Alan Slavick has a penchant for learning the skills of bygone eras. He has fashioned primitive bows for hunting deer. He designed and built a saw to cut wooden shakes needed for building projects. He continues to use his draft horse Pearl for some farm tasks. And, Alan is a self-taught cooper.
For the next several weeks, the Gays Mills Public Library display case will feature the tools and products of Al Slavick’s coopering interest.
Using one book, employing his wood and metal-working skills, and gathering expertise through trial and error, Alan created wooden containers ranging from large barrels to buoys, to diminutive shot glasses. A selection of these one-of-a-kind containers is on display.
Alan’s work as a tool-maker gave him the skills to fashion the tools unique to a cooper’s trade. The display also includes his custom-made croze, cooper’s broadaxe, specialized planes for smoothing the insides and outsides of barrels, and several measuring devices. Although not made by Alan, a cooper’s adze and drawknife are displayed because of their importance in the manufacture of barrels and casks.
For several years, Alan demonstrated coopering at historical reenactments. To carry his cooper’s tools, he built a tool chest that look like a barrel lying on its side. See a photo of it in the display case.