Green Woodworking – Where it Began

Drew Langnser (now) using a stout double-hoop bent gouge to excavate a half-log bowl (from Chapter 27 of “Country Woodshops: Then and Now.”

Dave Fisher posted a nice review of “Country Woodshops: Then and Now,” by Drew Langnser; here’s little taste:

“Drew’s books and tool sales were invaluable to me in the 90s as I explored traditional woodworking. There was a fascinating world within the brown cover of his 1978 book ‘Country Woodcraft’ and Drew and Louise were really living it. From Louise’s baskets to a carved hauling yoke to bowls and spoons, I found wood, and the working of it, honored.”

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Read more at David Fisher, Carving Explorations.

The workshop – on the left – is where Drew and Louise Langsner ran Country Workshops from 1978 through 2017. The Langsners’ house is on the right.

The following is Peter Follansbee’s “Foreword – Now” to Langsner’s “Country Woodcraft: Then and Now.”

Drew and Louise Langsner began their woodworking classes at Country Workshops in 1978 and ran them until 2017 – more than 400 classes in all. The instructor list reads like a who’s who of green woodworking, featuring Wille and Jögge Sundqvist, Jennie Alexander, Curtis Buchanan, Brian Boggs, Carl Swensson, John Brown, the toolmaker Hans Karlsson and more. Working with and alongside these great craftspeople, I’d bet Drew has seen more green woodworking than anyone alive. There’s so much content rattling around in Drew’s memory, and now he’s distilled much of that information into a new expanded edition of his 1978 book “Country Woodcraft.”

The world was young when the book first came out. If you wanted information like this back then, it was more than a click away. Mail order was the standard order of the day. That’s how I got the book. Then just a couple years later, a notice in small print in the back of Fine Woodworking alerted me to the existence of Drew’s then-fledgling school called Country Workshops. A long trip from Massachusetts down to North Carolina, and my world changed forever.

But the book started it, along with John Alexander’s “Make a Chair from a Tree,” which was published the same year. “Country Woodcraft” was a project-based book that really taught techniques, starting off with felling and splitting trees into usable sections and going through the making of all manner of household and farm implements. This book is where Americans first saw Wille Sundqvist make wooden spoons; Drew and Louise met Wille in 1976, then brought him to their farm two years later for some of the first courses their school ever ran. The hewn wooden bowls stem from the same source. White oak basketry and poplar bark boxes are among the many projects included here that they learned in their adopted home of southern Appalachia.

Now with the updates to this seminal book we have the benefit of all of Drew’s continued exploration. Having watched Drew now for much of 40 years, I can tell you he puts a tremendous amount of thought into his woodworking and teaching. Drew has always wanted to know how to use this tool, that technique, but also why to use them. And how to make them better. He has searched out great craftspeople and toolmakers and learned as much as he could from them, adapting and blending ideas from one to another. Refinement has been at the forefront of his work. Being a teacher and overseeing others instructing classes, Drew’s focus is often on how to convey his ideas to students. And they get more than their money’s worth. “Life-changing” is an adjective often used to describe students’ experiences at Country Workshops.

Reading the new edition of “Country Woodcraft” was as exciting for me as reading it the first time all those years ago. Great depth and detail, showing us what has changed his thinking through the decades and why. Things Drew couldn’t have known back then are carefully explained now – even down to what to do with the shavings! Many of us remember when the book first came around, but now the great influx of interest in green woodworking, spoon carving and other related crafts will introduce this well-deserving giant in the field to a whole new audience.

Peter Follansbee,
March  2020


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