WNPR

Build A House? Shuck An Oyster? Maine Maker Does It All

May 12, 2017

There's a thriving scene on YouTube where woodworkers, metalworkers and other "makers" provide a step-by-step guide to their process.

In Waterford, Maine a maker named Gardner Waldeier -- who calls himself “Bus Huxley” -- has been entertaining viewers with equal portions of Yankee ingenuity and video wizardry.

Waldeier is a lanky 6'4”. He's 34, and wears glasses that often frame a sheepish smile. He grew up in an old farmhouse with a very frugal family.

"We had very little money to maintain the house, and to maintain the tractor and the fields and the firewood," he said. "All this stuff that we just had to do, and we were always fixing something as cheaply as possible and figuring out a solution to a problem, whatever it may be."

Once, his father let him cut school, so he could learn how to rebuild a carburetor at a neighbor's house. His dad was a school teacher, so playing hooky was condoned in the name of self-sufficiency.

"He has a unique set of skills," said Waldeier's neighbor, Jeff Winslow. "The ability, when the checkbook is empty, to get a project done -- may not be OSHA approved -- but it accomplishes the goal... I do not watch his videos online, only because I'm rarely online. I participate in some of the videos, apparently." 

Like the video where Waldeier pulls tree stumps out of the ground with an excavator he borrowed from Winslow. It's an episode of "A House Built From Trees," a series documenting the construction of a new home on his property. There are 20 episodes so far, with no end in sight.

Waldeier's new house is a testament to Yankee thriftiness, because he's doing much of the work himself.

And he manages to do it while he's building, plowing, and cooking for others.

"I live my life by saying I can do something that I can't, that I haven't done before," he said. "For example, a friend of mine who owns a restaurant called me and said, 'I need to hire someone to shuck 400 oysters in a matter of hours. Can you do that?' I said, 'Sure.' He said, 'Have you ever shucked an oyster?' I said, 'Yeah, I've shucked plenty of oysters.' I never shucked an oyster in my life. But I was confident that I could learn it by going on YouTube, watching people shuck oysters the night before, talking to other chef friends and -- all right, we can do this."

Waldeier is known on YouTube as Bus Huxley. He said the name just came to him one day.

His videos play with time and make use of stop-motion animation. So a winter woodpile seemingly gets stacked without any human intervention. And vegetables dance across a cutting board. 

A serving tray made from crosscuts of a locust tree is sanded on screen in just 13 seconds, though Waldeier spent hours working on it with his power sander.

"I love the dissemination of information efficiently, for free. That's the beauty of the internet," he said. "Useable information on how to create something, on how to fix something."

Like a working 1956 Ford tractor or a 1967 Volvo sports car that Waldeier keeps in perfect running order.

Besides his obsession with four-wheel vehicles, this Maine maker is clearly fond of four-legged creatures, and other members of the animal kingdom -- not the least of which is Bodie, an Airedale terrier who scampers into the frame in many of the videos. 

Waldeier's videos co-star woodpeckers, foxes, and baby raccoons.

Waldeier's YouTube following is modest, but his interests are way more eclectic than those of the other YouTube makers.

In addition to all his sanding and soldering, he does a lot of sautéing and simmering. His cooking videos serve up tacos, pasta, and deer sausage.

"It turns out that in addition to everything else, he's a master chef. I mean, he could walk into a restaurant like the Four Seasons and cook you dinner, even though he lives in the north woods of Maine," said Seth Lipsky, a New York journalist who is so keen on Waldeier's videos, he puts them on the front page of his online newspaper, The New York Sun.

This summer, Gardner Waldeier will be making pizza at an orchard in Maine. He's a hard man to pin down on his long range goals, but making a living producing videos is certainly among them.

"Once a video is out there, once something is produced and put on the Internet, it's carved into a digital stone and I love that," he said. "It's permanent."