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The Handcrafted Life of Dick Proenneke

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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).


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We are happy to share our experiences with these tools which may enhance your own. Given care, maintenance, and love, each of these fine tools is capable of lasting a lifetime. We do limit warranties to those offered by our supplying manufacturers. If ever you have a question or concern regarding any of the tools we sell, please let us know.

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