A trip to the Blue Ox Millworks
I had stumbled onto the Blue Ox on Youtube some years ago. Eric Hollinbeck is a Vietnam vet who dealt with his own PTSD issues by retreating into a secluded corner of a Eureka California industrial park. There he took a deep interest in Victoria architectural millwork.
With only a $300 dollar bank loan he began to build a business specializing custom millwork focused on producing pieces for the restoration of historic homes. Out of necessity he salvaged antique machinery which eventually grew into a fairly impressive collection. Eventually the site was opened up to the public as a showpiece of historic practices with various outbuildings dedicated to niche activities.
This transpired into a school for at risk youth, who Eric could relate to, teaching them woodworking in all its forms. It is now partially run by a non-profit society although some commercial activity continues.
There also seems to be a TV show on the Magnolia Network dedicated to following Eric’s activities called “The Craftsman”. I haven’t seen any episodes myself.
When I visited just a couple weeks ago I found that the place seemed to have degenerated since its hight of activity. Perhaps Covid had taken a toll but I got the impression that the the place had been falling apart for much longer. It’s not really surprising as it seems that aside from a couple office staff, Eric is the primary source of muscle power and frankly, even for a young man, keeping that place in good shape would be a huge task. When you look at older footage of the site and compare it to today however, It’s clear that a lot of pack ratting has been going on and few of the spaces seem to be much more than a junk heap. That said, the main woodworking shop was active and there were some projects underway.
My visit was very brief and I hadn’t planned to make a video about it so I had only some very rough footage taken on my memory challenged old iphone. It would have been interesting to spend some time with Eric but that wasn’t possible I’m afraid.
Anyhow, I did find a boat or two in amongst the junk to talk about so here you go.
Here are links to footage in the video:
The Craftsman – Official Trailer | Magnolia Network
The Ox – Portrait of a Master Woodworker
The Boats That Built Britain – WWII Landing Craft – Part 1.