As a boy, there are few things in life one wants more than a tree house or a fort… as a man the dream can fade, but never really dies. Peter Buchanan-Smith, the founder of Best Made Co. has realized his secret fort—a place in the woods that welcomes him to sleep under the stars, cook meals over an open fire, chop down trees, wander through the forest or read a book in a three story fort made of solid timber.
Welcome to Lumberland.
The Best Made crew departs from their Manhattan offices shortly after lunch on Fridays, loading up an SUV with supplies. As the summer weather calls the masses away from the city, leaving Manhattan for the weekend is no easy task. The tension from battling the traffic is put to ease once the George Washington Bridge is crossed, and the trees begin to emerge covering the distant skyline. The time spent on the road is long but escaping into the wilderness is their reward.
Northwest of Manhattan, on the border of New York and Pennsylvania, Lumberland is tucked in the picturesque hills near the Delaware River. The campsite sits on an 80 acre property hidden within the woods where Buchanan-Smith and his cohorts, Ben Lavely and Hunter Craighill, spend their weekends.
For the three men, Lumberland is a place of retreat, a research and development outpost, and a place to share stories. “In theory Lumberland is no more special than any other sliver of wilderness, but what does make it special are the experiences,” Buchanan-Smith says. Along with the upkeep of the camp, hijinks naturally will ensue. “I will never forget the time Hunter singed off half the hair on his face trying to impress us with his fire breathing, whiskey spewing tricks.”
The camp lacks the essential necessities. There is no running water or electricity, it is nature at its purest— quiet and wild. Raccoons, deer, and even the occasional black bear will drop in for a visit. This however does not mean they live without some level of comfort—especially when it comes to preparing a hearty supper. Beef brisket over an open fire may take a while to cook, but in Lumberland there’s little to rush you.
Buchanan-Smith launched Best Made in 2009, during a tumultuous period in his life. He found the symbolism behind the axe so profound, that it gave him the confidence to start a venture into uncharted territories. He cultivated an aesthetic that resonated with a wider audience— tapping into a designer back-to-the-land fantasy. Buchanan-Smith quickly dispelled any notion of the tool being a just “work of art” when he used it for its intended purpose—to chop down a tree.
As Best Made’s popularity grew, they began to offer other tools and supplies for the home and the outdoors. Lumberland became a proving ground for testing and honing axes, knives, bags and other sundries. There aren’t many rules at the camp, only that chainsaws are not allowed— firewood must be chopped. It may seem simple enough: swing the axe, make contact with the tree, step and repeat… not quite. Though the motion is elementary, guiding a tree to land in a designated area takes a learned combination of brute and finesse. With an axe in hand, Buchanan-Smith and Lavely chip away the layers, and within minutes it falls perfectly into place, providing enough firewood for more than the weekend.
Hiking back to camp after the logging mission, it’s plain to see the the relationship between a hearty stock of firewood and Lumberland. Like the timber used to fuel a fire, time spent in Lumberland is fuel for the soul. Buchanan-Smith says “many of us aren’t lucky enough to spend the majority of the time in the wilderness. In our down time we read books about the first men to explore the Arctic, we watch reality TV shows about Alaskan salmon fisherman, or we stare in wonder at the pictures of a 20" trout caught by a friend last fall… The more time spent away from the wilderness only means more time spent dreaming about it. To finally find yourself back in a sylvan glade, by a mountain brook, or around a campfire is to finally find time to start making all those dreams come alive. Ultimately the wilderness is fuel for the imagination.”