SEPTEMBER - OCTOBER 2013 E-NEWSLETTER
Class Calendar Update
Summer 2013 was our 36th year teaching courses with guest instructors – coming to Country Workshops from around the US, Sweden and Japan. We are now shifting into a smaller format based on our successful fall and winter tutorials where classes are limited to 4 students. Class members will benefit with this more personal group size. (We may also include an intern or other guest student.) Drew Langsner is the instructor.
Boomer Bill's Transformation
When Drew and Louise Langsner first came to their North Carolina mountain farm in the spring of 1974 they moved into a very basic 4-room house, which was built by a farmer who the neighbors called Boomer Bill. "Boomer" is a local idiom for grey squirrels, which tend to always be very active, scampering from one task to another. We were told that Boomer Bill built his house in the teens, but other neighbors said it may have been the 1930s. The house is "double box" – a local type of construction that was transitional between solid log cabins and 2 x 4 framing. The exterior and interior walls are two layers of vertical 1-inch boards that are alternately nailed into each other. There is no frame! And of course no insulation. Boomer's has a wonderful fresh water spring, but it's located below the house so there was no interior plumbing. There was a rudimentary electrical system, but Drew wondered if it would be safe to use, so it was not connected to the grid during the 6 years that the Langsners lived there.
Country Workshops started offering summer classes in 1978 with courses taught by log house builder Peter Gott and Swedish woodcarver Wille Sundqvist. Peter's class was an excuse to get started on a new Langsner home. Two years later Drew & Louise moved into their present home. (It looks quite different now because there are 3 additions.)
Hand-Made Tools – For Real
Back in 1990 when Jögge Sundqvist and I were planning our first Scandinavian craft tour it was suggested that we visit the workshop of Hans Karlsson, a toolmaker based in Motala – a city roughly on our route between Stockholm, Sweden and Oslo, Norway. Hans and his wife, Carina, had a small workshop, very clean and organized, and filled with equipment. Hans was doing all of the forge work and tempering. Carina did the sharpening, besides running the office and packing tools. The Karlssons had 2 young and rather shy boys, Andreas and Johann. There was no one else employed in their tool business. Hans said that he ‘does not want to become an industry.’
Our tour group was immensely impressed with the quality of the tools – which included a very impressive selection of handsome and sturdy looking gouges (forged from ball bearing steel), plus various knife blades, adzes and axe heads. The highlight of our visit was Hans’ demonstration of how he forges a hollowing adze. I already owned a nice selection of gouges, but I decided to buy a few, even though they were quite expensive.
Back home I found myself telling woodworkers about the tour, and showing the gouges from the Karlssons. I was asked if Country Workshops could order these beautiful tools. At the time CW was selling our froes, but this was really the start of the Country Workshops Store.
I’ve returned to Motala many times and the Karlsson family has been to Country Workshops with Hans teaching Toolmaking for Woodworkers. Hans has also taken our popular course, ladderback chairmaking.
Today the workshop is located in a much larger, old building in an old industrial part of Motala. Carina passed away a few years ago. Andreas and Johann – “born in the forge” is what Hans tells me – are now working full time making tools. As young adults Andreas had trained as a watchmaker and was hired by a small, prestigious Swiss firm. But after a year or so he wanted to move back to Sweden. Meanwhile, Johann was working as an architectural model maker. It’s easy to understand that these guys are perfect for highly detailed, exacting work.
I’m telling this story to explain why we sometimes have delays in getting tools to our CW Store customers. When you place an order we hope to have inventory on hand so that your tools can be shipped right out. Hans Karlsson tools are made for CW in very small quantities, based on my estimate of orders about 3-6 months in advance. Lately word has gotten out (mostly on the internet) that these are some of the very best woodworking tools you can own. Our business has grown and the Karlssons have also seen an increase in orders from their European customers. The result is that we are looking at delays in receiving inventory.
Country Workshops sells about 40 different Karlsson tools, but H. Karlsson Klensmide can make over 500 different woodworking tools. About half of these are lightweight, fine carving tools formerly made by the famous Swensson Brothers. There’s also a full range of gouges for violin makers – many of these are sold in sets to students at two schools in Germany.
Tools are shipped to us by airfreight. When this works properly delivery is less than one week. But sometimes things go wrong and there can be delays with Customs or other problems.
The Karlssons are still making tools by hand, and they have no plans to become an industry. Our best suggestion is to place your order, even if we are out of inventory. That way you will be at the upper end of the list when tools come in. We are sure you will appreciate the quality of these tools when you receive them, and have them for use for many years.
PS – We also import woodworking tools from Svante Djarve, another toolmaker in Sweden. In this case, the business is just Svante at the forge, with his wife Elsa doing sharpening, running the office and packing. Quality is first rate, and they are also working at full capacity. Again, we try to have adequate inventory, but we’re often sold out of some items. From the time of placing our order to delivery at CW there is often a wait of 4 months or so. But it’s still great to have these tools available.
PPS – You are welcome to use the Karlsson and Svante tools when you take a course at Country Workshops. The shop has a full selection, and we keep our tools sharp. You can also come by for a visit any time you’re in our area.
THE BUTTER KNIFE PROJECT
We invite wood carvers to contribute their version of a spreader to our design/study collection. There is no budget for this project, and it’s not a contest. We encourage wood carvers to develop their personal design, which should be useful and practical. Newly acquired butter knives are featured in this newsletter, and there is a complete web-site archive at Country Workshops’ Spreader World Gallery. This includes “as seen from above photos” that are not in the newsletter. The collection is available for viewing and handling when you are at CW.Since our last newsletter the collection has received 24 additional spreaders. Most of these are gifts from spoon collector Norman Stevens, Storrs, CT. New spreaders in the collection are from 10 states and the following countries – Tunisia, South Africa, Thailand, Latvia, Israel, Great Britain and Estonia. Thanks to all!
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