a machine gun, but was being used so effortlessly and accurately, the women stitching could probably be blindfolded and still turn out top quality work! From there we went to the iconic Canvas tote area where rows of sewing machines whizzed through the bullet-proof duck canvas like a hot knife through butter, whipping the totes together in seconds. Stopping to talk to a few workers, they gladly share some of their stories about what jobs they have done here, and include us in the jokes that the co-workers share. We walked by the Pet bed and chair cushion dept, seeing the very long cutting table that the operator get to ride, and made our way to the bicycle assembly dept. Seeing the workstations my jaw dropped. Their own area with all sorts of "Park tools", wishing I could wrap the station up and bring it to my basement, it was something to see for sure! After a quick discussion with the group about the peak assembly seasons, and comparing gas prices we said farewell. As Jeannine slowly walked us to the end of our 90 minute tour we chatted about how inspiring it is to see so many people who love what they do and what they make. I feel I can say that all the products made in this facility are made with great pride and care. I would like to thank Kathy for helping make this experience happen, and Jeannine for making the informative tour really fun, sharing some laughs and introducing us to everyone. And a big thank you to all the true craftsman that create these fantastic items with decades of skills and precision, and sharing their work area with my wife and I for the morning. Thank you.

Pallets of leather sides.

Dies to stamp leather.

Finished cut pieces.

Cut Rubber bottoms from repairs.

Shiny and new.

Getting attached, sewn in the same holes as before.

New boots.

Work station.

Rubber getting cement applied.

Triple stitch sewing machine. No Bobbins!!

Work stations.

Tote sewing, seconds and its done....Perfectly!

Monday, May 23, 2011

For Sale: Damn Yak Dry Goods Women's Wallet.

I have a Women's leather wallet for sale, It has one main pocket for paper money, and two small card holders at the front. The entire wallet is Hand cut, from Canadian Leather. The closing strap is copper riveted on and can be stamped with new owners initials or any word of their choosing. The colour is Raw, I have only applied a thin coat of Brook's Proofide to protect it, but will still patina very well. It has been stitched with artificial sinew. This is a beautiful wallet. Please email if interested. $70 plus shipping. Paypal only, unless local.

Thanks everyone.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine.

The past week My wife and I drove down from Milton, Ont. to Freeport, Maine. Stopping over in St. Albans, Vermont for a night. If anyone has a week off or even 4 days, I suggest you do the same. The drive is something else. Driving through the White Mountains is mind blowing, We really did not expect them as we were all ready in awe of the rolling hills of Vermont. We didn't strike gold as far as weather was concerned, it was rainy and foggy every single day. While it did work to keep the majority of Tourists out of Freeport, It became a little tiresome by the end of the week. Going to the L.L. Bean "campus" was an amazing thing, The magnitude of its flagship store is huge, and runs as well as a Swiss watch. Also if anyone is in the area, Allen Edmond's has Stormy Kromer hats in Black and Gray and a couple buffalo plaid for $16. The whole town breaths L.L. Bean. While in Brunswick Jeff, from "Cold Splinters" suggested I check out the local Salvation army, Two vintage Bean chamois shirts, one made in US Patagonia fleece, a Bean jacket, and something for Jeff, it was sure a success. Also I was pondering the idea of purchasing a pair of Bean Gumshoes, and to my luck while at the Goodwill in Scarborough found a pair of Maine Hunting shoes in the gumshoe height for $5. On our last day we went to Wolfes Neck State Park for a hike. The tide was out, and fog was in. As we walked around the parameter of the park a large White tail flew by us giving us a treat. This park, while not huge is very lush and beautiful. Just 3km from Downtown Freeport, well worth a walk! We had such great time seeing new things, and meeting wonderful people. While we wish the trip could last a lifetime, we know the memories we got will.

Also while in Johnson, Vermont I had the pleasure of tour and walk around the Johnson Woolen Mills to see the making of their top quality wool products. As well in Brunswick, Maine, I got shown the ins and outs of the manufacturing of the iconic L.L. Bean boot, and bullet proof canvas totes. These post will be in the coming weeks. Stay tuned!

Covered bridge in New Hampshire.

The Johnson spring.

Gloomy White Mountains.

Cascade falls, White Mountains.

Cascade falls, White Mountains.

Rail track on the side of the Mountain.

The L.L. Bean over sized Novelty (90th anniversary) Boot.

Wolfe Neck State Park.

Wolfe Neck State Park.

Needles @ Wolfe Neck State Park.

Wolfe Neck State Park.

Wolfe Neck State Park.

Mountains on the way home.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Burning House.

Fellow Blog owner, Foster Huntington from A Restless Transplant started a great new site called The Burning House. Foster puts the idea behind the website as:

"If your house was burning, what would you bring with you? It's a conflict between what's practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would bring reflects your interests, background and priorities. Think of it as an interview condensed into one question."

Today May 11, 2011, Mine was posted.

My List:
1. My Cats: Indy (left) and Scout.
2. My late 50’s Red wing work boots (size 13 is hard to come by!)
3. My paddle that’s been on almost a decade of canoe trips.
4. Engraved Zippo from My wife.
5. Custom James Mcgowan knife: I designed, he made into life.
6. Cyma Navystar watch from my Pop.
7. My wallet and contents
8. WWII U.S. Bayonet from my Late Uncle.
9. 1940’s Shell bag.
10. My first edition “Song of the paddle” signed by Bill Mason.
11. 1TB hard drive with 13 years of Music and pictures on it.

So Check it out and submit your Burning House List!.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Almeda "Granny" Riddle.

Folk Singer Almeda Riddle was born in 1898 in Cleburne County, Arkansas. She sang traditional unaccompanied ballads and hymns. Almeda was brought to the public eye very late in her life by John Quincy Wolfe, a professor at Arkansas (now Lyon) College who brought her to the attention of Alan Lomax. Alan at the time was taking over the work of his Father, John in recording and collecting American traditional music. Usually known as Granny Riddle, her music is very haunting. I first heard her singing in the beginning of the movie "Gummo". As far as I know she recorded three records which are very rare today. They are "How Firm A Foundation", "Granny Riddle's songs & ballads", and "Songs and Hymns of the Ozarks". The first two albums have links to downloads of the full albums. I recently acquired the "Songs and Hymns of the Ozarks" LP of the bay of E, and to top it off it is autographed by the women herself. To this date probably my rarest vinyl. You can go to FolkStreams to see the movie "Almeda Riddle - Now Let's Talk About Singing", which tell about her 10 years of fame and touring. I have found a great deal of listening pleasure in the historical music of the Appalachians over the past 6 months. Take a listen and enjoy.