James Krenov Influenced a Generation of Woodworkers
Since James Krenov died Sept. 9, comments have been pouring in to FineWoodworking.com. It is impossible to miss Krenov’s impact. His contributions came not only as a craftsman but also as a teacher and author of five influential books. The first, A Cabinetmaker’s Notebook (1976), was the catalyst for the other books and ultimately led Krenov to northern California, where he started the renowned woodworking program at the College of the Redwoods. His inspiring words and growing reputation drew hundreds of students to Fort Bragg, all vying for a spot in the bench room next to the man himself.
In 2005, I had the good fortune to attend the school for one year. At that point, Krenov had been retired for a few years, and I wondered how the program would be without him as the driving force. The answer is that he will always be the driving force. The instructors, the curriculum, the energy—all are intertwined with the core of Krenov’s philosophies. The program will continue to draw people interested not in churning out mass amounts of work for large profit, but rather in working with the wood on an intimate level—thoughtfully, respectfully, and with passion.
Opinions of Krenov are intense and run to extremes. I can only speak about the man I met when I was attending the program and would visit his shop: always welcoming, generous with feedback and advice, passionate, kind. While his apricot-colored cat milled around his bench, he spoke of his daughters, walking the beach with his wife, books, art, teaching, and of course wood. In March of 2009, I made my way back to Fort Bragg and was able to spend some time with JK in his small shop. Although his failing eyesight prevented him from building furniture, he still was able to build handplanes through feel and an intuition that comes from a lifetime of woodworking. Perhaps what struck me the most was his enthusiasm for wood and woodworking, undimmed after so many years.