June-July 2010 E-NEWSLETTER

The guest cabin.

Winter 2011 Tutorials with Drew Langsner

Registrations are now being accepted for Winter 2011 Tutorials. These courses are limited to 4 students. The tuition includes project materials, meals and a private room. Specialized tools are provided for all of these courses. Drew Langsner is the instructor.

Registration can be by phone (828 656 2280) or e-mail. The tutorial deposit is $350, with the balance due 4 weeks before each course begins. Further details are at: countryworkshops.org

January 10-14: Ladderback Chairmaking
January 24-28: Rustic Windsor Chairmaking
February 7-11: Carving Bowls and Spoons
February 21-25: Ladderback Chairmaking
March 7-11: Rustic Windsor Chairmaking
March 21-25: Make a Hearth Chair
April 4-8: Make a Corner Cabinet with Wooden Hardware

2010 Calendar Update

We still have a few openings in the summer workshops and fall tutorials.

July 26-31: Coopering – with Wooden Hooping (Carl Swensson) - Open
August 9-14: Japanese Woodworking – Make an Andon Lamp (Osamu Shoji)
- Open
August 23-28: Swedish Sloyd Craft (Jögge Sundqvist) - 1 opening

September 6-11: Swedish Sloyd Craft (Jögge Sundqvist) - Open
September 27-October 1: Carving Bowls and Spoons - The Scandinavian tradition - Full
December 6-10: Carving Bowls and Spoons - The Scandinavian tradition - 1 opening

2010 Japanese Craft Tour
Focus on Gifu Prefecture and the Hida Alps
October 19-29

Papermaker Masashi Sawamura is a
National Living Treasure.

This will be Country Workshops’ 4th craft tour in Japan. We have arranged visits with master artisans who work with wood and other natural materials. These include: a monk who carves Buddha sculptures, a festival float carpenter, a turner who makes bowls and other containers for urushi lacquer finishing, bamboo basketry, ceramics, washi mulberry bark  paper making, samurai katana sword blade making and visits to 2 woodworking schools.  We have arranged for demonstrations at many of our visits, and it will be possible to buy outstanding craft work directly from our hosts. We will also attend a performance of traditional bon raku puppetry. We will stay in both traditional ryokan inns and western hotels.

The guide and translator duties will be shared by Masashi Kutsuwa and Osamu Shoji. Kutsuwa-san is a woodworking teacher at Gifu Academy of Forest Science and Culture located in Mino. Shoji-san is a founder and head instructor at Shinrin-Takumi Jyuku woodworking school in Takayama. Shoji-san is also teaching our Japanese woodworking course in August. Drew Langsner is the tour host. 

To place a reservation, or if you have questions, contact Drew by phone (828 656 2280). For further information and photos of our 2008 Japan tour, click here

Drew and Naomi work on a stool rung in 1991.
Group shot of Woodwroking with Kids workshop.

By Drew Langsner

Recent issues of the British magazine “Living Woods” have carried some lively discussion about woodworking with kids, and also woodworking for kids. In the former, a parent or teacher teams up with one or more young ‘uns to make something with wood. Hand tools are usually emphasized. We’ve been hearing from the editor, Nick Gibbs, and my colleague over The Pond,  Mike Abbott. I’ve also chimed in with a Letter to the Editor. Our interest is two fold – introducing kids to the reality that they can actually make unique, useful and beautiful things from a natural material – wood. And the secret goal, which is the good feeling we older woodworkers experience when we have a chance to share quality time in the shop with the younger generation.

The Country Workshops newsletter has also showcased junior high kids’ poetry about woodworking in our February 2010 number. The poems were sent to me by Steve Smith, who has been teaching woodworking to the kids of guest workers at a private school in Saudi Arabia.

Here’s one more poem, in acrostic format, written by Camille Magnan.

Carving wood is like you -
When you finish
You have put yourself
In your work –
It can be pretty,
maybe peaceful –
Finished or not
It will have your personality –
It can be different
But it is never ugly.

My daughter, Naomi, is almost 30. As a little girl Naomi liked to be in the workshop, and of course I always encouraged her to make things. When she was about 11 we decided to offer a new summer course, “Woodworking With Kids.” The idea was that a parent (or grandparent) and child would work together to make a post-and-rung stool. The course would be 5-days. Because we wanted this to be fun, and not tedious, each day was divided into quadrants. The mornings and afternoons were split into shop sessions and an outdoors activity – like water sliding over the naturally polished rocks in a nearby forest stream. Day 5 ended with weaving a seat on the new stool frames.
Naomi works on her carved bowl.

We held Woodworking With Kids in 1991 and 1992. By 1993 Naomi was no longer particularly interested, and since we didn’t attract enough signups, the course was cancelled. One thought from Nick Gibbs is this: If your children are interested, grab the opportunity, immediately. Naomi continued with creative activities, such as art class in high school and photography in college. But woodworking was not on her list of interests for many years to come.

Forward to 2010. You can imagine my surprise and pleasure when I recently received an e-mail from Naomi asking if I teach how to carve a bowl. Of course! A few weeks later Naomi and her soon-to-be fiancé Matthew drove out from Asheville for a day of bowl carving.  I had some nice tulip poplar log bolts left over from a recent bowl and spoon carving tutorial. Naomi picked a rather small bolt; Matthew chose one that was somewhat larger; not huge though. I wanted this to be a realistic undertaking. Here’s how it all happened:
  1. The bolts were split in half, and then we selected the better blanks.
  2. Hewing axes were used to remove the bark.
  3. We chalk-lined layouts for the bottom and top surfaces.
  4. The bottom and top surfaces were formed by crosscut sawing to the layout lines, followed by knocking out end-grain chunks, followed by hand planing. They used a scrub plane followed by a smoother. (It’s great to have all these fine tools here!)
  5. I showed “the kids” my method for laying out the bowl design from the plan view.
  6. Matthew used an adze (at one of our Bowl Dogs) and Naomi used a large double-hoop Hans Karlsson gouge to rough hollow the interiors.
  7. Matthew switched to doing double hoop gouge work about the time that Naomi started to smooth her smaller bowl with a bent paring gouge.
  8. End of Day One. Since we didn’t know when work would continue, the bowl starts were put in a plastic bag and stored in the freezer.

My main impression from Day One was how well Naomi worked with the gouges.  And how carefully she looked at the project as it began to take shape. It was almost as if Naomi had never discontinued woodworking. I know that she remembered the kids’ courses, but we were using drawknives, spokeshaves and various boring and tenon tools to make post-and-rung stools. Anyway, I’m a proud papa.

 A few weeks later Naomi returned for a visit and Day Two.

  1. We cheated and used the band saw to cut out the top view of the bowl. Everything else was handwork.
  2. The bowl ends were shaped with gouges, starting with the double hoop straight gouge and a hammer, and then finish shaped with a paring gouge.
  3. The sides are shaped and refined with a spokeshave. This tool easily gives good control of the shape and surface. Suddenly, Naomi discovered that she almost shaved one side too thin! Light shines through the sidewall. But actually, it’s OK.
  4. The end decks and rims are smoothed and given nice, gentle curves…This is the  shear line on a boat. Also spokeshave work.
  5. Final touches for the interior. Naomi used a Karlsson dog-leg gouge for the interior sides and a bent gouge for the interior end areas.
  6. Last step is detailing the end handholds. Naomi chose a slightly rounded configuration. She also did a little more work on the exterior end overhangs, since these determine the appearance of the handholds.

The carving work is complete. We can step back and look at what has been made, starting from a poplar log. Congratulations!

Because the bowl was carved from green wood, it needs to dry out before getting an oil finish. We’ll debag it for a few hours each day, then put it back in a plastic bag and store it in the shop frig. If the new bowl dries too quickly it can crack at the ends. If the wet wood gets too hot (while in a bag, with this summer weather) it could develop unsightly surface mold.

The final step will be two coats of flaxseed oil, slightly thinned with citrus peel based solvent. That’s my favorite finish these days.

Full-size andon mock-ups.
Detail of andon joinery.

Osamu Shoji Sends Photos
of Andon Mock-ups

This year's Japanese Woodworking class has a new/old class project – making an andon lamp. This is a new project for our class, but an old, traditional form of Japanese home lighting.

Our special guest teacher, Osamu Shoji, will be coming to Country Workshops for the first time. Shoji-san is a co-founder of Shinrin Takumijuku woodworking school in Takayama, Gifu Prefecture. He will also be our guide and translator for the second half of this year's Japan Craft Tour.

Shoji-san has just sent us photos of mockups that he has prepared for the class. Students in the course will design their own project. The lamps can be made for the floor or a table, or hung from the ceiling. After the joinery is complete, the frames will be covered with handmade washi paper from Japan. The traditional light source is an oil lamp. We are suggesting the use of a small, battery operated LED lantern which will eliminate the need for any wiring.

The course dates are August 9-14. The tuition, which is $1075, includes materials, meals and accommodations. Students are required to bring their own tools for this special workshop.


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Phone: 828 656 2280 (9 AM to 6 PM, Eastern time, any day)
Address: 990 Black Pine Ridge Rd.; Marshall, North Carolina 28753