Nav Bar Home Curriculum Ideas Postcards Research Tools Treasure Hunts Web Links Web Projects Web Picks About

Animal Houses
Henry's Tools
Henry's Cabin
Activity Ideas
Henry & Friends

Henry Builds a cabin
Link to Author and Book



Henry's Tools

Thoreau only mentions a few tools by name that he used to build his cabin. However, his description of the building process indicates that other tools were used. An excellent article, The Walden Tool Box of Henry David Thoreau by Richard Kappeler is a must read. He created an imaginary tool box based on Thoreau's writings and his knowledge about the tools used in 1845. Quotes from Walden and the tools are listed below. Two other excellent books are A Museum of Amrican Tools by Eric Sloane and Home Building and Wood Working in Colonial America by Keith Wilbur.

Quotes from Walden

"Near the end of March, 1845, I borrowed an axe and went down to the woods by Walden Pond, nearest to where I intended to build my house, and began to cut down some tall arrowy white pines, still in their youth, for timber."

Hammer and Plasterer's Board
"My house had in the mean while been shingled down to the ground on every side in lathing I was pleased to send each nail home with a single blow of the hammer, and it was my ambition to transfer the plaster from the board to the wall neatly and rapidly."

"Before winter I built a chimney, and shingled the sides of my house, which were already impervious to rain, with imperfect and sappy shingles made of the first slice of the log, whose edges I was obliged to straighten with a plane."

"When I came to build my chimney I studied masonry. My bricks being second-hand ones required to be cleaned with a trowel, so that I learned more than usual of the qualities of bricks and trowels."

Kappeler's Imaginary Walden Tool Box

pry Bar

nail pry or pincers
horse cart
shovel grubhoe or pick
gauge or mortise pattern
shingling hatchet
whetstone or grindstone
bucket or pail
mortar box/plaster box
brick chisel or brick axe
level and plumb
plasterer's board
chalk line and awl


Kappeler, Richard. "The Walden Tool Box of Henry David Thoreau," The Chronicle of the Early American Industries Association, Inc., p. 67-69, 1991.

Sloane, Eric. A Museum of Early American Tools. New York: Funk & Wagnalls, 1964

Thoreau, Henry David. Walden; or Life in the Woods available at

Wilbur, C. Keith. Home Building and Wood Working in Colonial America. Guildford, CT.: The Globe Pequot Press, 1992.

Updated March 9, 2017
© 1996 - 2011 Linda C. Joseph
All Rights Reserved
All CyberBee Graphics are Trademarked

Graphics by
Darlene Vanasco/Creative Director
Erika Taguchi/Designer & Illustrator
Hosting Provided by Iwaynet