When I was 18 years old, I was an art-school dropout, and had inherited a basement shop full of modern (c. 1960s) power tools. I had started to learn a bit about using them, and quickly found that I was a bit intimidated by them. Fortunately for me, by the time I was 20, in the fall of 1978 an issue of Fine Woodworking dropped an alternative into my lap. It featured 2 articles, one an excerpt of the book Make a Chair from a Tree, by John Alexander, the other an article on riving by Drew Langsner. I ordered Alexander’s book, and while I waited for it to arrive, read the 2 articles til they were worn.
In 1980, I saw an advertisement for a week-long class in chairmaking, being held at Drew & Louise Langsner’s craft school Country Workshops, to be taught by John Alexander. I didn’t drive at the time, had practically never been out of New England, wasn’t much of a woodworker, and was terminally shy. I wrote to the address, signed up for the class and made plans to get down to western North Carolina. I was not the star student in the class, to say the least.
The class really inspired my interest in this craft, and I stumbled along on my own for a few years. Then I returned to Country Workshops by the mid-1980s, and was for the next five years or more a regular attendee at a number of classes – timber framing, white oak basketry, spoon carving, coopering, as well as ladderback chairs with Alexander and American style Windsor chairs. A woodworker from eastern Pennsylvania named Daniel O’Hagan was one of the teachers I met there, and it was his example of using exclusively hand tools that got me to give away all my machines and power tools. I have never missed them.
The late 1970s/early 1980s were an excellent time for green woodworking, a term that I think was coined in print by Alexander. He used to tell us that it was “in the air.” Lots of books, workshops, and activity in this field then…and central to it was Country Workshops. Drew & Louise have worked for 30 years making the workshops happen, bringing in teachers of the highest caliber, finding and eventually selling the best tools designed for the work, and keeping it going year after year, always improving on the facility and the format. (See their website for details of the types of classes they offer www.countryworkshops.org ) Everyone I have ever talked to has had nothing but great praise for the experience of taking a class there. The students come from all over, national & international, and it always is interesting to me that a disparate group can come together over a common appreciation/interest in traditional “green” woodworking and spend a very full week totally immersed in the given subject.
Drew & Louise are still plugging away, and a couple of years ago my wife & our then nearly 2-yr old twins chugged all the way down there so I could teach a class in making a carved box. I am delighted to be returning this summer to repeat that class. Drew tells me there’s a couple of slots left, so if you are inclined, drop him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org There’s classes year-round and the details are listed on the website.
6 thoughts on “box-making class Country Workshops”
Is that Chris Schwarz kneeling in the group photo? It seems every successful woodworker has learned under JA.
Nope, I’ve never met Schwarz. One of those bearded guys in the front row is Del Stubbs…but in that class, Alexander (and I) were students – the teacher was Willie Sundqvist from Sweden, a most amazing woodworker and teacher.
HaHay I made the papers! Peter I might poach the picture of me planing for my CW photo vault.
I am left with great memories and wonderful experiences from both J.A and C.W. With out them I would still be doing green woodworking but it would not be pretty and no doubt unorthodox.
I am so glad you have this Blog going,thanks!
glad you are around & reading this thing. Drew gave me the picture…
I got this note the other day when JA read the Country Workshops post:
Peter: Thanks for your post on Country Workshops. Drew Langsner is well known from his extensive writings. However, those who haven’t visited Country Workshops most likely know little about Louise. She is a wonderful organic gardener who raises most of the vegetables for the workshops. My remembrance of Louise testing handfuls of the rich garden soil is both powerful and peaceful. Wonderful gardener, wonderful cook- the best I have ever known. Louise is also an accomplished basket maker in both oak and willow and occasionally teaches classes. I enjoy a number of her beautiful oak baskets and am going to order one in willow if she can find time. Thank you Louise for some of the most peaceful times and tummy in my life!
To which I will add that according to CW’s brochure, Louise is indeed teaching a weekend class this April in making willow baskets. here’s the link:
When working on a door frame, as opposed to a stool or cabinet, is there any tendency for the stiles to go out-of-plane with the rails when the backside tenon shoulder is not in contact with the joint? I suppose as long as the tenon cheeks were relatively snug in the mortise this wouldn’t be an issue. Interested in your experience.
This is an amazing online resource! I’m currently 21 and living in Tasmania and I wish so so much that I could study carving with a teacher like you! I renovate and build houses with my father and I’ve thought many times about going to London to study at the city guild. Thanks so much for the photos and information!! it’s absolutely amazingly beautiful work that you do.
p.s we have some really nice timbers here in Tassie and I’d love to be able to understand all of these techniques to use these timbers to show their beauty.