Readers of this blog, apart from my family, probably already know the name of James Krenov. He passed away September 10, 2009. Some consider Mr. Krenov to have been among our greatest contemporary furniture makers and teachers. Sadly, I cannot say that I ever met the man in person, nor do I anticipate every owning one of his highly valued pieces.
But, I do own two of his books. I am currently reading The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking published originally in 1977 when he would have been about 55 years old. I am finding this book a challenge to read, because it is so inspiring that I can only read about 2-3 pages at a time before I am fired up to get back into the shop. I see wood differently, and I see making something from wood differently when I read his books.
He communicates thoughts and feelings and ideas rather than presenting plans and joints. My wife read the first book and thoroughly enjoyed the book. She is not a woodworker. But the man is a fascinating read. He seems to have written down so many of my thoughts and feelings. How amazing to find someone that expresses what you feel and think.
For example, with a couple of my projects, I have struggled greatly with details and many steps in the projects caused me much stress. I found myself distraught with fears of ruining a piece. I then needed to take a half hour or hour break before I could continue. My next experience might be euphoric as I saw such beauty in the wood and the project as it came together. I could not explain that to myself, or to my wife. This was supposed to be a relaxing and enjoyable hobby!
But, then I read this section from The Fine Art Of Cabinetmaking, “I am cautious almost to the point of paralysis. Afraid to spoil something, and get off the track. Oh, I am afraid: when I have the most wonderful wood, I flutter between delight and terror. Yet, I do go on, wanting that wholeness where nothing lets you down.” pp 38.
Well, here is a man writing down my feelings 35 years ago. Perhaps he wrote down yours too. If you cannot explain your passion for wood, tools to work wood and the rise in your blood pressure over photographs of beautiful furniture, then maybe you need Mr. Krenov to explain it to you and to your loved ones.
Having taken a long hiatus from woodworking, I grow frustrated each day to realize that I cheated myself of one more day to enjoy this passion. My projects still resemble those of first-year students rather than those of a seasoned master of grain, color, shape and varieties of wood. Sigh.
Thank you James Krenov for enabling me to understand my own thoughts and feelings. Thank you for blessing my energy, time and money spent on my shop and projects. Thank you for explaining that unexplainable urge to hoard beautiful pieces of wood in my home. Pieces that I have to walk around every day to get into and out of my shop. Thank you for giving light to the path ahead, so that here in Nebraska, far away from your shop and the college you began, I know where my skills ought to take me.
Thank you for spending the time with me. I’m glad that I got to know you.