Ingenuity: Everywhere


Irecently visited my neighbor, the one who was the mayor of the village and showed us our future house when we were looking and ended up becoming my best friend here. He is building an addition onto the side of the family house and had earlier come by to see if I had a certain special drill bit.

There is so much foundational stuff to building which makes sense but might not be obvious until you see it being done. Like, the actual making of foundations. You want to dig into the ground, and have inner and outer wall forms to take your deepest pour of concrete. These will be made of wooden planks, but what will hold them together with all that weight of concrete inside, trying to force them apart, off true?

For this you need rebar lengths running between and through the inner and outer planks, clamped into position from outside. The clamps you remove when it’s all dry, along with the plank molds, and you can cut off the protruding rebar flush with the walls, but the rebar inside remains so, and adds permanent strength to the concrete. It was the pairs of holes through the plank sets that my friend wanted to drill, needing a long bit of the right size which I didn’t have: it’s a rather specific thing.

He had several choices at this point: drive 28 km to the single good hardware shop in Mestia (or phone them) to see if they have his drill bit; phone or drive around Zugdidi, 110 km away; or just actually make the thing. The planks are soft wood, likely pine, not high quality stuff. You don’t need a hardened steel bit to drill through them, it just needs to be of a sufficient length at the right diameter.

So… take a piece of the same rebar, more iron than steel. Hammer one end of it to flatten and widen it slightly. Use your grinding wheels to match the shape of a smaller drill bit, and you’re done. Total time, about 10 minutes. I love seeing things like this done, because they’re more than adequate for the task, cheap, and clever. If you have the right tools, including the brain and maker’s gifts, you can make more tools in many situations. I lack some of these things, so it awes me to see someone else having and using them. A great sense of satisfaction ensues, that this problem has been solved locally with materials at hand.

My friend has made a slide for his children to use, of wood and sheet metal, much better suited to a half year winter climate which would likely crack the plastic version. He has a wonderful multi-use Svan walking stick with a steel spike at one end and a hook near the end of the other. Skis he made of wood. (Different woods for different jobs, depending on the hardness, flexibility and durability you need.) A plank toboggan too, with steel pipe runners for speed. And… about 80 beehives, which demand half-mm precision in all 3 dimensions; poorly made ones will not allow the precious bees to survive the winter.

He just makes these things as he needs them, using skills which my father also had in abundance but which I lack, combinations of hand, eye and motor patience. I do have other gifts, but perhaps less practical ones than are called for in Georgian villages on a daily basis. I would rather pay a local plumber or electrician to do what needs doing in my home than even attempt it myself, especially the electrician, because his work to me involves life-threatening forces. The plumbing I might grumblingly attempt.

There are things I’m learning. But my father…built a canoe in the basement one Canadian winter, and it has given my whole family there decades of fun and fishing. I could never aspire to this, nor do I really want to, if I’m honest. But to see it being done—RESPECT.

Tony Hanmer has lived in Georgia since 1999, in Svaneti since 2007, and been a weekly writer and photographer for GT since early 2011. He runs the “Svaneti Renaissance” Facebook group, now with nearly 2000 members, at

He and his wife also run their own guest house in Etseri:

By Tony Hanmer

15 October 2020 19:07