Drew Langsner tells me there’s two spaces left for this summer’s box-carving class at Country Workshops. Once these two are filled, there is no second chance for this class in this spot – so if you’re thinking about having a great time down in the western North Carolina mountains, think faster…Then get a hold of Drew at http://countryworkshops.org/
I know there’s many obstacles; money, time, logistics…but you will have a great time if you come. It’s about more than making a box & carving. It’s truly an immersion experience. My life changed because of my time spent at Drew & Louise’s place. It’s that simple.
If you are tired of hearing me write about Country Workshops, go read another blog right now…last week I heard from Drew Langsner and we were writing back & forth about a few things. He mentioned that 2013 might really be the last summer of guest instructors’ classes at Country Workshops. I knew it was coming; but it’s still a big deal to me…this is where I learned woodworking and so much more. I first traveled to Drew & Louise’s place in 1980, and have been a regular there off and on ever since.
Drew says he will keep teaching his 4-person classes in chairmaking and spoon & bowl carving, and the tool store will keep running. But the full-blown, summer, large group experiences will probably come to an end. Imagine having between 8 & 12 people, sometimes more, coming to your home 5 or 6 weeks each summer, SINCE 1978! And feeding them, 3x a day…like you wouldn’t believe.
So – if you haven’t been – make some arrangements, shift your schedule, gas up the car. If you have been, time to come back for the semi-last hurrah. Come and take my class. If you folks don’t sign up, I don’t get to go. Or take any of the others. Carl Swensson will knock you out completely in making Swiss cooperage. Carl is one of the best, but little-known, woodworkers in the country. Osamu Shoji will be coming from Japan, for a class in Making a Folding Byobu Room Divider… see the website for all the details. Sign up for the newsletter from Country Workshops…it’s full of good stuff. http://countryworkshops.org/
We could all use a hit of positive news – and I got some from Scott Landis in my inbox this morning. Scott you might remember as the author of the Taunton Press book on Workbenches (yes, there were workbenches before C. Schwarz!) – I met Scott when he, Alexander & I were all students in a class Curtis Buchanan taught on making a bow-back Windsor chair in 1987 at Country Workshops.
Nowadays Scott is the president of Green Wood, an organization that trains (mostly, but not only) young people in places like Honduras and Peru to make sustainable wooden products from rain forests. Curtis Buchanan, Brian Boggs and other craftsmen have made trips down there to begin training folks in these woodcrafts, starting back in 1993.
“The photo … shows Curtis at work in El Carbón in the mid-1990s. And the middle photo shows some of the new furniture that is being made today by young artisans whom Curtis and Brian have never met. In fact, GreenWood has not visited this community for at least five years, and we have not conducted a training workshop there in nearly twice that long. These are the fruits of seeds we planted two decades ago in what could best be described as hardpan clay. El Carbón is beset by every manner of hardship—from crushing poverty and natural disaster (Hurricane Mitch) to massive hydroelectric development and the pervasive violence that plagues the whole country. This vulnerable Pech village illustrates the simple but enduring truth that, even under the most challenging conditions, good ideas will eventually take root. If that’s not sustainable development, what is?”
Rather than me trying to write about it, just follow the link and see for yourselves. If you are signed up for the newsletters from Green Wood, then you’re onto it. If not, now’s the time to see what these folks are up to. There’s a button where you can donate $$ via paypal. It came at the right time for me. Some of Alexander’s extra tools might make it down there, who knows…
I bought a new hatchet a few weeks ago….this lightweight model from Hans Karlsson. In the US, Hans’ tools come from Country Workshops, the school where I am sometimes student, sometimes instructor. see www.countryworkshops.org
I used it some just to test it out. I bought it as a spoon-and-bowl-carving axe. It’s quite nice for that. Karlsson’s tools are extremely well-made. Drew Langsner tells me it weighs 24 1/2 oz, and is 15″ long overall. Blade length is about 4 1/2″.
A few more shots of it:
The handle on this one is ash, some are listed in the Country Workshops’ site as birch. Hardwood either way I guess. This one has a tooled surface, along the idea of some of the Wetterlings and Gransfors Bruks axes. It’s not a hand-made handle of course…but not smooth. Here’s the text Drew wrote about it for the Country Workshops brochure
“The axe (head with handle) was designed by Wille Sundqvist. Overall length is about 14-inches. Bevels are symmetrical and flat; there no need to touch up the inner bevel. The balance is excellent and it has a lively feel during use.”
Note that the bevels on this axe are flat, unlike the Gransfors Bruks axes, which have slightly convex bevels. This axe really is ready to go when you unwrap it.
The hatchet is listed at $172.25 in the Country Workshops brochure…write to Drew if you need one. It’s a fine tool…
Now – going back to the most-common axe question I get – where does one get a single-bevel hatchet like the one I use in joinery work? Answser – I don’t know. Many tell me GB makes one, but I have only seen their single-bevel axe listed as a heavy, (about 7 lbs.) tool. As far as I know, their hatchets for hewing are double-bevels. Oxhead makes one, I have never tried it. I am dis-inlcined.
BUT – you can hew flat surfaces with a double-bevel axe/hatchet. The single-bevel tool is better, but the double-bevel will work. Here’s a video Chris Schwarz shot of me showing a few options, a large Wetterlings I got from Lie-Nielsen, another older Hans Karlsson, my standard German one, and a modified one by Alexander. (along with plodding old-timey music!)
UPDATE – Ha! Shows you what I know. Highland Hardware lists a Gransfors Bruks broad axe, righty & lefty, that weigh 3lbs, cutting edge 7″ – very similar to what my favorite axe is. The GB axe is over $300. So you have to mean it… here’s the #s from Highland Gransfors Bruks # 4823. Model 1900
Took the kids to school the other day & saw this Red-shouldered hawk.
My day job is a pretty busy place these days, Thanksgiving is sort of a big deal there. (for overseas readers, it’s a long story, but it amounts to 4.000 visitors per day Thursday – Saturday this week…) So no real action here.
TOOL SALE:. For tool customers, I will pack & ship your tools after the weekend. Then I think I’ll let the tools slide for the month of December. Everyone is crazy enough in December and I don’t feel like adding to any extra craziness. I usually spend as much of December as I can walking in the woods. And cleaning the shop.
SPOONS – I will have a few spoons done in the next couple of weeks, just because I had been planning it, and some have asked about them as gifts. So a small batch coming up in about 2 weeks.
WORKSHOPS/TEACHING – I did a post about my 2013 schedule, and I will make it a static page on the blog next week so folks can find it. Meantime, the link is here:
I have a funny job. 8 months out of the year, I answer questions as I work in the shop. You tend to hear some of them over & over again. And again. I’m going to answer some of them here from time to time. Here’s the first one.
How did I get started in this kind of woodworking, hand tools, green wood?
It’s not a simple answer like “I served an apprenticeship” or anything along those lines. When I was younger, I inherited from my father a tablesaw, drill press, router, jointer, lathe, etc. – all electric. All 1950s & early ‘60s vintage. I tried to learn something of how to use them. Fumbled around a bit, until I saw a 1978 issue of Fine Woodworking magazine. In it were two articles that somehow struck me just right. One was an excerpt from Make a Chair from a Tree, by (then) John Alexander. The other was an article by Drew Langsner about cleaving wood from a log. I ordered Alexander’s book and tracked down a copy of Drew’s then-new book Country Woodcraft (Rodale Press, 1978)
That was the beginning of my real woodworking education. Two years later, I went down to Marshall, N.C. for my first-ever visit to Country Workshops, the school run by Drew and his wife Louise. I was not a stellar student that year by any stretch of the imagination. The wood was not the only “green” thing around, let’s leave it at that.
Readers of this blog know the relationship that eventually came about between Alexander & I – its importance I have already written about. But the same is true of Drew’s impact on my career. I see him as the unsung hero of green woodworking…for over 30 years he’s been teaching class after class and studying & exploring numerous aspects of woodcraft.
I went back to Drew & Louise’s place many times between about 1985 and and 1994. My first class there was in a barn shared with the animals. I seem to remember Alexander standing on a hay bale to write on a blackboard. Over the years the facility grew and improved through a strong commitment on the Langsners’ part.
Drew’s Country Woodcraft is a neat book, I dug out my copy last week to look it over. Many things in there I never made; I have no use thus far for a Spike-tooth A-harrow, nor a drag. But this might be the first place I saw a spring pole lathe…and I certainly first saw spoon carving in this book.
The Logbuilder’s Handbook chronicles how they built their log house. I have the book, read it cover-to-cover, but never did any hewing of timbers. I aim to tackle some hewing this winter.
After my first trip in 1980, I shook a few demons for a couple of years before I returned in 1985 to try my hand at timber framing in oak. There I met Daniel O’Hagan from Pennsylvania, who became a great influence on me as well. From then on, I remember waiting each winter for the Country Workshops newsletter/catalog to come in the mail , so I could see what classes were being offered & start making plans for the summer’s trip to N.C.
I went again & again. Timber framing a few times, Windsor chairs with Curtis Buchanan, basketry, spoon carving with both Jogge & Wille Sundqvist, coopering with Drew..
For a while I tried each class they offered just about. Drew went on to write many books and articles, – his Green Woodworking is a great book and the Chairmaker’s Workshop is a very detailed exploration into how Drew makes several styles of chairs that have been the focal point of Country Workshops, starting with Alexander’s first class there in 1979.
I spent the summer of 1988 living and working with Drew & Louise. What an experience. The years kept going by. Making great quality tools available became another focus for Drew and Country Workshops, as they started to import blacksmith-made hatchets, gouges, etc. Similarly, there was a series of woodcraft videos, one on spoons & bowls by Jogge Sundqvist, then Drew’s first woodworking teacher Ruedi Kohler, the Swiss cooper. They did another excellent one about Bengt Lidstrom making hewn bowls in Sweden. All well worth having.
By 1994, I got a job. That was great in some ways, my museum work has been another very exciting chapter in my work, but it also changed my travel inclinations for about 10 years. In that time, my travels were about research, studying oak furniture, lecturing, etc. So no time really for woodworking classes. I kept in touch with Drew & Louise through the mail, then email…always with an eye on what was happening down there.
I finally made it back there when the twins were just toddlers, and have been several times in the past 6 years or so.
It’s great to be back, and I am really looking forward to August 2013 when I will again teach how to rive, plane and carve oak to make a 17th-century box. If you have been to Langsner’s you don’t need me to tell you about it, if you haven’t – here’s your chance. Don’t miss out. Take my class, take a chairmaking class, spoons & bowls, or any of the others. Just get there. Here’s the website http://countryworkshops.org/ sign up for the newsletter, sign up for their catalog/class listings. Get on the mailing list so it comes to your house, just like the old days.
Here’s Drew’s website, http://drewlangsner.com/ you can see the sort of wooden ware he’s interested in making lately. To me, it harks back to his days as a sculpture/art student. And while you’re at it, here once again is the link to Louise’s blog about her cooking & gardening. I know I point to this stuff a lot, but we have some new readers here. So bear with me. http://louiselangsner.wordpress.com/
I really can’t state strongly enough just how important Drew’s work has been to mine. Getting to know Drew and Louise has been one of the best parts of my adult life. I can say without reservation, without them, I would not be where I am today. No bones about it. They literally made me feel a part of their family, and have been so generous over the years. See you in N.C.
I guess if you’re not early, you’re late. So the schedule for workshops in 2013 is cooking all over the world right now…
I have a few dates I can post right now, others are being finalized & I”ll put them up here soon. I have to strike some sort of balance if I want to stay married (yes) and employed (mostly), so I have a few full weeks of classes, and a few weekend sessions. I hope to add some as I can…
First is a semi-woodsy bit. I am one of a host of speakers at the Furniture Forum at Winterthur in early March 2013. My talks are easy, I get a workbench and tools, so I just do my usual thing. Only in somewhat nicer clothing, probably. I am also listed as doing some “workshops” but Winterthur means something different from what I think a workshop is…so I look at these as more like a demonstration – like my day job. Here’s the whole brochure. FF Brochure 2013_Web (2)
Now – do you want to make a joined stool?
Want to make a joined stool way out west? I have been to the west before, having lectured and done research in Hartford, CT. But this is even further west than that…April 22-26 at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking.
Here they are riving some stock, but wait, what woods do they use there? Not oak?? There’s woods other than oak?
Yup, it’s experimentation time. But it should be fun. There’s a weekend class following it in just the carving patterns. I am really looking forward to these workshops, I have never been to that part of the country. The carving class info is not up yet, (I was late getting stuff to Tim, sorry Tim.)
June 7-13. I don’t drink beer. I don’t eat meat. And I don’t speak German. But still, because of Thomas Lie-Nielsen and Chris Schwarz, the folks at Dictum in Germany want me to come teach a class how to make the carved boxes I do. Me? Teach carving in Bavaria? Has the world gone nuts? We’ll see in June. Info is not up yet… http://www.mehr-als-werkzeug.de/page/kurse-in-metten.htm
July 15-19 I’ll do the joined stool in honest-to-goodness oak at the Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro. Roy hasn’t got the schedule together yet. But he will. It will be a gas.
Then in August (12-16), I’ll be back in North Carolina at my long-time favorite woodworking school – Country Workshops. http://countryworkshops.org/ We’ll make the carved boxes –
“been there so long he’s got to callin’ it home” is how I feel about this place.
and if enough of us show up, I bet Louise will make pizza that Drew will fire in their outdoor oven. Don’t miss it. Have a look:
This coming Friday I’ll be at the Lie-Nielsen Event at the Connecticut Valley School of Woodworking, Bob Van Dyke’s place in Manchester, CT. While I am there, Bob & I will figure out a winter date for a weekend class in carving. So that will actually be first of the season for me…the lineup this weekend is really something. Come by if you are around the area. http://www.lie-nielsen.com/?pg=93
Enough. It’s not like I’m Chris Schwarz or something.