Blue Ox Millworks, Historic Park, and School of Traditional Arts

Photo: Portero Hill Home - San Francisco, CA
Blue Ox Provided: Balustrades, Moldings, Doors, Gingerbread


 Tales From the Blue Ox by Dan Brett

Tales from the Blue Ox
by: Dan Brett

A Hands-On Manual of Traditional Skills
From the Blue Ox Millworks and Historic Park

The modern world is full of dizzying technological advances and scientific breakthroughs. Unfortunately, it is also a place of unparalleled waste and quick fixes in which increased specialization takes us further and further from the very skills that got us where we are.

Take a Peek at the Index Here

Tales from the Blue Ox
ISBN 1-931626-16-2
232 pages

Tales from the Blue Ox is a collection of the best tools, techniques, recipes and general common sense gleaned from the history of Victorian-era ingenuity. Interspersed with these gems of nearly forgotten wisdom is the story of one of Northern California’s least-known treasures, the Blue Ox Millworks Historic Park. The Blue Ox is a combination living-history museum, sawmill, and custom woodworking shop, specializing in the distinctive gingerbread decoration of Victorian-era homes. It is also a workplace for area artisans and craftspeople whose work ranges from blacksmithing and metal casting to boat building, pottery and vintage printing.

This detailed illustration by Dan Brett shows where the various interior and exterior moldings can be found in a Victorian Home. Click here to see a larger version.

Types of moulding: Crown, Corner Guard, Chair Rail, Casing, Bollection, base cap, base board, base shoe, bead, cap, panel mold, cove, water table, brick mold, half round, bed mold, drip cap, band, rake

Anatomy of a Door

Although the Blue Ox has frequently been the subject of magazine articles and news coverage, this book marks the first attempt to tell its entire story, while sharing the skills that have been kept alive there. Starting with a tale of the Victorian craftsmanship that inspired it all, subsequent chapters elaborate on crafts and skills practiced at the Blue Ox, accompanied by detailed illustrations of the processes described. Topics range from wood turning, to blacksmithing, to ornamental plaster molding, with a narrative that gives readers enough basic information to further explore the crafts on their own. Also included are dozens of formulas for homemade paints, varnishes, glues, and other concoctions useful to artisans and craftsmen alike. Lavishly illustrated with nearly 300 pen-and-ink drawings, Tales from the Blue Ox is a source of both information and inspiration for anyone interested in the traditional arts and/or the golden age of craftsmanship: the Victorian Era.

Another Dan Brett illustration, this one showing a diagram of the components that go into a traditional mortise and tenon wood door. Click here to see a larger version.

Dan Brett is a writer and illustrator with a strong interest in traditional skills and self-sufficiency. Originally from the Midwest, he headed west as a young man and—after extensive traveling that included a five-year stint in Germany—settled down in Northern California, where he now lives with his wife, Miriam. He was introduced to Eric Hollenbeck and the Blue Ox through a mutual blacksmithing friend, and was immediately enthralled with the spirit and vision he found there. This book is the culmination of that interest.

Dan has written articles for Backpacker and California Blacksmith, and is the author of Hike America: Northern California (2001, Globe Pequot Press

A map of the Blue Ox Millworks property as drawn by Dan Brett.

Map of the Blue Ox Millworks

While the information on this website is believed to be true and accurate at the date of publication, neither the authors, webmaster, nor Blue Ox Millworks can accept any legal responsibility for any errors or omissions that may have been made. Prices listed on website are subject to change. © 2017. Blue Ox Millworks. All Rights Reserved

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Victorian new construction for a home on Portero Hill in San Francisco