Living in the past isn’t the life that Steve Boyleston has always dreamed of. No, he wanted to be a rock star. “Still do,” he said with a laugh, “but the window of opportunity is closing.”

Instead, he has become a historical reenactor, bringing the history of backwoods rifleman Richard Boylston in to the present, both in his educational demonstrations, and in his daily life.

Mr. Boyleston comes by his interest honestly: He is a descendent of the Boylstons of Boston, who came to America on the Mayflower (the spelling eventually changed to Boyleston). Among his distant ancestors is Susanna Boylston, mother of John Adams. With that kind of lineage, historical reenacting was only natural.

Even his music has taken a historical tinge: “When I was young, I was able to do a lot of guitar playing with Jimmy Page, and he showed me the ancient tunings that he used with Led Zeppelin. Still to this day, it sounds totally period.” With these ancient guitar tunings, in addition to his banjo, dulcimer and six-string ukulele, Mr. Boyleston transports listeners to the colonial frontier.

But the journey does not end there. Mr. Boyleston has several period pistols, swords and ax blades dating from the period 1740 to 1850, in addition to the many weapons, crafts and furniture pieces he has made himself.

Craftsmanship was Mr. Boyleston’s entry point to the world of days gone by. When his son, now 30 years old, was in second grade in Florida, Mr. Boyleston thought the children could learn from an informational talk about colonial weaponry, especially if each of them could get a chance to handle the centuries-old objects.

He was asked back every year after that initial visit, and his appeal has spread northward. Mr. Boyleston performed a show at the Vineyard Haven Public Library, which was made possible in part by the enthusiastic support of renowned historian and Vineyard summer resident David McCullough.

Mr. Boyleston had a feeling the show would be popular, considering his own fascination with handmade crafts sparked his own interest in our cultural heritage. “Everything from the Revolutionary War or the French and Indian War is handmade and one of a kind. That’s always been my fascination with the Revolutionary War — it was all handmade things.”

In his own life, Mr. Boyleston’s creations served a different purpose. When he was 19, he decided he wanted to move to the Alaskan outback, where he would have to make everything he needed to survive all by himself.

He enlisted the aid of an elderly man from Austria who knew how to construct a long rifle by hand. “He was a real cantankerous guy, who would look at you all unfriendly, but I thought, ‘I’m gonna wear him down,’ and finally he told me enough about how to build a gun.

“But I think I’d asked him too many questions, because one day he looked at me and said, ‘Boy, lemme tell you something. If you lived in the 18th century, there would be no place to go ask, and you need to go figure things out on your own.’”

And he did. Mr. Boyleston taught himself how to make furniture and hunting equipment without power tools. Unfortunately, he achieved expertise a little behind schedule: “By the time I learned how to make everything, I was basically too old to go. The outback of Alaska is really hardcore. Not many people could go live there, but I could do it. Oh yeah.”

Mr. Boyleston’s own toughness seems to have been learned by admiration, if not osmosis, from his backwoods forebears. Repeatedly, he expressed his respect for their physical strength, in everyday life as in battle. “The women here taking care of the kids, of the cabins, plowing, harvesting, making all the meals and the fire from scratch and collecting firewood. It makes you wonder, what were the guys doing?

“People were in much better condition then. When we invented the automobile, that was the end of walking. Literally, in the 18th century, any average person could walk 20 miles in a day and not think about it.”

The resilience and ruggedness of the average population was, in Mr. Boyleston’s estimation, mostly responsible for American independence. “The Revolutionary War was sorta like a bunch of kids throwing rocks at a big tank. The average person from New England down to the Carolinas, they were all backwoodsmen, and really tough characters, because you had to be that way to survive.

“I read that in just one battle in the Revolutionary War under Benedict Arnold, his guys marched 40 miles to the battle, and had to fight when they got there. Not many people today could do that.”

It was the men who filled up the militia — Minutemen as they were often called — who really won the war. “The elites in Boston, they got it all started. All the Founding Fathers, they were extremely tough characters, but without the interest of the average people, they never would have made it.”

Despite his abiding interest in the war and its battles, Mr. Boyleston doesn’t participate in reenactments, mostly because they recreate the Civil War, an industrial period where the artifacts were mostly mass-produced. “In the Civil War, they had standard-issue uniforms and rifles — there are thousands of each thing. I studied the Civil War and the Revolutionary War, but the main thing I’ll tell you is that I would not have liked to fight in either.”

Rather, he seems content to spread his love of history through peacetime demonstrations, inspiring the same kind of respect and appreciation for the skill of our cultural ancestors to younger generations.

“We don’t know enough of our history, and most young people don’t know anything—a lot of old people too. We’ve gotten to a point on a national level where history is fading away.

“I’m trying to bring it back, and hopefully make one little difference. We have an incredible history, and especially in New England, it’s everywhere. In Massachusetts too it’s everywhere — from the Mayflower landing all the way to today.”