Letters from Armorica- Making Haste Slowly (6 June 36 AF) – Zymurgia House

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First Letter

Dear Leon,

Everything seems poised to go so fast, and yet proceeds so slowly! Amelie received three inquiries for road-wagons before I’d ever returned to Bois-de-Bas, and several more have come in during the last month. There would be many, many more, I feel sure, if we began to use our only road-wagon to haul goods in earnest between Bois-de-Bas and Mont-Havre, but it will be too useful to us here as we get La Compagnie des Wagons Tuppenny started. That, and as you say we must move avec prudence: let us by all means have a few wagons to sell and the ability to produce more before we starting enflaming demand too much!

And that will take a little while. CWT has so many needs, and even though so many are readily available here in Bois-de-Bas it takes time to get them all together. Lumber, for example. We have been using chêne-pierre because it is common here, and it was easy enough to gather sufficient seasoned wood for a single wagon; but if we are to make many such we need a steady supply, and that requires planning.

And then, Jacques has suggested that we might use a proportion of beechpine in place of chêne-pierre, as it is softer and easier to work, and might do equally well for the parts of the wagon that aren’t load-bearing. And as far as that goes, it might do quite well for the hardened struture as well—though I will have to carefully determine whether the material to be hardened has an effect on the degree of effort a hardened block can make available to the other parts of the wagon. I don’t believe it does; it seems to have more to do with shape and geometry.

But if we can, then using beechpine could result in a considerable savings of both time and money—except that we would have to acquire it from a distance, and it would need to be hauled here, and we would need you to set up relationships with those who sell it.

Oh, my. I have just imagined a discussion I must have with M. Trousseau, who owns our local lumber mill. Imagine, mon cher Leon, a road-wagon for hauling logs…to a lumber mill outfitted with formed devices for moving them easily. I’m picturing something like an object with a strap for strapping around a log that provides lift. Strap two or more around the log at intervals, and it should be possible to lift the log into the air and move it into place. It would need to be carefully designed: as with our road-wagon, you wouldn’t want the log to get away from you. But it seems that the work could be made much easier and safer than it is now, and that would be worth quite a bit.

Hah! Perhaps we might acquire our chêne-pierre at a lower cost than we had planned! Yes, and then sell the equipment to other places in good time!

But our deepest needs are two: men to do the work, and a place for them to do it. The latter is the more pressing, as we have some number of young men who came here during the war and are eager to stop “feeding the goats” as my townsfolk have begun to say—that is, to do the unpleasant jobs that as newcomers they are most welcome to do. I’ve no doubt they have friends in their home villages who are eager to the do the same.

The facility is easy enough, in principle: all we need to get started is, effectively, a barn, to get us out of the weather, and that’s a structure that the people here know well how to build. And quickly, too, as I saw with our town hall some while ago. But there is no place to put it right here in town, as the town hall got the last available space for such a large structure; and in any event no one wants it right here in town anyway. Marc and I have found a property some miles to the west of town: a nice spot on dry, high ground, but with bad soil for farming or it would have been taken decades since. The land will need to be cleared, of course, but we should have something in place in a month or two, enough to get started. It is a place of the most excellent, as Amelie noted to me, because it overlooks the road from Mont-Havre. We shall put a large sign on the front, and every drover who goes by will see it.

The more difficult issue is how we divide up our time, Jacques and Marc and I. Jacques remains our cabinet-maker here in Bois-de-Bas, but we will need him to build the first several wagons, and then to oversee the work. He will need to take on another apprentice or two, it seems, which will further restrict his time in the short run. And Marc, of course, has his farm; but he is planning on spending a good bit of his time on our new endeavor, and if it goes well he might, so he tells me, give up farming altogether.

Ironically, my services are the least of it so far as building the wagons goes; and I begin to see how the Former’s Guild has become so powerful and its members so lazy. The forming proper is a small fraction of the effort required to produce a finished wagon; some of it I can do here in my workshop, and the rest can be done on-site quickly enough. And yet, only a former can do it. It will be quite some time before the work required is beyond the strength of Luc and myself. Still, I suppose I should begin looking for another apprentice. Luc is progressing quickly, now that he has learned to read and write fluently; his indentures run for another five years, but he will be capable of journeyman work long before that.

So there is much to wait for—but of course we are not waiting for all of that to fill the first few orders. Jacques and I have revised the design somewhat after our journey to and from Mont-Havre, and have begun work on the first few orders; and Amelie has designed a pretty little emblem we can place on each wagon, like a hallmark. On a part of the hardened structure, naturally, so that it can’t be removed!

And so we go on, mon cher Leon, so we go on!

Affectionately,

Armand

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photo credit: Chrisbkes Old West Mountain via photopin (license)



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