Made for, 2016 (link)

School teacher by day, axe restorer by night, what makes this man so enthralled with one of humankind’s most primitive tools?

Arriving at the Seattle home of Northwest Axe Company’s Andy Gregory, there is an overwhelming sense of the wilderness. Old tree trunks and sleepers greet us at the front gate, piles of nature-related books line his corridors, travel photography hangs on his walls and various deciduous trees in shades of green, amber, mustard and crimson circle his backyard workspace. It doesn’t take much to see how deep this school teacher-slash-axe restorer’s love of the outdoors runs.

Gregory spends his days teaching in a classroom, finding great joy in sharing his experiences and hoping to instil the same kind of passion for nature in his primary school students. You can see he would be fantastic at it – even his website has an educational slant, with a page dedicated to suggest further forestry and tool-related reading. After the home bell tolls, however, Gregory turns to his hands, spending time restoring forgotten, twisted and rusted axes, splitters and hatchets to their former glory. As a man whose greatest passions involve travel, hiking and being immersed in the wild, there are both elements of wanderlust as well as a beautiful symbolism in what magnetises this educator to his tools. “I think for a lot of people there is a deep-seated attraction to axes,” he explains. “This is one of humanity’s oldest tools…. It’s not only evocative of the outdoors, but also of warmth and protection.” Axes are symbolic of humanity’s existence and constant battle with the wilderness: protection, warmth, food, foraging…so you can understand the appeal. “For me, I can’t not pick up an old axe and think about who owned it or where [it has been].”

Working with wood, leather and metal, Gregory’s pleasure mainly comes from the hands-on work, the satisfaction of being at the mercy of these materials: how a handle behaves under his plane, the feel of the patina on an old axe head, the labour needed to manipulate each piece, and the pride that lingers long after the restoration is complete. “It was exciting in a way that I had not felt with other activities,” he says, reflecting on the first axe he restored. “It was like I had a real sense of accomplishment having fixed up this old tool, and it turned into me collecting more and more.” He pauses. “I think it is kind of part of my nature to just start to collect things if I am really into it,” hence the books and travel paraphernalia that surround us. “It was just a real attraction to finding these old objects. It kind of felt like finding treasure – you would find these old objects, unearth a maker’s mark on top of them and figure out what the history was of the piece of the tool that I was going to fix up. So it’s kind of a neat thing.” One can only imagine how awesome Mr Gregory’s field trips must be.

Made for the Woods from MadeFor on Vimeo.

Made For is a branded content series for Bulleit Bourbon. Photography by Katrina Parker, video directed by David Child.