Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition


Beavers, Beauty, and Bicycles

The sun has finally returned, at least for a mid-March morning, bringing light and love off the snowy Olympics down to the sound and through the large window beside me.  As a student in the inaugural run of the school’s Furniture Making Intensive, it is easy to feel like a beaver stowed away in his lodge chewing bark as winter rages outside, paying mind only to their design drawings, cutlist and project schedule.  But a morning such as this calls one to poke their head out of the woodpile and take-in that which inspires and guides (at least for this beaver).

Inspiration is a fire I’ve been trying to catch throughout this course; designing your own pieces demands it.  Time, focus and imagination are also called for.   I do not consider myself a particularly creative person.  It takes a lot of effort on my part to draw out ideas and those that ultimately come are quiet, modest and straight.  I do not apologize; they come from me, they are of me.  The progression of step-stool to table, chair and now standing cabinet have been subtle, “precise and simple…in a good way,” as my classmate Kate remarked to me during one of our design critiques.  I’ll take it.  The late maker James Krenov wrote in The Cabinet Maker’s Notebook “I tell (students) that even if they won’t make all that many things, or things that are all that striking, the things that they do will, if they are done right appeal to the right person.  And that is very, very important and should be encouraged.”  I think this sentiment is profound, and not just to an aspiring furniture maker, but for all people.  It is a way in which to live, to love others, to find a balance. Be yourself and do it as best you can.  Strive to become better, but hold on to what makes you unique.  Don’t pretend.  The right people will respond.  I find this very encouraging, even comforting, when there is so much doubt, so many questions about what is good, what makes sense, how to move forward.  My classmates and I have designed and built vastly different pieces from each other, yet we are working in the same shop with the same instructors on the same pieces of furniture (tables, cabinets, etc.). Everything we make is an extension of ourselves and I think one of the skills we are developing in this course is figuring out how to distill that self into our work.  If we do it well, it will be a success.  But damn, it’s going to take some time.  Rome was not built in a day, and neither were our first chairs.  These past months have given me some of that precious time, and great mentors who have helped me make the most of it, but there is so much to build, to try, to figure out by failing the first time.  Such is life.

So I’ll enjoy this beautiful day and take of it what I can, knowing I’ll be back in the shop on Monday trying to coax my hands to do the work of my mind and my heart, because these precious tools need tuning, too, and a bicycle ride looks to me like a water stone right now.  Peace.

Colin Kaferle, Furniture Intensive, Winter 2017