In today’s world of woodcarving there is always something about Mary! Well Mary May, that is! She has taken the teaching of woodcarving to new levels of technology with her online school while demonstrating talent and skills as a carver who has been taught by the old world master carvers.
There was even something about Mary the first time she was carved a pumpkin as a kid. All of her friends carved theirs in typical fashion, but Mary went way beyond the ordinary. Once she made her mind up to be a woodcarver she searched for and received instruction from the best all over the world.
You will enjoy Mary’s delightful story as we visited her St. John’s Island studio in South Carolina and find out about Mary May in “A Moment with a Master.” (Episode 12)
Christopher Schwarz is a jack of all trades and a master of…well…seemingly all of them. An accomplished woodworker, author, blogger, publisher and juggler. Ok so he isn’t in the circus, but to have that many things going on at one time requires some tense concentration skills. Chris was nice enough to have us over and interrupt his busy schedule for a one on one interview. He opened up about his early childhood days, about his family’s woodworking influence and the house they all built by hand (no power tools.) He also walks us through his professional career at Popular Woodworking Magazine and the leap of faith he took while starting his publishing company Lost Art Press. Wait until you see the historic books he keeps that inspired a 20,000 man hour project. Plus, so much more!
Hearing an old New England boat builder sing “The Iliad” in Greek as he worked was all Jim Tolpin needed to put his degree in geophysics away and become a woodworker. Jim has built his worldwide reputation as a cabinetmaker, teacher and author in the beautiful town of Port Townsend, Washington on the Puget Sound where the air is sweet and artists abound.
We caught up with Jim there at the woodworking school he helped to found and in the most beautiful, functional hand tool workshop I have ever seen.
Jim talks about his woodworking journey and “By Hand & Eye,” a new book he co-authored with George Walker. The book explains the method the artisan woodworkers of the past designed furniture proportionately using ratios.
Brad Sells is not a workshop legend among woodworkers like Sam Maloof, or John Krenov. Brad is known within the art community (as Sam was) and it’s patrons as a sculptor of wood art forms. In his forties, Brad is young as a master. A view of his work immediately establishes Brad as a master almost without equal in the art of wooden sculptural forms. He laughs when he announces his first museum was the prestigious Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian.
Brad lives above his work, literally! His Cookeville, Tennessee Studio is on the first floor of a structure that also beautifully supports his second floor residence and gallery. The shop has piles of interesting tree limbs, outcroppings and logs that he has collected on Wood Safaris to South Africa, Hawaii and the Amazon. His work is sometimes massive and sometimes delicate like the somewhat human forms of his “On Point” collection in bleached holly. Brad has cobbled together an awesome array of power carving tools on a scale I haven’t seen before. Using these tools takes a lot of physical effort, skill and vision of the possible results. Brad brings all of these requisites to his astonishing work.
The Highland Woodworker proudly presents Brad Sells a “Moment with a Master.”
When I was invited to teach a sculptured rocker class at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking in Washington state, I knew I wanted to include a side trip to met Gary Rogowski in Portland, Oregon. After all, Gary wrote one of my favorite books “The Complete Illustrated Guide to Joinery.” He has also been a great teaching catalyst for the marvelous contemporary fine woodworking coming from the Pacific Northwest. As we strolled into his studio he was just finishing up a Master Class. His students were taking part in discussions about each piece that had been built. There was great accomplishment and pride all around as they talked about the design and building process that Gary had worked them through in building the furniture of their dreams. I knew the trip would be worthwhile.
It is amazing how many woodworkers have had the exact same experiences and reached the same conclusions. While filming the “Moment with a Master” segment with Gary we started talking woodworking of course, just warming up. We somehow stumbled upon the topic, “What stationary power tool did you buy first?” Gary had purchased a radial arm saw. In difference to the tool maker’s marketing, it is probably one of the worst tool values on the market. As Gary would find out it was the first stationary power tool for me too, as I notified him with a big, loud, “You’re kidding!”
Gary just makes you feel comfortable and talks woodworking and life with an inspired tone and grin. He understands his story and skills as a woodworker so well he just makes every woodworker and person around him better.
Southern boys in “The Windy City” during February are rare. It was bitter cold but with very little snow as we breezed in to film a “Moment with A Master” segment for the April 2013 show. We met Jeff and his wonderful wife Becky for an “eat and greet” dining session featuring Gino’s Chicago style deep-dish pizza.The next morning, Steve and I set up the shoot at Jeff’s shop in a former US Post Office and bowling alley. His gallery contained all the beautiful furniture for which Jeff is known. The furniture looked like shining diamonds to this fine woodworker. His chairs’ lines are not only exquisite, but meticulously executed.Jeff Miller is just a wonderful engaging person to be around. He is thoughtful, authentic and very much a problem solver. He loves what he does and he enjoys sharing his passion for woodworking with others. His shop is full of great equipment and hand tools. He has several bandsaws including one huge old saw he rebuilt. A SawStop table saw and a big 12 inch combo machine give him great flexibility for cutting fine and accurate joinery. But what you really notice are the workbenches everywhere, especially in the Roubo style with Benchcrafted vises. He has them in various lengths for hand tool woodworking. He loves hand tools and has a huge working collection. He showed me a new member of the collection, a travisher from chairmaker, toolmaker and artist Peter Galbert.My first chairmaking book was written Jeff. I found it very useful and inspiring. Every woodworker should read Jeff’s new book “Foundations for Better Woodworking”. He explains, not only essential woodworking knowledge but how to stand, where to look and how to provide the right amount of pressure in the correct places so your woodworking and enjoyment of the craft can flourish and grow.
His wife told us why Jeff is her hero and he will be one of yours (if he isn’t already) when he shares his inspiring story on the show. He grew up in the Bronx, NY and traveled around the world and back, before settling in Chicago to develop into one of the iconic fine woodworkers of our time.
Be sure to learn more about Jeff as “The Highland Woodworker” presents “Moment with a Master” Jeff Miller.
To learn more about Jeff, visit his website.
I hadn’t met Alf Sharp in person but I could already see the energy of his smile ten seconds into our phone conversation. Alf has an enthusiasm and love for everything that rubs off on everyone and everything he touches. He is just that way and he brings this warmth to his woodworking. Alf’s fascination with the centerfold of a British secretary attracted him to furniture making. He brings that same passion for his craft and story to the “The Highland Woodworker’s” first “Moment with a Master” episode of the 2013 season.
Alfred “Alf” Sharp’s website is a huge catalog of some of his commissioned work as a master period furniture maker with an occasional sprinkling of contemporary pieces that have a mischievous quality to them. There amongst the exquisite highboys and period chairs one finds a card table that is suspiciously asymmetrical. Alf walked out of Vanderbilt law school 40 years ago and decided to develop his dream instead of his parents and found it starting with carpentry and coming to fruition as the Society for American Period Furniture Maker’s (SAPFM) 2008 Cartouche Award winner for his McIntyre Chest on Chest.
Like Davy Crockett before him Alf found his way from the hills of Tennessee to become not only a president of SAPFM but The Furniture Society.
While we visited he was working on a small Cuban mahogany table with banana leaves carved into the legs. Watch Alf as he does what a master does, makes the crafting of intricate and beautiful furniture look simple.
To learn more about Alf, visit his website.
Craig Nutt doesn’t particular look like the out of the box artist. He looks like a woodworker. A distinguished gentleman, you might say. Inside, he is just a brilliant artist with a method for producing his organic visions.
Many woodworkers claim that their work is organic in form or their work is described using this term. Organic is definitely overused. I think personally, I am going to drop the it from descriptions of my own work after seeing Craig Nutt’s work. In his formative years, Craig grew vegetables and tended a garden. Little did he realize that this experience would someday manifest itself in Craig’s woodworking artistry.
Artists create their visions without limitations. The most creative visions stretch the known boundaries (the box). I didn’t have to visit with Craig Nutt long to understand his mission as an artist is based on total avoidance of the box. His mantra is simply, “Why not!” How else could you create a project like “Build A Tree From a Chair” or a “Rhubarb Table” for a dining room that seats six?
In Craig’s shop, website , exhibitions and galleries these meticulous incredible, visions abound as real projects. I love the picture of Craig with his Spudwhacker (carrot) Bat on the contact’s page of his site. This was turned for a Louisville Slugger Bat Company exhibit. He wasn’t simply holding the bat for the picture. Oh no! He was dressed in complete uniform showing his best “Swing for the fence”. This attention to detail is everywhere in Craig’s work.
Craig didn’t start out making giant ears of corn or pea pod chairs, etc. He built a foundation of woodworking skills based on first repairing antiques then building traditional period furniture. He knows his craft and pursues it in a very organized process after conceiving the possibilities. Modeling is the starting point for making the projects a reality. Then it’s to the shop when he knows what he wants to do.
His shop is large and spacious and well organized for production. After conception he is a great artistic woodworker with tremendous skills. He just turns out ten foot ears of corn like the “Corncorde” with a 10 foot shuck span.
Now that’s ORGANIC! That’s Craig Nutt!
To learn more about Craig Nutt visit his website.
This Moment with a Master is a story about Atlanta, Georgia’s Moulthrop family, three generations of masters. I saw a picture on the cover of Fine Woodworking Magazine in the early ’80′s of Ed Moulthrop turning a huge bowl on a lathe. It was a benchmark moment! It was kind of like seeing my first picture of a Sam Maloof rocker. This is a story about a pioneer in the field of artistic wood turning. When Ed started turning he actually had to build his own lathe and make his harpoon sized turning tools. Ed’s bowls were not only large enough for his young grandson Matt to stand in, they were beautifully crafted with a proprietary finish that makes them look like glass. Ed passed away in 2003 and left a legacy of work prized by museums and collectors all over the world. His son Philip and grandson Matt worked with Ed and have continued the legacy that establishes them as masters. Their story has been featured in a “Craft In America” segment on PBS and their work has been honored by the inclusion of works by all three generations in The Smithsonian Museum. – Charles Brock
For more information about Ed, Philip & Matt visit: www.moulthropstudios.com.
Chairmaker Brian Boggs started redesigning tools as a teenager in the tobacco fields of Kentucky. He quickly decided that the pain shooting up his arm from using the poorly designed handle on a tobacco knife was motivating enough to design one that wouldn’t twist in his hand. Brian hasn’t stopped modifying and engineering every tool and application in his workshop since that early agricultural experience. His artistic chairs run the gamut from sensual post and rung to the best in contemporary designs, just as his engineering goes from developing a better shave horse to building jigs and fixtures from something he calls “The Woodworker’s Erector Set”.
See Brian Boggs in our Moment with A Master series in Episode 2 of The Highland Woodworker. To learn more, go to the boggscollective.com
It’s a dot on the North Carolina map but it’s home to a woodworking star. The Highland Woodworker meets Roy Underhill on his rural turf. A 19th century grist mill transformed into cozy living quarters for he and his wife. Their unique home is nestled between tall trees and the constant movement of water. Hear how all of the natural resources in Roy’s backyard can make for a special teaching experience for his students. Plus we get to travel with Roy down the road to his new school that requires students to go old school if they want their project to turn out right! Sit back and spend a moment with a master, Roy Underhill.
To learn more, go to www.woodwrightschool.com
In the short video below, Roy takes us on a tour of his unique property in North Carolina.