WoodCentral Special Guest Chat


November 17, 2004

Ellis Rarely do I have the pleasure of introducing such an esteemed guest, but tonight we are delighted to welcome none other than James Krenov to the WoodCentral chatroom. For most of us, Jim needs no introduction. He has certainly been one of the most influential woodworkers of all time. His books and teachings have helped spur a renaissance of craftsmanship in North America and around the world. Were privileged to have him join us here tonight. Welcome, Jim!
Spence Good evening
Roger_Myers A pleasure Mr. Krenov....thanks Ellis
Ellis My pleasure.
Agee Thanks for being here Jim!
Ellis I would like to kick it off with a question for you, Jim: The books you wrote in the 1970s continue to influence woodworkers worldwide, including many of the folks here with us tonight. Have you figured out what resonates so strongly with these woodworkers?
Jim Krenov The simplest and most direct answer would be that for some people inner enjoyment and self expression are more important than mechanically motivated efficiency and computer design. People want to be able to say about their work, "this is me."
Ellis Welcome to all you newcomers. Jim Krenov is our guest tonight.
Carole_in_VA Jim, what's your biggest source of inspiration for your pieces?
Jim Krenov Most people would say that Krenov starts with the wood. And there is truth in that. But, a functional idea for a piece that is going to be more than decorative can lead to the wood being less important than pleasant and beautiful fulfillment of the function of the piece. So, wood isn't all of it.
rustym Mr. Krenov, is there a chance you will do another book?
Jim Krenov Not much chance of another book, unless I write one called the Left-Handed Cabinetmaker, prompted by the arthritis in my right hand!
Carole_in_VA LOL
Norman I wouldn't mind, I'm left-handed
Bill_Murphy LOL
Warren_Muse Jim, Your style has inspired many. But how do you feel when you see your designs in the work of others?
Jim Krenov Influence is nobody's personal property. My hope is that woodworkers influenced by certain lines, rhythms and textures will use them in their own way and forget about me.
John_H Jim I am fairly new to woodworking and want to learn about picking wood for pieces, grain etc. How best to become good at seeing the specialness of one board over another?
Jim Krenov With respect to choice of wood: Teach yourself to be aware of more than color and pattern. Learn about texture and the working properties of woods. So, your relationship to wood, any wood, will become personal and will relate directly to the kind of work that you want most to do. It is a gradual self-learning. Dryness is the essence. Real dryness. Learn about that.
Spence Does the arthritis force you to spend less time in the shop?
Dale_L Sorry to hear about your right hand, James.
Roger_Myers Mr. Krenov...it's not likely that we will ever forget the distinctive school of design you have inspired...it is a classic that will endure!
Ellis I agree, Roger.
Agee Have you done all that you wanted to do? More than you wanted to do or expected as a young man?
Ellis Okay, let's wait a moment before we inundate our guest... :-)
Ellis WoodCentral and most of the mainstream print magazines are patronized by people who are avid about learning the craft of woodworking. Not all of them can attend a program like the school you founded at the College of the Redwoods. Is there another way they can learn the skills and sensibilities of your teachings?
Jim Krenov Definitely yes! The College is inevitably influenced by time and pressures so I don't know wether the intimacy and kind of teaching that helped people see and feel better is still the main idea. There is a difference between instructing and teaching. Starting with a relaxed open-minded approach to tools and wood and other things that matter most to craftsmen, one will inevitably become ones own teacher, make friends, share with them and make one's own way.
Ellis I had a feeling you would say that. Thanks!
Carole_in_VA Sounds like a function that WoodCentral serves :-)
Spence sure does!
Ellis Yes, Carole, but we teach each other, too.
AndiWolfe Woodturning has an openness to the craft where turners are willing to share techniques with one another. Do you find furniture-makers similar in their willingness to share with one another?
Jim Krenov Willingness to share? Definietly not. Ego comes in, and financial gain and reputation. If you can get by all that, then sharing becomes simply being friendly to the stranger at your door and sharing what you know with him or her.
Ellis You have always talked a lot about our sensitivities and curiosity as a basis for our best work. Can you say more about this? What sorts of things should an ambitious craftsman be sensitive to?
Jim Krenov We have already touched on much about sensitivity. I can only add that one should not be too easily discouraged or intentionally isolated. Keep up your energy and your curiosity. Get to know yourself better and better.
ddubs Curiosity! I'm glad to see that you said that.
Gil Jim, I was at the Fine Furnishings show in Providence, Rhode Island recently. I found both types of people there, egotistical and kind sharing artists.
Roger_Myers Jim, I find it interesting that some of the most accomplished woodworkers (including yourself) are the most willing to share their knowledge
Norman Jim, how do you see the craft of woodworking evolving over the next few years?
Jim Krenov The evolution of woodworking - That is a hard one! I won't be around to see it. Which doesn't make me sad. The emphasis will be on efficiency and gadgets. And when that becomes stifeling there will be some drop-outs like you and me. And, it isn't demeaning to be a drop-out.
Gil Jim when you say Drop-out, would you view that as a person who is not a "Sell Out" and is just trying to be an artist?
TW or more of a 'traditionalist'?
Agee I think you can still be an artist,woodworker or "dropout" and still feed your children.
jerry ...and could you speak more to "dryness"?
Jim Krenov Dryness: It involves knowing when the wood that you want has been sawn and where it has been stored. Also, you can learn from the first cut that you make in a piece of wood. How does the wood respond. Curve or flat? Dry is dry, whether by a meter or by your hand and common sense. Also, remember this: if you lay a flat piece of wood face down on your bench, the up side will inevitably move a little bit up towards the ceiling even if it is dry, and it will move a lot if it isn't. Conclusion: live with your wood.
Jim Krenov About this dropout thing. It has nothing to do with a sell out or wanting to be an artist. It is simply a reluctance to join the rat race. As long as it is honest, it is legitimate.
Tex You have to feed your children whether you produce art or drek. Most produce neither. They make the compromises that are necessary. Faulkner wrote his potboilers as well as his great works.
TW If I drop out do I have to sell all six of my routers?
Norman TW, you can keep one for emergencies :)
TW Norman, whew!
Yeung_Chan Hello, Jim , Ellis and everyone, good evening. This is my very first time into a "chat room"
Ellis Welcome, Yeung.
Carole_in_VA Welcome!
Spence Welcome Yeung_Chan
RayT Welcome Yeung, Ellis runs a very friendly place here.
Ellis Only the friendliest, Ray. :-)
dwight Yueng Chan, what a beautiful display cabinet that appeared in FWW #161 that you built at the College of the Redwoods. My wish is to do as well.
John_H Jim, I know you make your own planes. Are there any handtools companies that are making planes, chisels, etc. that you like?
Ellis Jim, can you briefly describe your design process for us? How important are mockups? What do you learn from them?
Jim Krenov Mock ups. It would take too long to give a proper answer. I don't design, or maybe I do. I believe I compose. Sometimes from a very minimal idea. Maybe even a request by someone and go step by step. All the time making new guesses, improvising and hoping. If you can't be good, be lucky!
Ellis That's way too modest, Jim
Carole_in_VA Mr. Krenov is there any particular stage in the creation of a piece that you enjoy more than any other?
Larry_Clinton Jim, do you have a favorite wood you like to work with?
Agee Is it more difficult to leave the rat race once you have three children? Or, from the other side, should you drop out and teach them another way that is closer to the heart and more alive?
Yeung_Chan I should come to this more, but feel not enough time to do all things, especially making furniture.
Ellis Yeung, make furniture. Trust me.
rustym Mr. Chan...Any chance you will be in Texas anytime?
dwight Yeung_Chan Hope you will visit more often and also post pics.
Spence Time is a harsh Mistress
TW Agee, sometimes you have to put the good of your family ahead of your 'dreams'
Roger_Myers Jim... I've read that you sometimes leave a piece natural...no finish. Can you comment?
TW I don't know that many people who love their jobs after 20+ years
Ellis Jim, along those lines, what finishes do you and your students use most and why?
Agee Yes, I know that, but by sacrificing dreams, sometimes I feel that I may be altering a course that may be beneficial to my children. My youngest has Downs. He will be a great woodworker and musician someday, this I can alread see. So maybe I should go that route now...
ddubs I think I can answer the finish question. Shellac is the friendliest of finsihes.
Agee Yes, I am in Pineville now. I hope Mr Krenov makes it back.
RevDoug Agee, is that Pineville, KY?
TW Agee, some tough decisions ahead of you...
Roger_Myers Yeung, what is your opinion on the "no finish"?
Ellis They got disconnected. Hang on a second...
Dale_L I think I could listen to Jim's thoughts on life and woodworking all night.
Carole_in_VA In all its glory, the net is still so very fragile! LOL
craneman54 So you have moved already, or just looking around for a place to live?
Agee Pineville, LA ...I'm moving there to get off the road every week and spend time with the family.


Spence Welcome back, Jim
Ellis WB, Jim
dwight While waiting, get your February 2003 FWW and enjoy Yeung's cabinet.
Agee No move yet. Family is home in Charlotte while I work down here until we sell the house.I will still be travelling once a month to my favorite city though -- Boston.
Ellis Where were we, Jim?
RayT Question about finishing
Carole_in_VA Ray, you might want to repeat. He was offline when you asked.
RayT That's it.
Joanne Carole, why don't you repeat your last question--I thought it was a good one.
Carole_in_VA Ummm....let me remember, Joanne. LOL
Joanne Psst! Favorite stage of creation or something.
Ellis Now I remember...what finishes do you and your students use most?
Jim Krenov I use less polish (shellac) than I once did, although polish is a classic. There are fine waxes available. There is also a microcrystalline wax which contains no oil that leaves the wood protected but unchanged in color and texture.
Spence Renaissance wax??
rustym Mr. Chan....Hope you make it down this way sometime. Would love to see Mr. Krenov come to Texas also.
Yeung_Chan Rustym, right now I do not have any plan to Texas. Roger, if a piece of furniture (or many other things) is made to use, day by day, with many hands touch, it is better with some kind of finish on it, my opinion.
Roger_Myers thanks Yeung..
Carole_in_VA Oh yes, Mr. Krenov, is there any particular stage during the creation of a piece that you enjoy more than any other?
Ellis Are there rules of thumb for combining colors and textures?
Jim Krenov Fortunately there are no rules whatsoever! Your own perception of color, texture, and pattern should evolve into rhythms and combinations that reflect you and your judgement.
Ellis So our work is a reflection of ourselves?
ddubs Jim, you introduced the idea of personal relationships with tools and materials to a whole generation, an ideal which bears at least a relationship to the hopes of the founders of the Arts & Crafts movement. To what extent was your teacher, Carl Malmsten, concerned about that? Or was he more of an instructor?
Jim Krenov Carl was everything he wanted to be and more. He had visited the Barnsley's and I'm sure he was aware of the A&C Movement, but what he imposed upon all of us was strictly Carl Malmsten. An he did impose it! I knew Carl before the days of rout-it-quick do-it-on-the-shaper attitudes. He certainly advocated the proper use of all classic tools.
Larry_Clinton I asked if he had a favorite wood he liked to work with.
Jim Krenov Favorite wood? Yes and no. I enjoy the kinds of wood hard or soft light or dark that respond well to cutting tools. I don't enjoy fighting wood - for any result!
Carole_in_VA I'm glad you said that! LOL
Dale_L What woods are 'fighting woods'?
Jim Krenov Rowed woods are nasty usually - bubinga and others of a similar nature. Woods that are very soft can be more difficult in doing joinery than woods that are firm and even hard but smooth grained. The ultimate test would be dovetailing balsa wood.
pam :)
Agee I've never seen any balsa model airplanes with dovetails, come to think of it.
Dale_L Thank you, Sir.
Ellis I think I'm gonna try that tomorrow. :-)
Greg I never had that kind of time when I built them....heh, heh
pam Ellis, you can cut the dovetails easily enough, but it's when you try to join the pins and tails that the wood fails.
Agee Jim, have you ever ventured into any other materials besides wood?
Jim Krenov No really. From childhood I grew up with wood. I appreciate deeply other media such as pottery, weaving etc. But, I've stuck to wood and I'll always be stuck with it.
Agee Not a bad place to be.
ZenIowa Thank you for spending your time here this evening, peace.
Warren_Muse988 Jim, Just curious: When you start a new piece, do you work on it fairly steadily until it's finished. Or do you 'walk away' for a while?
Jim Krenov Sometimes I run -- not walk -- away! But only briefly. We all have our ups and downs and at 84, I am no exception.
Greg Congratulations Mr. Krenov!
Norman Jim, you've been typecast
Ellis You are definitely an exception. I can't play tennis to save my life. :-)
Yeung_Chan Jim, each kind of wood has a tool to deal with it, right?
pam Yeung_Chan, what does that mean?
Yeung_Chan I mean; in general, for soft wood, you use regular plane, for very hard wood, or "rowed wood" you use a scraper plane
Dale_L Jim, are there other wood masters you are fond of their work? Such as Nakashima, Maloof etc.?
kengrunke Jim, would you consider smell to be a factor in your love of wood? My favorite is the sweet, spicy smell of ash.
Ellis What an interesting question.
Greg I like the smell of bloodwood - like weak cinnamon
Jim Krenov There are fragrant woods and no smell woods and stinky woods. Your choice is as good as mine, maybe better - am I being flippant? Yes, I like fragrant woods like Lebanon cedar.
Alan_Y Mr. Krenov Do you lead your students down a path? Or do you watch their inclinations and encourage adjustments?
Scott_in_Eastern_Iowa Air drying white oak kinda reminds me of vanilla at times
Agee How about others who delved into other "forms" of wood like Eames with his bent plywood?
pam I see, thank you. By regular plane I assume you mean 36-40 bedding?
Ellis We can go on as long as we want here, but one thing I would like to know is what advice you would give to newcomers to woodworking?
Joanne Ellis, I think we lost Mr. Krenov again.
Greg Jim, could you explain how someone "finds" their style, or do most woodworkers just "know " it...?
Yeung_Chan Pam, 45 degree plane, if you fine tuned them they cut end gain easily with great result
rustym Mr Chan...Do you have any plans for another book?
Agee Yeh,and talk about the bevel up lanes at different angles.LOL
RayT I don't want to be forward, but perhaps Yeung could be a special guest some evening.
Ellis I bet we could convince him.
Dan_D Hi Dale
Agee I love the bevel up planes.
pam I guess I was asking about soft woods. I've had end grain success with 38-43 eastern planes.
pam However, I'm making some higher angle dai, so I'll try the 45. Are you writing a book about hand planes?
Agee While Jim is gone, Pam, it seems to me that the angle is less important (to a point) than the sharpness. I don't think many users get their irons really sharp and then make a judgement.
Yeung_Chan This is JK's evening, let's listen to the master and learn from him as much as possible. planes? leave it to another time, ok?
pam OK, but Jim's not here right now.
Agee Good idea Yeung.
Agee When Jim comes back.
Ellis I just got off the phone with them...
Carole_in_VA I sure hope I am still in my shop at 84! LOL
Warren_Muse988881 I'm on dialup, which is why my name keeps getting longer!
Ellis They will be back, as soon as the gerbil-powered ISP in Ft. Bragg gets its act together... :-)
Scott_in_Eastern_Iowa me too Carole !
Yeung_Chan what is "LOL" mean?
Joe_in_Cleveland Anybody know what Jim meant when he talked about dryness of wood?
Carole_in_VA Laughing out loud
Carole_in_VA literal...dryness
Bri_in_Mtl I had trouble getting in here so I guess I missed out....sigh
Warren_Muse988881 lack of "wetness"
Carole_in_VA lol


JohnP384 Carole, I have a friend who is 80 and bicycles about 100 miles a week. Just take care of yourself.
Dale_L Joe, Jim was talking about moisture in wood
Joe_in_Cleveland ok Carol, wasn't sure... didn't know if it had a deeper meaing or something. Got it.
Jim Krenov Hey it looks like we're back in the running. Just a little computer glitch.
Spence WB Jim
Agee It is more useful when it is really dry. The wood does not move as much and is easier to manipulate.
Ellis Welcome back.
Ellis I don't know where we were but, what advice would you give to newcomers to woodworking?
Carole_in_VA Jim, do you go by actual moisture content (a meter) or by the feel and actions of the wood when determining dryness?
Scott_in_Eastern_Iowa there it is
Carole_in_VA Sorry Ellis.
Agee Jim,I have seen you have representation in NYC. Do you have elsewhere?
Jim Krenov For newcomers - Find out how much material means to you. Your feelings and your ideas don't jump into wood. Work your way into it.
Greg Mr. Krenov, could you explain how a woodworker finds their "style" or do most already "know" what they want to present in their work?
Jim Krenov I do not have a moisture meter. But, I think one can with the use of logic and one's own sensitivities develop a safe relationship to it. Remember, however, never rush wood unless you are absolutely sure that it is ready to be rushed.
Bri_in_Mtl difficult to put your ideas into wood after the wood has had a lot of preparation..
Carole_in_VA I have been told by my mentor to always try to get wood that has been cut in late fall when the sap is down. Is that correct?
Agee But how are you sure when it is ready to be rushed?
Jim Krenov Style is a dangerous thing to get involved in. To me, the less you think about it, the better. Simply express your ideas and your feelings and remember that by time, these too may change somewhat. So, then, what is style?
Carole_in_VA I would think style evolves as ones abilities and experience evolve.
Larry_Clinton Jim, are you working on any projects now?
Jim Krenov If we follow rules like that, we will use very little wood.
Joanne Do you have favorite "assignments" or "projects" to help your students develop their ability to express themselves in the wood and have the result be something good?
Agee I get the impression from your books and interviews that a lot of your philosophy in woodworking is based in "form follows function" but still your pieces turn out beautiful !
Norman Jim, in your cabinet construction, do you advocate other types of carcase joinery aside from dowels..
Jim Krenov Projects now? Yes. Krenov makes boxes, little boxes. Some on stands, some without. Each one a little different, he hopes.
Agee Am I incorrect in assuming that you weigh heavily the function of a piece in your work?
Ellis Folks, I have just gotten the high sign and we're going to wrap it up.
Ellis But, Jim has agreed to join us again to continue this conversation again soon.
Carole_in_VA Thanks Mr. Krenov for your time!
JohnP384 it has been a great evening
Jim Krenov I'm retired now, but going back, no. I simply wanted my students and me to estimate what project suited each one at that particular time.
Ellis I want to be the first to thank you for being with us tonight, Jim. Hopefully, we can do this again. Maybe Ill bring my laptop and darken your doorstep the next time. Thank you so much for joining us.
Ace Thank you Sir for this evening
Spence Thank you Mr Krenov
Joanne Thanks for visiting. Thanks, Ellis
crackerjack Thanks Jim,Ellis
Scott_in_Eastern_Iowa G'nite All......Thanks Jim for the time spent w/ us tonite.....and thanks to you as well Ellis
Bill_Murphy Thank you Mr. Krenov.
John_H Thanks from Indiana
miami Thanks Mr. Krenov.
Warren_Muse988881 Thanks Jim, Ellis, everybody...
AndyL thanks
MRubes Thanks, Mr. Krenov, thanks Ellis.
Norman Thank You Jim and Ellis for the evening chat...
Agee Tanks!
WJE Thanks Jim
Larry_Clinton Goodnight Jim, thanks for your ideas & knowledge. Really enjoyed this session , Night all, Thanks Ellis.
Dale_L Thanks Jim for sharing with us tonight
Ellis It is my privilege to be able to do this. Thank you for joining us tonight.
kengrunke :-)
Greg Please come back to visit anytime!
Spence Thanks again to you too Ellis
Spence G'nite everyone
Bill_Murphy Thank you Ellis...outstanding evening.
Ken_DeMarco Thank you Mr. Krenov!!
Kent Thanks and to all a good night
Bob_L Thank you, Jim and thanks Ellis. It has been an enjoyable evening
Ellis You are all welcome. If you want to stay around after Jim leaves to discuss the evening's chat, please feel free.
Yeung_Chan Thanks, JK and everyone,and good night!
Spence Please join us soon again Mr. Chan
RayT Thanks Jim and Ellis, hope to see Mr. Chan in the future and see all you finishers tomorrow night
Carole_in_VA G'night Mr. Chan. Come back and join us!
Jim Krenov Form & function - what I weigh, is simply the net result. Beauty is a function. Some things we make are simply intended (hopefully) to be beautiful. That is legitimate. And often, it becomes a simple and honest goal.


Editor's Note: At this point, Jim has left the chatroom, but you're welcome to read on to see how this chat winds down. I hope you all had fun!

Bri_in_Mtl Hope I can get a transcript.. I missed a lot
Greg Yeung please come back and visit with us as well!
Norman Take care Yeung, hope you join us for a chat soon as well..
Agee I met an 85 yr old woodworker the other day, Mr Krenov. He said that he hasn't stopped woodworking, only that his projects have gotten smaller!
Ellis :-)
Bruce_Foley Mr. Krenov do you pick the wood for a project or does the wood speak to what it needs to be?
Ellis We will have Jim back again in the not too distant future.
Agee Thank you Ellis. This must be a watershed event for WoodCentral.
Bri_in_Mtl Be proud Ellis
Kent Mr. Krenov has left the building.
WJE Thanks Ellis, I enjoyed the Session.
Agee I would imagine that having JK on should help you get other prominent wwr's on.
Bruce_Foley Kudos Ellis, I believe that the bar indeed has been raised. Thanks again.
Carole_in_VA Night all. Thanks again Ellis!
ddubs Congratulations and good night, Ellis. Jim hung in there for a fair amount of time.
Ellis Thank you all for coming tonight. I just got off the phone with Jim and he says he enjoyed our chat very much.
Ellis He wants to come back soon
Agee Ellis, how do YOU feel about tonight? Did it come off as you wanted? Any changes you would make?
Ellis I was worried about the potential confusion of an unmoderated chat, but you folks came through in fine fashion.
Ellis I'm torn about what to do differently.
Norman Ellis, I never thought I would be speaking and hearing directly from JK. Good work putting this together
Ellis My pleasure.
Agee You (and the Woodcentral folks) provide a great example of how to talk on the internet
Ellis Lord knows we try
Ellis Yeung will be back as my guest soon, too. We need to get him a typist, though.
Agee What are you torn about? I have to moderate many sale meetings and am always interested in others thoughts.
Ellis The choice is between spontaneity and control
Norman I alwsys feel like the guest is being overwhelmed with questions.
ddubs The side chatter was distracting, but maybe that's the nature of these things.
Ellis Unmoderated chats are more in line with my whole philosophy, but they leave us open to chaos.
kengrunke JK was my first real guru -- from afar, through Fine Woodworking mag. Before I discovered woodturning
Agee Yes, I know. spontaneity can be extremely enlightening. I think controlled spontaneity is the goal. In this format you have an interesting challenge.
Ellis Too many questions can really unnerve a guest, especially one who is 85 years old.
Ellis But Taimi did a great job, and she was sick tonight too. What a trooper!
kengrunke does anyone know if we can access this chat with a seperate program (Ircle?) instead of the Java web interface?
Ellis Nope, can't do. This is a java chat, period.
Ellis Anyhow, I told JK I would send him a hat if he sent me a picture of him with it on.
Agee Mr Chan, you said this was your first chat. Quite different from a group in person. Do you have any thoughts about tonight? I sensed a bit of frustration from you in one comment.
Norman LOL
Ellis Yeung, are you still here?
kengrunke thanks, Ellis
Ellis No problem, Ken. I wish I could offer multiple options, but this is a shoestring operation here. :-)
Agee A golden shoestring tonight.
kengrunke your efforts are very much appreciated :-)
Ellis Thanks, Agee. And Ken. I'm so glad everyone had fun. I will edit and archive the chat later tonight or tomorrow.
Yeung_Chan This is wonderful, thanks Ellis for putting all this together. I was frustrated because I read and type slow.
Ellis I'll see you all soon.
Agee I have had many heros in my life in many several occupations.This is the second time I have gotten to interact with one of them.It was very fun!
Ellis Pretty amazing. It's after 11 and we still have 23 people here. Good work, folks! Thanks for coming...