Friday, April 6, 2012

My next project—One big yoke

I’m working on book #4, The Backyard Homestead Guide to Building Projects  which will be released by Storey Publishing during the summer of 2013.
         The book pretty much contains what the title says—80 building projects for those seeking a more self-sufficient lifestyle, whether they live downtown, in the suburbs or in rural areas. (For information on other books in the Backyard Homestead series and other titles, visit
         Part of the challenge in designing projects is to create ones that are useful, buildable and haven’t been beaten half to death by other books and magazines. Some projects are straight off the drawing board, some are variations of main stream projects and some rely on inspiration from the past—like the project I worked on yesterday: The Bucket Yoke.
         Since 5-gallon buckets are used for hauling everything from water to maple syrup to chicken feed to tools, my editor and I thought a bucket yoke would fit the “useful, buildable, not beaten half to death” criteria. So off to the drawing board and down to the shop I went.

The first step was getting a sense of what would be ergonomically comfortable—for that I drew inspiration from some antique yokes made for hauling maple syrup sap (photo #1 below) 
Photo #1

and the portage yoke from my wood canoe (bottom yoke in the photo #2)

Photo #2

The next step was to try some variations. The top yoke in photo #2 put the weight too far forward. Some others I tried weren’t beefy enough to carry a 40 lb. load on each end. Eventually I came up with the yoke in the middle of photo 2. I wound up rounding the edges with a router to make it more comfortable and adding 3 notches to each end to hold the buckets in place.

Photo #3 is where the project now stands. The yoke can easily haul 100 lbs., it can be built with only a jigsaw (you don’t need the router if you feel like spending an hour sanding the edges by hand) and it’s somewhat unique—the trifecta we were looking for.

If you have ideas for a “backyard homestead building project” feel free to leave a post or drop me an email at

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