Friday, October 30, 2009

James Krenov

James Krenov has died.  I don't know how I missed the notification, but I just heard about it this week and I found it deeply saddening. 
James Krenov
Krenov was able to write down his ideas about woodworking as evidenced in his work and his thoughts have endured for many years.  So many people in the hobby have been influenced by his work and his writings.  All of us aspire to his standard of excellence and wish we had his design sense. 

For an idea about what this is really all about, consider this image of a lovely little 12" x 18" storage box that appeared in an out-of-print book. The King of Sweden collected little ceramic pieces and needed a box to store them.  This one works just fine, thank you very much. 

James Krenov
The scale of his pieces is what is amazing.  Should you buy the books still in print, look carefully at the size of the pieces and you will realize that bigger is not necessarily better. 

Last year I was surfing the net and happened on Krenov's web site.  At the time he had stopped making his iconic pieces because of failing eyesight, but continued to offer planes for sale.  I bought one.  I think I paid $300 for it after several e-mails back and forth with his wife.  After they shipped it to me, I looked at it briefly but needed to set it aside because of some illness in my family. 

After hearing of his death, I looked for and found the plane I had bought from him last year.  Look at his initials on the front of it.  I thought he had put the blue masking tape around the throat and blade simply to keep the pieces in place for shipping, and I debated whether to take the tape off.  Finally I did take it off and lo and behold, the throat was full of the most beautifully delicate shavings.  Shavings put there by the master.  I left them there and I don't know if I will ever take them out...  

James Krenov

Saturday, October 24, 2009

A Krenov Plane

About a year ago, I was clicking around the internet and happened upon the web site for James Krenov.  He was offering planes for sale since his eyesight had failed to the point where he would not do woodworking any more, so I bought one.  I think I paid $300 for it.  It came and I glanced at it and then life got in the way and I put it aside.  Somehow I missed the death notice for Mr. Krenov until last week and I went and got my plane out.  It was still wrapped in bubble wrap and there was blue tape all around the throat and blade.  I debated a long time whether to unwrap it or just leave it as some kind of museum piece and collector's item.  I have this vision of Mr. Krenov making the last little shaping cut with his knife  and then testing the shape and the feel and the blade set by running a few cuts and adjusting the blade and trying it again.  When I unwrapped the throat it was indeed filled with the most beautiful thin shavings.  Maybe he did exactly as I envisioned it.  How can I take them out? 

Think about it, this is not a Krenov "style" plane, this is a Krenov plane, hand made by the master himself. 

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Wood Stripes

You know, one of the things I love in my shop is the vertical stripe on the wall behind the lathe.  I turn green wood most of the time and when you get a blank up to speed and really going, it flings water out of the piece and  makes a stripe on the wall. 

People who are not familiar with wood and wood turning will ask why green wood?  First of all  it is cheap.  If I want to make a bowl which ends up five inches deep, then I need a blank about five and a half inches thick.  Try going to the wood place and buying a piece of dried wood that thick and it will cost a fortune, even if you could find one that size.  It is better to make your own and in fact, I leave my wood out in the weather until I can get around to shaping it for the lathe.  Green wood is mostly free for the taking, and if you put it on the lathe and turn away most of it and then let it dry naturally, you can get a nice bowl for much less money. 

Second green wood is so wet that it tends to cut very easily.  Chips just fly when you present the tool to the wood at just the right angle.  When it all fits together, the work is a joy indeed. 

Monday, October 12, 2009


I love the wood chips all around my lathe.  People who have never been to the shop are shocked to see all the chips on the floor, but I take great joy in walking over the pile and standing on top of the pile to turn a new piece.  Even with my dust collector and the floor sweep installed right behind the machine, I still leave the chips on the floor more than I should.  Every now and again, I do sweep them up and mulch the flower bed with them.  The colors of the wood for the first few days is just beautiful.  Of course eventually it all fades to the same color and keeps the weeds down.

In the book about Bob Stocksdale, "To Turn the Perfect wooden Bowl" by Ron Roszkiewicz ( there is a picture of a store window where Stocksdale had set up his lathe to demo turning some bowls.  The chips had piled up several feet high against the window with beautiful stripes and layers like some ancient geological formation.  I thought it was lovely and I am so envious.  Maybe somebody will ask me to turn in their window.