Category Archives: design workshops

Awesome carved bowls

Lead option 2

Last year I had the pleasure of spending time with Dave Fisher in his workshop. It’s a feeble attempt to try to explain his work with this photo. You only get  this one static look that doesn’t capture the sparkle of sunlight bouncing off the curved forms or the messages only your hands can read.  Dave recently started a blog (Link) about his craft journey. Regardless of your interest in carved wooden bowls, he has a wealth of hard won knowledge about design, especially about incorporating curves in a design. He’s someone I pay close attention to. I must warn you though. After I spent a day in Dave’s shop I came away with more questions than I went in with.

Just a note, I’ll be teaching a design workshop at Richard Grell’s in Hudson Ohio on the 26th & 27th of January and there are still a few spots available. Also, I’ll be in Phoenix in Feb at the Southwest School of Woodworking. Still have a few open spots in that design workshop also. Hope to see you there.


George R. Walker



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What can you gain from a Design Workshop?

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Design workshops are a horse of a different color. The focus isn’t on a single project, but instead on every project you build going forward. OK – if you must have a clear idea of a project before signing on, my design workshops project involves a bit of demolition, setting a foundation, erecting walls, staircases, installing windows, running miles of new wiring, and it all takes place inside your head. Oh, and we accomplish all of this with a pair of dividers, a stick, and a pencil.

Students run the gamut from beginning woodworkers, to professional carpenters, graphic designers, engineers, free thinking artistic spirits, to the average Joe who just wants to take his or her work to another level.

Some common themes resonate with all.  Everyone senses when a design looks right, but most can’t go much past just a vague feeling.  After a workshop, that inner sense is decidedly stronger and students can begin to pinpoint why a design works or fails. Much of this progress results from getting a firm grip on what you already know intuitively.

That simmering doubt surrounding proportions evaporates. Yet, this is not about recipes or formulas. Students get the opportunity play and experiment with proportions, much like learning how spices combine to create depth of flavor in a good chili.  This quickly leads to the ability to unpack proportions in the wild. Great buildings, furniture, and works of art reveal their secrets and become a practical source of inspiration.

Most notice a marked improvement in the designs coming off their pencil by day two, and the ability to execute and self critique takes a dramatic step forward. Treat yourself to a weekend in 2015 that will change every aspect of your woodworking by attending a By Hand & Eye Design Workshop. Here’s a list of dates and locations for the coming year.

January 24 – 25, 2015  Hudson Ohio,     R. Grell Fine Woodworking Workshops

February 20 -22  Phoenix, Southwest School of Woodworking

August 8 – 9 Warren Maine, Lie-Nielsen Toolworks

Oct 17 – 18, Franklin IN, Marc Adams 


George R. Walker


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Design Workshops Far and Near

By Hand & Eye Graphic

Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.

Daniel J. Boorst


Game changer! That’s the comment I hear most often during a “By Hand & Eye” workshop. Lights click on, gears start to mesh, and frustration and doubt gives way to confidence and big smiles. Folks who shied away from curves can’t wait to do some off road woodworking. I have one more workshop this year and 2015 is beginning to take shape. Consider signing up for an experience that will influence every aspect of your woodworking. This weekend I’ll be traveling down to The Woodworker’s Club in Rockville Maryland for a Saturday session with the Chesapeake SAPFM chapter and then a two day design workshop on Monday and Tuesday.  There’s still a few spots available for the two day. 2015 workshop dates are firmed up but not yet open for enrollment. I’ll post when signups begin, but for now you can mark your calendar.


  • Saturday Nov 1st Rockville Maryland – Presenting to the Chesapeake Chapter of SAPFM, The Woodworkers Club
  • By Hand & Eye Workshop, Nov 3-4 (Monday and Tuesday) The Woodworkers Club, Rockville Maryland. Sign UP


  • By Hand & Eye Workshop, Jan 24th- 25th, R. Grell Fine Woodworking Workshops, Hudson Ohio. Details coming soon.
  • By Hand & Eye Workshop, Feb 13-15th, Southwest Center for Craftsmanship, Pheonix AR. Details coming soon. 
  • Design presentation, March 28th-29th, Northeast Woodworkers Association Showcase, Sarratoga Springs, NY. Details coming Soon.
  • By Hand & Eye Workshop, Oct 17th-18th, Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Details coming soon.

George R. Walker



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Break the curse of the blank sheet of paper

That blank sheet of emptiness taunts our self doubt.

That blank sheet of emptiness taunts our self doubt.

“Imagination is the highest kite one can fly”.

Lauren Bacall


I remember a time when a blank sheet of paper had the power to chase away every creative thought. It’s a mind trick. It seemed like a mirror reflecting dead air and silence in my head, with not a whiff or a hint of an idea floating off in the distance.  I call it a trick, because if we could ever behold what our imagination is capable of, we would fall down in awe. Imagination is the thing that get’s you wide awake at 3:30 am rooting around the workshop making a racket and having a great time of it. But we seldom tap it in our daily routine, so a little thing like the emptiness of a sheet of paper becomes a wall too high to breach.

Cooking up an idea and letting it stew.

Cooking up an idea and letting it stew.



I said “remember” because now it’s my privilege and joy to guide many woodworkers past that stumbling block. That was brought home to me the last few weeks teaching a series of design workshops for the Guild of Oregon Woodworkers and at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. Over and over came the words, “This is awesome! I don’t have to get stuck anymore staring at that blank sheet of paper” , or “This is 1000% better, I can get off square one and get the juices and ideas flowing”.


Sure – the first drawings were shaky dead ends and mud pits. And yes, the trash cans overflowed with crumpled paper and the maintenance guy had to vacuum up a bushel of eraser dust. But ideas flowed, designs took shape,  and those designs improved quickly. Best of all, woodworkers who doubted they would ever break free from the blank page came in sleepy eyed on day two, after staying up till 3:30 am.

I’m not sure who was more pleased. Forty six fired up workshop attendees, or Jim Tolpin and myself who had the honor of witnessing it.



George R. Walker


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Top Ten Reasons

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Here are the Top Ten Reasons for signing up for the Foundations of Design workshop I’m teaching at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking the week of March 17th – 21st. 

10. You’ll learn proportions as a second language.

9. It will transform the way you see furniture. 

8. Port Townsend is a destination in itself, picturesque with great restaurants. 

7. Be inspired and jazz your passion for furniture building.

6. Learn the truth about mixing plaids and stripes – can it really work?

5. Going forward your furniture will be designated BFD (not what you think – Before Foundations of Design) and AFD (After Foundations of Design). 

4. You’ll walk away with the beginnings of a design portfolio you can build on.

3. Because Jim Tolpin makes great cookies.

2. Because design is rewarding, challenging, surprising, risky, and fun.

1. It’s January for Pete’s sake, treat yourself to something fun. 

George R. Walker


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Do Your Best Work


When I look back over my journey as a woodworker, there have been three great leaps that marked turning points in my work. They didn’t have anything to do with buying some fancy machine or hand tool (though I kicked up my heals when I first roped a Unisaw), these leaps had to do with pushing my skills to new heights.
The first leap was when I broke through the sharpening barrier. At the time I had only one scabby block plane that felt like a car that had been wrecked and drove with a stutter. Somehow I knew that a razor sharp blade might set it right but I had no idea how it would transform that blob of unruly metal into an extension of my hand. To my surprise, wispy shavings poured off the blade leaving behind tiger maple that sparkled. That one skill opened up the world of hand tools and with it the opportunity to venture where machines couldn’t.
The second leap was when I built a solid workbench. Not sure why I took so long to get around to it but I spent nearly fifteen years working on a variety of bench like things that were more suited to small engine repair than cutting dovetails. Finally I broke down and pulled together all the heavy timbers I’d been skeeving away and built a Frank Klausz style bench. Dang. Immediately my joinery and execution took a giant leap for the better and again the possibilities broadened as I felt confident about tackling more challenging projects.


The third leap is a bit harder to explain. Broadly speaking it’s when I finally steered away from printed plans and ventured into design. But more specifically the leap came when I learned to see with my inner eye. It wasn’t quite the big eureka moment like when that block plane came alive in my hands but more like a gradual dawning on a whole new world. Of the three leaps, this ability to see and design is the most profound because it enhances all the other hard won skills. My best hand work, my best joinery, my best furniture is in front of me now and I can see it waiting to be built.

If you’ve wanted to venture into design but unsure where to start, or you’ve already begun but could use help focusing your inner eye, 2014 may just be the year. I’ll be holding workshops across the country to help you take that leap. Here’s my schedule with a few more yet to be added as things firm up.

Guild of Oregon Woodworkers, Portland Oregon – Two Day design workshop March 14 -15, 2014.

Port Townsend School of Woodworking (PTSW), Port Townsend Washington – Five Day Foundations of Design Workshop – March 17 – 21, 2014

Port Townsend School of Woodworking (PTSW), Port Townsend Washington – Two day Workshop with Jim Tolpin “By Hand & Eye” – March 22 – 23, 2014.

Lie–Nielsen Toolworks, Warren Maine, Two day workshop – May 17 – 18, 2014.

Kansas City Woodworkers Guild –  Two day workshop – September 19 – 20, 2014.
The Woodworkers Club, Rockville MD –  Five day workshop – November 3 – 7, 2014.

George  R. Walker


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Dream Workshop


Just a stones throw from the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is the new workshop of chairmaker Richard Grell. I stopped by over the the last year as the walls went up and and shared in the excitement. Richard’s been a full time windsor chair maker for over forty years and he’s finally building that shop he always dreamed about.  Two full stories with plenty of light and storage, and best of all an atmosphere that makes one feel like grabbing a drawknife and slicing into some freshly felled timber. It gets better.

Grell has another dream that’s about to unfold. This year he will begin offering classes in chairmaking and finishing. I can’t say enough about his technical prowess as a maker or his cheerful and enthusiastic approach to craft. Our woodworking community is about to get blessed and I’m excited to see this dream become a reality.

Here’s a link to his website for a peak at his new shop and schedule of upcoming workshops.    Richard Grell

George R. Walker


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