I've been addicted to travel, photography, and messing
around with wood for many years. I'm also interested in
how things were done in the 'old days'. I grew up
on my grandfather's farm in East Tennessee, where people
still did a lot of their work with hand tools and even
made some of their tools.
Trekking in Nepal is a very good way to bring all those
interests together in one package. In 2001 along with a
couple of friends I hiked the Jomsom Trek, from just
outside Pokhara to Jomsom, a walk that took about ten
days of ascending into the Himalayas. Once
you leave the road and walk a half-hour into the
mountains you have moved back to the 19th century in
many ways. While there are a few electric lights here
and there thanks to micro-hydro generation, for the most
part farming, weaving, and building are done with the
most basic tools. And power is supplied by humans and
Along the trail I happened across two milling
operations, both using two man crosscut saws. The saw
blades would be very valuable items in those mountains.
It would have taken a major effort to accumulate enough
cash to purchase a blade and most likely a saw would
serve multiple generations. The boards from
these sawmills will be used in local construction.
Houses are largely made of stone with lumber reserved
for floors, windows and doors. To a great extent roofs
are thatched. Beams and joists are often hand-squared
timbers. Exteriors are often stuccoed with mud and
The resulting buildings are most likely unchanged from
over the last hundreds of years. These high farms are
along the 'salt highway' that was used for trade between
Tibet and India, with grain being traded for sea salt.
As one walks along paths that have served generation
upon generation as their route between farms and
villages it is easy to forget about modern life and
experience life as it was for our distant grandfathers.
Here is my picture story...
Pit Saw Mill
This is a two-man “saw
pit” in use along the Kali Gandaki River in Nepal. The
workers are sawing logs that have floated down the river
when it was in flood stage. This type of lumbering
disappeared from the US years ago with the advent of
water driven circular saws.
Here one can better see
the construction of the log frame.
Further up the mountain there was an operation that was
milling felled trees.