Minnesota Woodworking Guild

Volume 130 December 2010-January 2011 

2010 Fall Seminar
Story by Jerry Beutel
Photos by Paul Schalekamp
Featuring Thomas Stangeland
Designing and building Greene and Greene furniture.

Greene and Greene style furniture proved to be a popular Fall Seminar topic.  Popular enough to entice ninety-nine Guild members to sign up for the event held at Dunwoody the first weekend in November.  Thanks to the leadership of Dick Schultz and Al Frank the seminar continued the tradition of providing a high quality educational weekend for our members.

The invited speaker was Thomas Stangeland, a highly regarded expert in the field of Greene and Greene furniture.  Like many career paths, his was not so much planned, as it was an opportunity presented - and he leapt in with both feet.  Tom's biography (from his website):

Tom studied woodworking with master furniture builder/designer Emmet Day. What started as an odd job - a way to earn extra money on a remodeling project-evolved into a woodworking apprenticeship. In 1984, Tom took his four-year-old son, Jamie, to Normandy, where he renovated a 16th-century Normandy manor house. When he returned to the states, he resumed his apprenticeship with Emmet Day until 1988, working primarily with the clean curves and sumptuous details of the Art Deco style.

In 1991, someone handed Tom a photo of the Blacker House arm chair, and asked whether he would be able to make one like it. "If I can make that chair," Tom replied, "I can make any chair." That was Tom's introduction to the Greene & Greene style of the Arts & Crafts Movement, and his enthusiasm for the movement's philosophies and craft has strengthened through the years. From that first piece based on the Blacker House chair, Tom has expanded his interpretation of the style, designing furniture that speaks to the language of Greene & Greene while making an individual statement.

The attendees were treated to an array of topics starting with a Friday evening slide show of Greene and Greene pieces.  These included important historical pieces designed by the Greene brothers as well as pieces that Tom has designed and built.

Saturday and Sunday were packed with information on design and build techniques for G&G furniture.  A few of the many topics discussed includes:

  • The design language of G&G. 
  • How raised pegs and splines add shadow, light and texture to a piece. 
  • The process of creating and inlaying a diamond shaped ebony detail 

  • How to choose solid wood and veneers for the various components of a piece.
  • How to create small parts like pegs and splines from ebony stock with a process using hand tools, power tools, and jigs.
  • Resolving the visual treatment as well as the attachment methods of butt joints in Greene and Greene furniture as it has no miter joints .
  • Two principles for proper placement of table legs with breadboard ends.
  • The use of potassium dichromate instead of traditional stains to darken mahogany prior to finishing.
  • Why Tom prefers a sprayed on catalyzed lacquer finish.
  • The subtle but important details of a pleasingly designed cloud lift.
  • Which components of a table should use straight grained wood and which can use figured wood.
  • Making brass and copper hardware; special tools required, sources of material (e.g. electrical supply stores) and chemicals used for patination of the metals.

While covering all these topics (and many, many more) Tom answered dozens of questions, took us on a few side trips, and proved to be a very entertaining and informative instructor.  He lectured, he chiseled, he took questions, he ran power tools, he drew pictures and he showed slides.  All of this under the watchful camera work of Jeff Hand who made sure we all had a virtual front-row seat.  When it was over there were a lot of woodworkers fired up to put what they'd just learned into practice.

Jeff Hand making sure all attendees had a front row seat

Fall Seminar organizers:  Al Frank, Jeff Hand, Dick Schultz

The Fall Seminar Committee (Al and Dick) asked participants for feedback at the end of each day.  This information was very helpful in making adjustments during the seminar - e.g. better lighting of the demonstrations, and changes for next year such as improved lunches and demonstration handouts.  Overall the participants rated the seminar as very good.  On a 1-5 point scale with 5 being the most positive, the mean score for rating the statement "Attending the seminar was a good use of my time." was 4.5.  The statement "The cost of the seminar was reasonable." received a 4.7 rating and "I liked having the seminar at the Dunwoody Institute." had a 4.0 rating.  Some of the participants comments were: 

  • "I liked the design aspects best.  It came down to a statement, "Design to draw eye to visual focal point of the piece."
  • "Very personable (presenter), open to questions, eye for detail, teaches from experience, good at answering questions."
  • "Camera work was great."
  • "The large screen to show demonstrations up close really helps.  Dunwoody is centrally located to all parts of the metro area."
  • "Very respectful (presenter)-great at answering questions-humor nice.

Thanks to donations by Porter Cable, six lucky attendees won Porter Cable low profile random orbit sanders.  Rockler donated a set of Freud cabinet door router bits and a Forrest Woodworking blade, won by Chad Stone and Don Nellen respectively.

Tom Policek, with his door prize.  Phil Baker, Mark Powell,
Cliff Clark and Jerry Beutel also won sanders.