While googling "Krenov" I came acrossed this story posted here
in 1996. Couldn't find the beginning of this tale but what I
did find seems worth reposting.
Subject: Re: teaching kids woodworking (long!)
Date: 20 Feb 1996 23:01:56 GMT
deserve some wood to work with now.# He pointed into the far corner of
the bench room. All Janna could see there was an old broom. |Sweep,#
said. |Not everyone needs a tidy shop to do good work, but this dust
drives me nuts.#
Janna swept out the shop. Every day after school she went to the shop.
Every day Krenov told her to sweep. Sweeping wasn+t hard and it gave
time to talk to the people working in the shop, and to watch them work.
For one year, every day after school, she swept and talked and watched.
In the third year she sharpened the tools. She learned how to keep the
waterstones flat. She learned how to operate the hand grinder. She
started by sharpening chisels and plane irons, and, after a few months
this, she invented a faster way to sharpen these things using a piece of
glass and many different kinds of sandpaper. The people in the shop
laughed at her when she started experimenting with the glass and
sandpaper. They teased her about some of the tools she had ruined when
she had first learned to sharpen with the waterstones. But it wasn+t
before she was making edges sharper than anything they had seen before.
They liked the tools because they cut better than anything they could
sharpen themselves. They weren+t laughing at her anymore. They were
instead feeling a little guilty for not having experimented more during
their third year. And they were asking Janna to teach them about using
the paper and glass.
Near the end of her third year, she was sharpening saws and files, and
putting special touches on the big power machines as well. She knew all
the machines and hand tools now, and she knew how to make them all
than they were when they were new.
In the fourth years she seasoned the wood. Wood comes from trees with a
lot of water in it, and it+s called |green# wood. Some kinds of
can be made with green wood, but at Krenov+s school, dry hardwood was
required. The wood had to be cut into boards from logs, and then it had
to be carefully watched for years as it dried. It had to be turned, and
wood that was cracking badly had to be sold off so it wouldn+t take up
room in Krenov+s shop. Special woods had to be identified early on, so
could be prepared for projects that would respect its nature. This was
heavy, hard work. The planks were big and heavy and had to be moved
around a lot, both so she could see how the wood was doing, and so that
she could slow down or speed up the drying.
By the end of the year, she could look at a log and decide how it should
be cut, or even if it wasn+t worth the trouble. And she knew about
all over the world where she could buy logs. She treated all of the
in Krenov+s shop as though it was her baby, borne of her body, and in
ways, it was.
This was the only year she ever had a fight with someone in the shop.
of Krenov+s students had stupidly cut a plank in two, destroying a
whorl-pattern in the wood that Janna had been fighting all year to keep
intact. The board wanted to split, but by cleverly slowing down the
drying, Janna had been able to keep the board in one magnificent piece.
This student, this rock, this less-than-senseless thing, had destroyed
board by being careless. Janna was so angry she did not return to the
shop for three days. She might have never returned if Krenov had not
|Sometimes the things we love are taken from us for no good reason,# he
told her. |This will happen again. Don+t throw away years of good work
In the fifth year she made boards, and panels. She took rough planks
the drying room and turned them into smooth boards with even sides. She
learned to glue narrow boards into wide flat boards. These were the
boards she had been drying the year before. These were her children.
knew where each board wanted to wind or warp. She knew just how to cut
such a naughty board so to make it nice. She knew just how much of a
surface to plane away to get at the secrets of the board inside. She
that sometimes it was not enough to be able to hear the wood speak.
Sometimes the wood lied, or told stories, or just didn+t know. To
know a piece of wood, she learned, you have to grow up with it a little.
You have to raise it, and teach it things. You have to be its mother.
Her panels were delicious and flat, and they stayed at way. When she
a panel to a more senior apprentice to be used in a cabinet door, she
watched how the wood surrounding the panel was selected and worked.
Sometimes it hurt her to watch that. Sometimes she would see her panel
shining out, disgraced, from a pile of junk. Sometimes her panels fell
into the hands of an apprentice who could hear the wood speak, and who
could understand the message. Or sometimes a dumb apprentice would just
get lucky and everything would turn out well. It made her happy when
In the sixth year, she kept the books. She learned the business of the
school, how much it spent for wood, how much it paid to rent the
buildings, how much the machines and hand tools costed. She once
to meet the Merchant of Ashby to buy some old planes. She could look at
one hundred year old plane and tell if it had been used well or poorly,
and she knew just how much it was worth.
She learned about how much a fine, handmade table would cost to make,
how much money it would bring the school when it was sold.
She was very confused when she learned the selling prices of the pieces
made at the school. Most surprising was that much of the stuff didn+t
sell for much more than the machine-made furniture sold in ordinary
stores. She also learned that the price had more to do with who was
buying the furniture rather than how well it was made. Only a very few
of the school+s customers and galleries seemed to understand the worth
a piece. A very few indeed. All the rest, she learned, was just
fashion. The right color, the right shape, the right maker+s name.
Little else mattered.
In the seventh year, she made joints. She learned mortise and tenons,
dovetails, and many variations of these. She learned that some joints
took a very long time to make but were no stronger than other joints
took only minutes. And she learned that tools she had sharpened herself
cut straighter and closer than the tools the current third-year
In the eighth year, she waxed and polished. She knew that most of the
furniture in stores were heavily stained, and coated with layers of
chemicals like plastics, and this year she learned why: simple finishes
wood only made less-than-perfect surfaces look even more
less-than-perfect. Still, the quality of the work done in Krenov+s
was high, and, at the beginning of this year, she was more apt to ruin a
nicely done cabinet than enhance an average one. By the end of the
she could repair a stained antique finish, or protect a pearwood cabinet
from the dry air or winter damp.
In the ninth year, she made cabinets and chairs. Janna know knew every
step, from sawing the logs to carving the door-handles of a showcase
cabinet. She made six or seven cabinets that year, but only two
survived. She would finish a piece and step back, and say to herself:
|This cabinet is done at a very high level, but still, it doesn+t quite
breath.# She would saw out the joints and return some of the boards to
the drying room, keep a few of the boards to be reworked into her next
After watching this happen several times, Krenov asked her if she had
time that evening. Janna always had time for Krenov, and she missed him
now. The school had grown and her master was a busy man.
They closed up the shop together and went around the corner for a
beeriJanna was by this time a young woman.
|#I saw you cutting up that cabinet today,# he said. |Again.#
Janna stared at the bottom of her cup. She wasn+t sure why she
the cabinet. She just knew that when it was finished, it wasn+t what
had intended to make.
|Sometimes,# Krenov said, |our children don+t grow up to be who we
expected them to be, who we wanted them to be. No. Most often, they
up to be more than we expected.#
Janna looked at him. She wasn+t sure if she was angry or confused.
said: |When our children grow up, we have to grow up a little too. We
have to learn not to be disappointed by different. We don+t control
little thing. Sometimes we have just let things be better than we
for them to be.#
Janna finished her beer. The next day Krenov and Janna worked together.
They had never done this before. Actually, over the past nine years,
had spoken to each other very little. This day, they spoke to each
even less. They each just knew what they had to do. It was not unlike
watching two quiet people in a good marriage.
In the tenth year, she had an apprentice of her own. A horrible eight
year old boy who came around to the shop after school and stole things.
And dawdled with the cart. And made the customers and the other
apprentices angry. Somehow Krenov had allowed this little egg of a
craftsman to infect Janna+s life. But Janna got used to him being
around. After all, he wasn+t around much, he was usually out with his
cart making deliveries. And Janna, when seeing this little boy, often
recalled what she was like when she was eight years old. How she almost
always forgot to flush the toilet and turn off lights and close doors
behind her, how her shoes were always untied. How sometimes she was so
eager to play that she would forget to put on a jacket before going
And most of all she remembered how an eight year old dreams. A child
that doesn+t know what+s impossible. A child of eight has fantastic
And something strange happened to her work that year. A little fantasy
crept into her cabinets. No, nothing careless or sloppy. A curve here,
thinness there, put there not to show off, but to be playful, to show
its possible. Even if she thought it was impossible to make it that
Her work that year was at a very high level, just as always. It was
serious work. It was serious work that never frowned.
One day late in that tenth year, she arrived at the shop after school
asked Krenov what she should work on. Krenov took her into the machine
room and showed her the little push cart. |I need for you to make a
delivery,# he told her.
Janna+s heart sank a bit. Ten years of work, all of it careful and
thoughtful, and now her master was giving her the work of a first-year
Krenov put a package wrapped in paper and blankets into the cart. Take
this to Mrs. Formata,# he said. |I think you know where she lives.#
Janna now felt a sense of dread. Every year, Mrs. Formata asked Krenov
send over the finest cabinet produced at the school that year. Janna
the delivery only once, in the first year of the school. But she knew
story of Mrs. Formata. Every year, for the past ten, she had rejected
Off Janna went to Mrs. Formata+s house, ready to again experience her
rudeness, her rejection, her evil cats. This time it would be worse,
because instead of rejecting the work of her master, Mrs. Formata would
reject the finest work of a school that Janna had for the past ten years
helped to build. This would be very personal.
Just like that first time, Mrs. Formata was waiting outside the house
Janna turned the last corner. Again, Mrs. Formata began shouting for
Janna to hurry as she came into sight. Again Janna was rudely ushered
into the house carrying a heavy package. And again Janna watched bits
paper being scattered around Mrs. Formata+s parlor.
But this time, it was a little different. This time, instead of seeing
work of her master revealed, she saw a cabinet of her own, the pearwood
cabinet she had rebuilt three times.
This time, when the package was unwrapped, Mrs.Formata slipped heavily
into a chair, crying. |It+s beautiful,# she said. A white fluffy cat
jumped into her lap and she began to stoke it.