Masters of the Craft

Masters of the Craft

Jere Osgood: Modesty and Mastery

comments (9) February 9th, 2012 in blogs

JonBinzen Jon Binzen, senior editor
thumbs up 94 users recommend

The chair has to be approached as an engineering project...I dont feel thats a hinderance. Its a big adventure.
Jere Osgood at work in his shop.
The chair has to be approached as an engineering project...I dont feel thats a hinderance. Its a big adventure. - CLICK TO ENLARGE

"The chair has to be approached as an engineering project...I don't feel that's a hinderance. It's a big adventure."

Jere Osgood is one of the best craftsmen alive today. And also one of the humblest. He's been a pathbreaker as a furniture designer, but also as a technical innovator. On top of all that, as a teacher he helped nurture a generation of superb furnituremakers. In this slideshow, he talks about a range of his pieces as well as about his experiences as a student and a teacher.


Straightforward Joinery for Curved Work Jeff Miller demonstrates three basic techniques that are the bridge to more beautiful furniture. 

Osgood grew up an only child on Staten Island, and was introduced to woodworking as soon as he could manage the stairs down to his father's basement shop. His grandfather and his uncles had shops as well, and every family gathering started with a visit to the shop to see who was making what. By the time he was in his early teens, Osgood was repairing antiques for his neighbors and taking his first commissions for building furniture. He remembers delivering a large bookcase he built when he was 14--it was winter and snowy and he had no access to a truck. His conveyance for the piece? His sled.

After studying architecture for several years in college, Osgood decided he would rather make furniture than design buildings. In 1959 he enrolled in the woodworking program at the School for American Craftsmen at Rochester Institute of Technology. There he studied under Tage Frid, the charismatic Danish furnituremaker who would go on to become the most important early contributor to Fine Woodworking. Osgood, reserved and modest but enormously productive and inventive as a furnituremaker even then, had a rocky relationship with Frid, who was his opposite in temperament, gregarious and needling, and who chided Osgood for inventing joinery as he went along.

Osgood set up shop in the early 1960s and by the end of the decade he had begun the experiments with tapered bent lamination and bent stave lamination that enabled him to make the tapered curved legs and curved cabinet carcases that became hallmarks of his style.

Osgood's career as a teacher began with weekly classes at the Craft Student's League in New York City. He then taught for one year at the Philadelphia College of Art, for three at his alma mater, Rochester Institute of Technology, and for ten years at the storied Program in Artisanry at Boston University. For the past 25 years he has been giving occasional lectures and workshops but mainly just working away in the shop attached to his house in rural New Hampshire.


More Masters of the Craft Slideshows

• Ulrika Scriba's Marquetry: Risk and Reward
• Adrian McCurdy: Furniture Riven from the Log
Geoffrey Warner: Assembling a Life
Peter Shepard Turns the Page
Curve It Like König
Partners in Craft: Harold Wood and John O'Brien
Tool Chest with an Arts & Crafts Legacy
Adrian Potter: Thinking Furniture
Hank Gilpin: Exploring the American Forest
Doug Mooberry: Kinloch Woodworking
Michael Hurwitz: Planks into Poetry
Brad Smith: Story of a Stool
Hank Holzer and Judith Ames: Labor of Love
Michael Fortune: The Clever Chair
John Cameron: A Musician in the Woodshop
Allan Breed: The Past Recaptured
Kintaro Yazawa: Joint Wizardry
Grant Vaughan: Subtropical Virtuoso
William R. Robertson: Micro Maestro

posted in: blogs, pro portfolio, curves, curved furniture, jere osgood, RIT

Comments (9)

Shavins Shavins writes: Incredible work and a modest man, brilliant.
Posted: 9:20 am on January 1st

holzwurm holzwurm writes: no comment have trouble downloading flashplayer
Posted: 1:10 pm on October 14th

RKWIII RKWIII writes: Outstanding - nicely done

Posted: 8:47 pm on March 24th

Shakaleg Shakaleg writes: Possibly the single most inspiring article I've read in over 20yrs of Fine Woodworking. More 'unsung heroes' please!
Posted: 9:05 am on March 22nd

The Laminator The Laminator writes: Scuse me thats Jere, not jese .......oooops
Posted: 11:31 am on March 4th

The Laminator The Laminator writes: I took several seminars on bent laminations and other things with Jere and still find myself daily recalling and utilizing the multitudinous (ain't that a great word though?) things he touched upon within the scope of the classes. I always find his stuff both inspirational and that thing to aspire to.. and who wants the shortest way between two points to be the best way to build anything anyway? Me, I always take the right hand turn at Albuquerque .....where Jere makes his turns ,I have NO IDEA! I just always been glad he does. Welcome to his world if this is your first glimpse in... where the heck have you all been anyway?....

Thanks Jese... L.K.
Posted: 9:44 pm on March 3rd

1pizza 1pizza writes: It was a great story of a artist of wood. It is nice for you to show these stories so we all have something to strive for

Posted: 8:12 pm on March 3rd

jfontana jfontana writes: Where is the slideshow?
Posted: 9:53 pm on February 25th

Capella Capella writes: This is very inspiring. For many years I've counted Jere Osgood as one of a handful of my favorite furniture makers that I aspire to be like - inventive, original, and uncompromising. Thanks for shining a light on his great work!
Posted: 3:13 pm on February 9th

You must be logged in to post comments. Log in.

Save up to 51% on Fine Woodworking


Become a Better Woodworker


Follow Fine Woodworking senior editor Jon Binzen as he travels North America in search of the best woodworkers on the continent.