and spent a year disassembling, moving and setting it up at his site. As he was about to trv it out, providence intervened: A stranger walked into the yard, looked over the machine and remarked that it could never plane wood, because it wasn't a planer at all, but a molding This massive Hermanee molder, vintage 1912, will shape machine! profiles on four sides of a piece of wood at once.

It turned out the stranger—a Mr. Chcnclly—had spent his entire working life grinding specially profiled knives for such machines, and rather than see his life's work sold off as scrap when he retired, he'd kept a couple thousand knives. Chcnclly agreed to give Eric everything if he would promise to use the knives—a condition Eric gladly met. Today, the knives are part of a collection of more than 3,000 that are custom-cut to match the old millwork profiles Eric and his workers produce.

Like the molder, most of Eric's dozen or so machines are industrial-age giants. There's a huge lathe—17 ft. between centers—a drum sander, planers and jointers, a shaper and an ingenious tablcsaw fitted with twin arbors and two saw blades—one for cross-cutting and the other for ripping. A crank of the handle smoothly raises one blade while lowering the other. Right now the machines are powered by individual clcctric motors, but Eric dreams of reverting to the original line shafts and a stationary steam engine "if," he adds hopefully, "the city will let me."

Everyone who sees the antique machines is amazed by their quality compared to modern units, but for Eric the real difference between present and past is that "the old machinery was built so the worker himself could keep it in running order. He knew what was going on inside."

Eric sees that kind of know-how as an important—and unique—part of his business. For the first time in history, tools and products are so complex that the people who operate them can neither understand nor tinker with them. Such a situation stifles creativity and reduces the worker's input to pushing a few buttons—hardly a rewarding job.

But this isn't a problem at Blue Ox Mill works. Here, workers develop a kind of relationship with each machine. They find pride in producing

To match 19th-century moldings, Hoilenbeck grinds his own cutters using a portable electric grinder clamped in a machinist's vise.

high-quality, accurate miilwork freehand. Eric doesn't allow duplicating machines and templates in his shop. He doesn't think they're nccessary if workers let their hands "learn" the pattern of a piece. "When I've turned four identical objects, my hands develop a memory that's perfect—accurate every time," he says. "Once I've got it. I don't ever use calipers again."

Simple but effective, this hand-operat-ed machine uses leverage and a sharp blade to slice points on the ends of slats for picket fences.

Eric Hoilenbeck is a self-educated man who started working in the woods when he was 14. When the timber industry fell on hard times in the 1970s, he bought a sawmill to keep going, and in 1976 he added an abandoned 10.000-squarc-ft. power plant. This became the Blue Ox Millworks.

Eric's big break in the miilwork business came in 1983 when he was hired to restore one of the most famous Victorian homes in Eureka, the Eagle House, now a bed-and-hreakfast. For years he replicated moldings, balusters and all kinds of trim work that couldn't be produced with today's machines.

Thanks to that job and a modest boom in the construction of Victorian-style houses, the Blue Ox Millworks prospered. As more and more old machines were salvaged and restored, Eric and Viviana realized they'd created a working museum—one that many people would pay to see. A couple of years ago they began to advertise, and now around 3,000 people pass through the Blue Ox Millworks cvcr>' vcar (including officials such as Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior).

The Hollenbccks' long-term goal is to shape the millworks into a kind of Williamsburg West. Like the Colonial village recreated in Virginia, Eric wants Blue Ox Millworks to be a producing museum and school "where people come to learn new skills and to be educated about their own past."

This vear that dream becomes a real-

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