Newsletter No. 53 - Fall 2015

New Ladderbacks! We still love them.

With 40 years behind us Country Workshops is now entering an evolutionary phase which we're calling Going Forward. On the immediate horizon we have decided to discontinue winter tutorials. It's wonderful to be in our workshop on a snowy winter day, but classes during this time of year necessitate dealing with what can be an icy mile-long driveway, and keeping plumbing and heating systems working in a workshop that started out as a tobacco curing barn. Possibly more important, Drew and Louise are looking forward to more time for personal projects. You can see some of what Drew is up to at

Summer 2016 courses will be tutorials; small classes limited to 4 registered students, plus our summer intern. Drew Langsner and Kenneth Kortemeier will share the teaching responsibilities. The lead article - below the class schedule - is our introduction to Kenneth.

Country Workshops tuition includes class materials, use of our high quality specialized tools and equipment, lodging in your private room, and our quite famous garden-fresh meals. This is also an excellent opportunity to try the tools offered at the CW Store.

2016 Tutorial Schedule

April 18-22. Carving Bowls and Spoons - 5 days, $1300 (2 openings)
May 2-7. Post-and-Rung (Ladderback) Chairmaking - 6 days, $1575 (2 openings)
June 13-17. Carving Bowls and Spoons - 5 days, $1300 (2 openings)
July 11-16. Rustic Windsor Chairmaking - 6 days, $1626
August 15-19. Carving Bowls and Spoons - 5 days, $1300

Registration can be by phone (828 656 2280), e-mail, or post. The tuition deposit for 5- and 6-day tutorials is $350. The tuition balance is due 4 weeks before class. We accept personal checks, Visa/MasterCard and money orders.

CW News - Introducing Kenneth Kortemeier

Kenneth Kortemeier and family.
Kenneth's turned and over-carved bowls ...
... and ladles.

The Old Part of the Story. Drew and Louise Langsner moved from California to what became their North Carolina mountain home in the spring of 1974. In 1976 they hosted their friend Bill Coperthwaite, and Bill's friend Wille Sundqvist, for several days. The visit quickly zoomed in and focused on carving spoons in the tradition of rural Sweden. It was an exciting and inspirational experience – learning to carve a beautiful and useful spoon or ladle with a few simple, but also quite sophisticated tools: a hand saw to cut saplings or branches, a small (but special) axe for roughing the shape, a sloyd knife for detail work, and a straight gouge to hollow the little bowl that makes a spoon a spoon. Wille also brought along a few sharpening stones, but there were none of the hook knives that we use today.

After Bill and Wille departed, Louise had an idea that perhaps Wille would agree to return to teach a class. In 1978, we offered two 5-day classes with Wille Sundqvist. And another class with log builder Peter Gott. This was the beginning of Country Workshops.

Jump to 2015. Drew and Louise continue with Country Workshops. But they have decided to scale down, with a smaller group format that we call tutorials. Also, winter classes are discontinued. Drew still enjoys teaching. And Louise's garden fresh cooking only gets better. But D&L are now "senior citizens" and they are wanting more space for personal pursuits – Drew hopes to carve out more time for creative woodworking, and finds that he loves tinkering in the surrounding forest (helping oak sprouts along, and fiddling with the tiny rivulets of spring sourced water that are on their way to the the Mississippi.) Louise is busy with multiple garden projects, and she is also making willow baskets. And, when there's time, adding new stories and recipes to her garden cooking blog:

Drew is also continuing some off-site teaching – but only if there's something special about the experience. This happened with ladderback chairmaking classes in Japan in 2008 and 2010. And this fall Drew taught rustic windsor chairmaking at Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. The class was also an opportunity for a vacation in Maine – with travel and visiting down east friends before and after class.

The first day in Maine happened to overlay with the second day of a weekend carving class at Lie-Nielsen's that was taught by Jögge Sundqvist. (It was actually part of a plan cooked up many months earlier.) Really, this was a gathering of spoon carvers; almost everyone there was quite experienced, or an expert. One of the carvers was Kenneth Kortemeier, a friend who we got to know as our summer intern in 1995.There was considerable socializing, in addition to marveling at Jögge's almost magical ways of sketching in wood with a sloyd knife.

When Drew talked about his wish to personally scale down at CW, Kenneth's ears immediately perked up. Perhaps Kenneth could be involved in plans for going forward. After the chairmaking course Drew and Louise were guests at Kenneth and Angela Kortemeier's forest homestead for several days. This was a time to discuss what each of us is looking for, and how we might be able to work together developing the future of Country Workshops.

The Upshot. The Kortemeier family will be at Country Workshops for our 2016 summer season. Drew and Kenneth will share in teaching the tutorials. Between classes we'll be looking at options and possibilities for 2017 and beyond. While all this is happening, the Country Workshops Store will operate as always, offering some of the finest woodworking hand tools available anywhere. There's more on CW Store in the next article.

Kenneth Kortemeier. We first met in 1995 when Kenneth served as our summer intern. Besides helping with classes and other summer duties Kenneth took on the challenging task of taking most of the photos that appear in The Chairmaker's Workshop. This was all done with black-and-white film – processed at a lab in Asheville that sent back contact sheets which were used to select the actual book photos. In 1997 Kenneth traveled to Wales where he was the first (and only) person to apprentice with chairmaker John Brown. (A daunting task!) From 1996-2002 Kenneth was in Maine, working as an instructor/group leader at Outward Bound's Hurricane Island facility. From 2003 - 2013 Kenneth taught green woodworking and wooden boat building at The Carpenter's Boatshop, located in Pemaquid, Maine. Currently Ken is working as a timber framer/carpenter and teaching woodworking in the area around Pemaquid. In 2016 - and hopefully onwards - the Kortemeiers will be at Country Workshops participating in our evolution for going forward. Kenneth's web site is:

Leather Tool Guards
from Nate and Andy

This past summer Tim Van Riper retired from the side-line of making our leather tool guards. (In case you're unawares, Tim puts together the CW web site, he does the page layouts for our printed catalog, and the technical part of putting this newsletter together.) We are fortunate that two woodworking buddies have taken on the task. Nate Chambers was our 2015 summer intern. Andy McFate was a sort-of intern – we did some trading for help at CW in exchange for taking classes.

Tim showed Nate 'n' Andy how he made the guards. Then the guys took the methods a few steps further. The best innovation is the use of a friction fit (instead of a rivet) for the attachment end of the snap straps for the axe guards. Our axe makers are very, very good, but there can still be a difference in the dimension from the cutting edge to the back of the blade. In the past, the straps could be short (requiring some stretching) or too long (in which case the guard is a bit loose.) The dead end of the straps are now friction fitted through a pair of slits, so there is adjustment for variations in required length. The adze guards are now riveted over a curved form; this results in a nice round shape for the curved blade. Also, while Tim was still making them, the adze guards were redesigned to have a snap strap that is an integral part of the actual guard. This eliminated the thong, which was always bothersome.

What next? This winter Nate 'n Andy will resume limited production of our steam bent adze handles. To be featured in a newsletter when they become available.

Tool Guards ... $22.00 each
NA-01 8” drawknife*
NA-02 10” drawknife*
NA-03 H-172 inshave
NA-04 H-161/162 hollowing adze
NA-05 H-154 Windsor adze
NA-06 H-173 cooper’s knife
NA-07 S-31 Svante baby axe
NA-08 S-32 Svante Viking axe
NA-09 H-166 Karlsson sloyd axe

* For most drawknives with straight, flat blades.

Update from the CW Store

While all this is happening, the CW Store has been booming – or almost booming. Our problem isn't selling fine tools from Hans Karlsson and Svante Djarv. The challenge is getting the tools to sell. Just several years ago no one guessed that there would be a surge of interest in chairmaking and carving household woodenware with hand tools. On a very tiny scale, the world has changed. Everything made by both shops is pretty much pre-sold by the time the tools are actually made. We try to carry inventory, but with the more popular items we're often sold out. Except for books, videos and Langsner froes (which are now produced by Lie-Nielsen Toolworks.)

Not to worry. Great tools have always been precious. And they often end up being the best value. We or our suppliers could minimize the problem by raising prices. But this isn't our way for going forward. We want to offer the best quality tools and make them available at reasonable prices. We have worked with Hans Karlsson since 1991, with Svante Djarv since 1995. And we plan to continue Going Forward.

Our suggestion. When you decide what tools you want (or believe that you need) go ahead and place your order. If available. we'll send them ASAP. If on back-order, this puts you in line for when new inventory comes in. It may take a while, but we are confident that you'll not be wishing that you had bought something different.

Also, Drew can help in your selection. He has been using the same tools for personal and class work for decades, and he's familiar with most of the alternatives on the market. You can phone (828 656 2280) to order or for advise Monday - Saturday, 9-6 PM eastern time. You can also use e-mail, or you can print and mail the order form on our web site. We accept Visa/MasterCard and personal checks.

Elia Bizzari's New Windsor Website

We first met Elia Bizzari in 2000 when he participated in our annual Volunteer Week, and then stayed to take our classic ladderback chairmaking class. At the time Elia was just 16, but already focused onto the idea of being a skilled woodworker. After CW, Elia put in time with John Alexander and Curtis Buchanan. He became a professional, and a very good one.

Elia now has a workshop in Hillsborough, NC. His new website includes both a forum and a blog. You are invited to participate. It's at:

Photo Feature

Riving into Thirds

Best new trick. It's possible. And easy ...

We all know that riving works best when there’s even resistance on both sides of a split. Usually it’s important to do this. But sometimes equal splits result in wasted material. The shingle maker at the open air museum in Takayama, Japan showed us that it’s possible to divide into thirds. He used just one froe that was moved back and forth between two progressing splits. Just recently we discovered that the same idea can be used with wedges. In the photos weíre using two polled (single bit) axes as wedges; another trick. Note the wood club, made from a hickory sapling.


Butter knives, which are also called spreaders, are carved wooden utensils that can add a special hand-made touch to any table setting. Making a spreader shouldn’t be difficult, but designing one that functions well and has a personal, artistic signature is a challenge. They can also be an excellent gift, or a comfortably priced hand-carved item to sell.

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 two contributions. Number 167 was made by Kenneth Kortemeier, Pemaquid, Maine. Hard maple, 8-1/2 inches. Number 168 was contributed by Nora Stevens. Unknown maker; possibly mahogany; with artists oil paint decoration.

We are also very pleased that the collection is now kept in a new set of display cases that were custom made by Andy McFate. Each case has a hinged acrylic lid. The spreaders are numbered with small tags. A 3-ring binder is divided into two sections. Numeric – with maker's name, material and size. And by last names – with contact information. The cabinet that houses the cases was made by Phil Fuentes, our intern in 2012.


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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