The Handcrafted Life of Dick Proenneke
You can download an excerpt of this book here.
by Monroe Robinson
Millions of PBS viewers first met Dick Proenneke through the program “Alone in the Wilderness,” which documents Dick’s 30-year adventure in the Alaskan wilderness. On the shores of Twin Lakes, Dick built his cabin and nearly all of the household objects he required to survive, from the ingenious wooden hinges on his front door to the metal ice creepers he strapped to his boots.
And now, “The Handcrafted Life of Dick Proenneke” examines this adventure through the lens of Dick’s tools and the objects he made. Written by Monroe Robinson – the caretaker of Dick’s cabin and his personal effects – the book weaves together vintage photos and entries from Dick’s journals plus new drawings and images to paint a portrait of a man fully engaged in life and the natural world around him.
In 1999, after departing Twin Lakes at the age of 82, Dick donated his cabin and all its contents to the National Park Service. For 19 summers, beginning in 2000, Monroe and his wife, K. Schubeck, served as caretakers for Dick’s cabin, all the while honoring his motto of “keeping it true.” The cabin, its objects and this book show how you can make anything you need from almost nothing. For example:
August 17, 1970:
I have been needing a good cutting board. A gas can box end is good but you seldom find one that is not two pieces held together with corrugated fasteners. I had a good wide spruce slab that would make a nice one. I ripped it one and one quarter inch thick. Trimmed it to fourteen inches in length and edged it to nine inches wide. Planed and sanded it smooth and rubbed it with bacon grease.
No one holds a more intimate knowledge of Dick’s handcrafted life than Monroe, and just as Dick shared his life through letters and film, Monroe knew he had a responsibility to share all that he had learned. This book, which includes excerpts from more than 7,000 pages of Dick’s transcribed journals along with hundreds of photos, dozens of illustrations, and Monroe’s thoughtful and detailed commentary, is the result. It’s nonfiction, how-to, adventure and memoir, but at its heart, it’s a guidebook on how to live a life that’s “true,” with materials found and a few simple tools. Appealing to woodworkers, toolmakers, homesteaders, hikers, naturalists, conservationists, survivalists and lovers of Alaska, this book is for those who want to know how one man lived an intentional life, the kind of life many dream of living.
"The Handcrafted Life of Dick Proenneke" is 456 pages, hardbound, 8-1/2” x 11", printed in full color on coated #80 matte paper. Like all Lost Art Press books, it is produced entirely in the United States.
The cover features a diestamp showing Dick's cabin, which is pressed into a green cotton cover cloth. For those readers who desire a dust jacket, we have made a specially designed one that you can print out on a large-format printer (which you can find at many office supply stores or a reprographics service).
The dust jacket measures 26-5/8" x 11-1/4". You can download the free pdf via this link.
Explanation to the Reader xx
1. Starting from Scratch 2
2. A Land of Snow & Ice 78
3. The Cache 166
4. Five-gallon Gas Cans 182
5. Made from Spruce 210
6. Tin Cans 238
7. The Elgin & the Arctic Tern 252
8. Gifts & Barter 310
9. Repairing with Zeal 368
Character Sketches 412
About the Author
Monroe Robinson’s love of craft is eclipsed only by his love of nature. He earned a degree in fisheries from Colorado State University before moving to Alaska. Turning down an offer with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, he built his home, much of the furniture and later worked with master log builder, Lee Cole, in 1977. Building a trussed-log bridge over the following two summers led to his meeting Dick Proenneke – their mutual passion for craft and wildlife kindled a friendship until Dick’s death in 2003.
A graduate of The Krenov School of Fine Woodworking, Monroe has taught woodworking courses around the country and has written articles for Fine Woodworking magazine.