Inspiration & learning

People often ask me about my training at green woodworking in general and joinery in particular. The first part to fall into place came at Country Workshops, which is run by Drew & Louise Langsner in Marshall, NC. It’s the place where I really learned the fundamentals of the woodworking that I do…the specifics of joinery/furniture history/social history  part came later, I’ll tell that one another time. But the tools & wood part was inspired by frequent trips down to the Smoky Mountains, then bumping along the lane to Langsner’s place.


Drew & Louise have run week-long classes there for 31 years now, an amazing accomplishment. The instructors have come from several countries, as have the students. While I was there this month, I kept looking at the inspiring bits & pieces here & there throughout the place, like these homemade door latches that Drew has done on the house & guest house.  I like these sorts of thing, they are a real nice touch.
door latch 
door latch inside
Many of the classes over the years have concentrated on chair-making, the first one I attended back in 1980 was to learn the basics of Jennie (then John) Alexander’s ladderback chair:
Alexander's post-and-rung chair 
Here the kids are sitting in some very nice Windsors Drew made that have been around the shop for some years now…I especially like the lowback version. I never made one of these, this class came along while I was consumed with joinery…
kids in Drew's windsors
Here are two timber-frames, tucked against each other. The one on the left was built with a class back in the mid-1980s…it was at that class that I met Daniel O’Hagan, who became a very strong influence on my approach to woodwork. The second timber frame is a shelter for a wood-fired oven, this frame features some nice natural forms. During our box class, the oven was used for a huge batch of the best pizzas I’ve had in ages.
timber frames
Country Workshops got its start in 1978, when Drew & Louise invited Wille Sundqvist to teach a class in carved woodenware… here’s a photo I copied from Country Workshops’ website  of Wille in that first class. Woodenware features prominently at each meal during the workshops, a real treat.
Wille Sundqvist 1978
Here is a more recent spoon by Wille, this one’s displayed in a small show-room in the workshop. Others have seen long use at the table, and have developed a great patina.
Wille Sundqvist spoon
It’s a long story, but part of the origins of Country Workshops was when Bill Coperthwaite brought Wille to meet Drew & Louise back in the mid-1970s…
I had a chance to meet Coperthwaite a few years ago, although only briefly…I had been working for a short stint in Machias, Maine & kept hearing folks talking about a guy who lived over in the next cove in a yurt. The yurt was the thing that tipped me off, I remembered Drew mentioning this fellow…we didn’t get over there that visit, but by the next year, I had found Bill’s book, A Handmade Life, and I was hooked. We searched & searched for the path that led to his place, and literally bumped into him, unfortunately as he was on his way out…so another visit is in order. Maybe next year. The book is one of my all-time favorites…very highly regarded.
A Handmade Life, by Wm Coperthwaite. (White River Junction, VT: Chelsea Green Publishing, hardcover 2003/paper 2007)
A Handmade Life
A Handmade Life



4 thoughts on “Inspiration & learning

  1. I first learned of the Langsners through their book “Country Woodcraft” way back when. I was pleased to learn in your last blog update that their school still exists. I suppose they’re a bit more ‘on-grid’ than they were back then, but it would be hard to run a school without plumbing and electricity for lighting. Anyway, they impressed me back then, and they impress me still. And I still have that book. :)


  2. A Handmade Life inspired me as well Richard Gregg book “the Value of Voluntary Simplicity” Also mentioned in Handmade Life.

    One of the reasons I come to this site and is for aid in living a sustainable life. I will be taking my first class @ countryworkshops this January. I have talked tools and concepts many times with Drew, and it has become obvious to me the those associated with him and the green woodworking community are as good a place to find that sustainable life as any and the two books mentioned above help to fill you to the brim with hope and clarity.
    Scrap Wood

  3. Great post. I used to be checking constantly this blog and I am impressed!
    Very useful info particularly the closing part :) I maintain such info much.

    I was looking for this particular information for a long
    time. Thanks and best of luck.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s