I was raring to go to the North
House Folk School (NHFS) this May, not only to build the first and
most important piece of my new shop, but also because it is located in
the enjoyable town of Grand Marais, MN on the North Shore of Lake Superior.
I live in Minneapolis, and with such an interesting art community so close
to home, I should be in Grand Marais all the time.
of North House classes are always accessible on the web, and they're also
distributed in cities throughout the upper Midwest. The classes are offered
year-round and focus not just on woodworking, but on a wide range of traditional
crafts from making moosehide mukluks (which I really, really want to do),
to building Thoreau's cabin (could also be used as a backyard workshop).
They also specialize in wooden boatbuilding. I chose to take the "Build
Your Own Workbench" class because I needed a sturdy workbench to build
up my shop, and also because the elegantly classic mortise and tenon bench
could also be easily taken apart to move.
After registering for the class, I browsed the "Lodging" links
on the NHFS website, and found traditional Scandinavian log cabins at
Tomteboda Resort Motel. Early in the morning, I drove the striking route
that hugs the great lake, to be greeted by the sun and the accommodating
people of NHFS. The class was taught by master woodworker John Beltman,
who is an expert in traditional woodworking. The student population included
men, women, young, old, beginners and seasoned woodworkers, who were all
fascinating people with unique stories. Using tools ranging from a chain
mortiser to a groove hand plane, we shaped the wood into our benches.
In three days all our benches were built, and our experience and knowledge
Not only did
I learn about mortise and tenon construction, but I also now have a workbench
that is so nice I could use it as a dining room table. When the Woodworks
Show was in the Twin Cities last month, I used this bench in the "Women
In Woodworking" booth. North House
Folk School is a creative and supportive environment to work and play
in. I am already planning next year’s trip back.