Sunday, April 21, 2013

Krenov Comments - Part 1

I’ve had to make a fair bit of travel for the day job lately, so I found myself with lots of reading time…a.k.a. hours and hours spent in airports and on planes.  While not the most comfortable place to lounge with a good read, I have been using the time to finally take in James Krenov’s “A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook.”

I don’t believe that I’ve met another woodworker who isn’t inspired by Krenov’s pieces, moved by his words and challenged by his passion and methods of work.  It was a sad day on 9/9/09 when we all learned of his passing.  As I dug into “A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook” I became interested in tracking down some of his other works.  I remember seeing a copy of “With Wakened Hands” in a bookstore many years ago and now I kick myself for not purchasing it then.  The only copies I can find online are used and are fetching quite a price…over $200 in some places.
As difficult as it is to find copies of some of his books, it was incredibly easy to uncover a multitude of articles and quotes online.  While surfing for an affordable price on “With Wakened Hands” (still not found) I came across several interviews that really got me thinking about the man and his life of woodworking.  Today I’ll share this quote to consider for thought…

"...form is only a beginning.  It is the combination of feelings and a function; shapes and things that come to one in connection with the discoveries made as one goes into the wood, that pull it together and give meaning to form."

There are several accounts of how “Old Jim” would often set boards on end, leaning against the wall so that he could look at them for extended periods of time, sometimes days, weeks, even months…just waiting for the wood to reveal shapes in their grain and tone to inform him of what he should fashion them into.

I’ve only done something similar a few times over the years.  I’m now considering setting some space aside to display several of the more special pieces from my wood collection so that they are always on display…quick to come to mind, waiting to inspire.

How many of you have tried this before, or are moved to try it now, knowing that one of the greatest masters of our craft produced some of his most famous designs by observing and waiting…thinking and dreaming…and maybe even stubbing a toe on those boards he left laying around from time to time?  

Have you ever been struck by a piece with such a striking pattern or form that you knew exactly what it should be used for?  I have a pair of book-matched, Padauk boards that are screaming out to become the doors of a cabinet, consequently in the same design aesthetic as Old Jim himself.
So go on then…step into your shop and find that special slab of lumber that you bought and have been holding onto “just because.”  Set it on display, in full view.  Let your eye and your mind wander to that piece and really consider what it should become.

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