In February 2016, 2017, and 2018, I've been fortunate enough to be a part of a medical/construction mission team that traveled to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
Puerto Cabezas (Port) is a beautiful place, full of some of the most amazing people I've ever met. Their smiles, kindness, hard work, resilience, and general love for life is something that I'll always keep close. During our time there though, between medical clinics and other travel, I was able to check out some of their wood work and their wood shop.
The local wood shop was found on the same property our mission group was based out of. It's a large property with several housing units and a cafeteria of sorts, allowing missionaries to visit and have some of the amenities of home. On this property, there are some opportunities for the local people to earn a wage as well. One of these opportunities is found in the wood shop.
I never asked what the wood was, but it was very wet. You could feel the moisture in the wood. It was soft wood, with a lot of flex in it. It felt very fibrous as well. Just about every building in the area had some of this wood involved. If it wasn't this type of wood, it was concrete. The picture of above shows the wood pile, organized beneath one of the housing units.
The tools, as you can imagine, were less than desirable. The woodshop was dirty, dingy, and low light, which fit perfectly with the tools. The first tool I noticed was the planer.
The woodworkers would run 12-16 foot long pieces of this wood through this thing and let it eat! I had a hard time believing it was actually shaving surface off, but it worked surprisingly well!
Next up was the jointer. This jointer actually looked in really decent shape, but I didn't see them using it.
The last tool I noticed was less than desirable to say the least. It looked outdated, barbaric, and ready to do damage nobody wanted to see... the table saw...
I couldn't image using this table saw once, let alone on a frequent basis. I couldn't image with lumber that moist, how much movement, friction and tension is found in the wood. But these Nicaraguan craftsmen made it look easy!
Next up, let's look at some of the products they produced.
This entry door inlay was found in the housing unit my wife stayed in during our 2018 stay. As a firefighter, I noticed the Maltese Cross design and LOVED IT!
I wasn't able to ask what these pieces were for, but you can see how uniform and clean the miters are. My guess, is that they were using them in a furniture design. They were in the process of finishing some end tables and benches, so I can see these pieces above being a part of those designs.
As you can see, the workmanship here is pretty amazing! The joints were all mortise and tenon, edges appeared to be routed over, and some really cool designs!
What was the best part though? The smiling faces behind the tools and behind the wood, check out the video below!!
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My name is Andy. Follow along as I learn the craft of woodworking!