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.
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:
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…
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.
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 www.countryworkshops.org of Wille in that first class. Woodenware features prominently at each meal during the workshops, a real treat.
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.
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)