Matthew York

Matthew York has been a woodturner since 2004 and has been interested in woodworking since he was a teenager. He currently lives in downtown Atlanta and has a small shop in his basement. He is an avid woodworker and is always available to talk about the craft. He can be contacted at or visit his website at You can also follow him on twitter at @raen425

Oct 212014

On Sunday the 19th of October, I was able to sit in on a class taught by Frank Klausz, one of the woodworking world”s luminary figures. Frank taught a seminar on hand-tool joinery and covered the three major types of dovetails: open, half-lap, and sliding, along with mortise and tenon joints. Frank demonstrated his techniques for cutting the joints, the proper use of each joint, when and where you would use the joint and talked about several other topics. In my life, I have had the opportunity to take some classes from masters of various crafts. As a cellist I was able to attend a class given by Yo-Yo-Ma; as a writer I was able to attend a symposium by several amazing writers. The class given by Frank was no different – it is always a breathtaking experience to watch a true master at work.

We started off early on Sunday morning, sitting in the parking lot of Highland Woodworking and eating some breakfast. At around 8:45, the majority of us had arrived and we wandered into the store before class got started. Frank was hard at work already, prepping some stock for his demonstrations and drawing a few diagrams on the white board. At 9:00am Frank welcomed us all to the class and began what has become one of my favorite experiences with woodworking so far.

Starting off we discussed the 4 quadrants of woodworking as Frank views them: wood technology, tools, joinery and finish. When Frank talks about wood technology, what he means is to understand the medium you are working in. We all know wood moves, but we have to understand how and why wood behaves the way it does so that we can think about the proper way to lay out a table top and the best way to make a joint. The wood itself is the foundation of our work, and as woodworkers we have to know, to the best of our ability, what that wood is going to do.

The second quadrant of Frank’s woodworking seminar was a discussion of tools, both power tools and hand tools. Frank is what I call a hybrid woodworker, someone who incorporates both power tools and hand tools to make his pieces. We talked about tools, what young woodworkers should look for, advice on what tools to buy, and overall, an approach to your tools that will allow them to last for generations. Frank laid out one of my favorite quotes from this seminar about tools when we were discussing hand planes, and specifically Lie-Nielsen tools:

When you purchase a tool like a Lie Nielsen hand plane, or other fine woodworking tool, you are not the owner; you are the custodian of that tool. Tools such as those are heirlooms that you will pass down through the generations, we do not own them, we hold onto them for the woodworkers that will come after us.

We went through a demonstration of sharpening as well. Frank illustrated the way he sharpens his plane irons and his chisels. We talked about the various types of stones and grinders that are available and how best to utilize each. Frank demonstrated that the best jigs you have are your own hands –  if you pause and take the time to think about things, to feel the tool in your hands, you often don’t need a special jig. It was brilliant to watch as he took a dull and rounded plane iron from dull to sharp in a matter of minutes.

Throughout the class, Frank told stories and anecdotes about his life as a woodworker and life in general. Frank is one of those speakers who often will wander off on a tangent, telling a story about something that has happened in the past, or that seems un-related but they always circle back to the project at hand and the discussion as a whole. Frank’s stories leave you feeling richer and more enlightened about the world of woodworking. We moved on to the third quadrant of joinery and Frank discussed his thoughts on when to use a joint, and the proper place for joints within a piece. There was a lot of information there, about the differences between reproduction and fine furniture, about Frank’s opinion on when to use which joints, and what it means when you experiment. Frank has some solid opinions, and I got the impression that there is a wrong way to do things, and there is Frank’s way of doing things.

When we discussed the fourth quadrant of finishing, Frank made another point that will stick with me as I continue my woodworking journey. The finish is one of the most important parts. Often times as woodworkers we build a piece and then slap a quick finish on it and call it a day. When we spend so much of our time and effort on a piece, we should spend an equal amount of time and effort on the finish. That finish is what defines the piece in the end, and using cheap hardware or a slap-dash finish can take a wonderful piece and ruin it. It reminded me I want to look into the Finishing the Finish class that Highland offers.

After the whirlwind tour of Frank’s four woodworking quadrants we moved on to the demonstration portions. Frank showed us how he cuts dovetails, how he lays them out pins first, and how he uses gravity to help him mark the tails. We then discussed sliding dovetails, how they develop a watertight joint when they are properly made. Frank showed us the box he uses for his honing stones and how, with no sealer or glue, he is able to craft a water-tight box. Once we were done admiring the wooden gasket that Frank demonstrated for us, we moved on to lunch. Let me tell you, one of the great things about classes at Highland is that you can go out to lunch with folks like Frank Klausz, and you get a pretty decent hamburger as well.

When we returned from lunch we went back over the dovetails for a bit, and Frank gave every member of the class an example of how he cuts them, so that we could take it home and practice. We then moved on to mortise and tenon joints. Frank explained why you need a mortising chisel and why you need to cut your tenons a little shallow, to allow for wood movement. We discussed the advantages of tools like Festool’s Domino Joiner and the applications of domino joints versus traditional hand-cut joints.

The class ended with more stories and anecdotes from Frank, discussions of life, of the world outside of wood, and of how woodworking impacts all of us. The advice and knowledge I took away from this class made me a better woodworker. It also showed me a path to advance my woodworking and transform the way I do certain things. Not often do you get the opportunity to sit at the feet of a Master, but when you do you take it. I cannot recommend highly enough that you keep an eye on the class listings at Highland Woodworking and that when an opportunity like this presents itself you leap upon it.

Matthew York has been a woodturner since 2004 and has been interested in woodworking since he was a teenager. He currently lives in downtown Atlanta and has a small shop in his basement. He is an avid woodworker and is always available to talk about the craft. He can be contacted at or visit his website at You can also follow him on twitter at @raen425

Oct 202014

This weekend I had the pleasure of attending the Highland Woodworking Open House and Hand Tool Extravaganza. The event was an enormous amount of fun. A whole bunch of woodworking knowledge was passed around, stories were told, and a bunch of wood shavings were made. There were some great woodworkers in attendance, including Scott Meek, Chris Kuehn, Frank Klausz, Curtis Turner, and more.

openhouse1I was able to swing by the store on Friday and got to meet some of the folks that were in attendance while the store was not quite as full; in the late hours of Friday evening after work I was able to meet Frank Klausz for the first time. Frank is a wonderful fellow filled with fantastic stories about woodworking and about his life. I also got to watch as Frank tried out some of Scott Meek’s wooden hand planes. Frank set and worked the planes with the hands of a true master of our craft and I could tell that Scott was a bit nervous to have such a woodworking luminary using his tools, maybe wondering what Frank would have to say about the planes. After making a few passes with some of the planes, Frank had nothing but glowing reviews of Scott’s work. He complimented Scott on his fine hand tools and even remarked that he had made a few wooden planes in the past, though none of them were ever as fine and well-made as the ones Scott had on display. I would call this a ringing endorsement, especially for Scott’s class at Highland, on November 8th and 9th, where he will be teaching folks how to make these wooden planes.



openhouse6After Frank left to get some dinner I spent some time talking with Curtis Turner, who was in attendance demonstrating some of the fine tools from Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. I have had my eye on a No. 62 Low-Angle Jack Plane for a while and so I was able to talk with Curtis about it. He let me try out the plane with both the toothed blade and the regular blade, and it confirmed what I thought about their tools. In my opinion, Lie-Nielsen tools are the best choice if you have the ability to buy them. Frank Klausz put it to me with a quote that I think sums up my own personal views on tools: “When you purchase a tool like a Lie-Nielsen hand plane, or other fine woodworking tool, you are not the owner; you are the custodian of that tool. Tools such as those are heirlooms that you will pass down through the generations. We do not own them, we hold onto them for the woodworkers that will come after us.”

I closed out my night on Friday wishing Scott the best and letting everyone know I would see them in the morning. When Saturday rolled around I was not quite as early as I wanted to be for the event but still got to spend a few hours hanging around the store and talking with folks. The event was great, Highland had a steady crowd of folks interested in the tools on offer. Frank almost always had a crowd around his bench as he demonstrated his dovetailing techniques and offered his woodworking wisdom. Chris Kuehn was there from Sterling Toolworks, showing off some of his fine tools and inviting people to try their hand with some of his pieces. Scott was making some pretty mean shavings with his hand planes and probably reduced a pine 2×4 down to next to nothing by the end of the day.



The crowd around the various Lie-Nielsen benches was thick and the planes saw a lot of use. I think everyone that got the opportunity to try out one of their fine tools left knowing exactly what you can do with a solid tool. I was personally able to pick up that No. 62 Low-Angle Jack and brought it home to my shop after the event for a test run. It is a beautiful plane and I look forward to working with it on some upcoming projects.



The Highland Woodworking Open House was a lot of fun, and a great way to spend a few hours this past weekend. I learned quite a bit just standing in the room listening to various woodworkers talk. If you get the opportunity to come to the store for one of these events I highly recommend it. They are filled with people all interested in the craft that we love and the advice can’t be beat.

Matthew York has been a woodturner since 2004 and has been interested in woodworking since he was a teenager. He currently lives in downtown Atlanta and has a small shop in his basement. He is an avid woodworker and is always available to talk about the craft. He can be contacted at or visit his website at You can also follow him on twitter at @raen425

Oct 152014

Looking out over my back yard,I can see that autumn is beginning to encroach upon Atlanta, though I still need to find a good way to get rid of Kudzu. Along with the hopefully cooler weather, the changing leaves and the pumpkin spice everything, we also get a wonderful woodworking holiday: the annual Highland Woodworking open house. This year the open house will be on Friday, October 17th from 10am to 6pm and on Saturday, October 18th from 9am to 5pm. I am looking forward to the event and will be in attendance, but more importantly several artisan toolmakers including a few folks from Lie-Nielsen Tool Works will be there, and on Saturday we will get a visit from Master Cabinetmaker Frank Klausz.

Another wonderful thing about the open house is that Highland will be offering some secret tool deals. The team at Highland was able to secure a special selection of tools that they will be offering at once in a lifetime prices. I”ll be looking them over to see if there is anything I can add to my collection and I recommend coming out to take a look as well. Sadly you have to be at the store to get the deals as they aren’t being offered online or over the phone. The folks from Lie-Nielsen will also be demonstrating some of their tools, offering up some tips and tricks and giving pointers to those interested in their hand tools.

On Saturday, special guest Frank Klausz will be in attendance. I’ve done some reading both about and by Frank and am looking forward to meeting the man himself. Frank is a Master Cabinetmaker and has been working with wood for over 50 years. He started out as an apprentice in his Father’s shop at the age of 14 and has been woodworking ever since. I’ve personally wondered what it would be like to devote myself to woodworking as much as Frank has and wish I could find the time and stability to do so myself. Frank will be at the open house on Saturday answering questions, offering wisdom and showing off some of his amazing skills. The real treat however will be for the folks that can make it out to Highland Woodworking the next day.

On Sunday the 19th Frank Klausz will be offering a special demonstration class on hand-tool joinery. Hand-tool joinery is something I’ve been working on myself for the past couple months so learning from Frank will be an absolute treat. Frank will be covering topics like dovetails, half-lap joints, mortise and tenon joints and everything in between. There will also be a demonstration on how to keep your hand tools sharp, and I intend to take some serious notes on that, also probably some pictures since sharpening tools can be tricky. The motto Frank works by is “If you’re going to do it, do it well” and I can imagine that he will display that to the fullest extent. Hopefully I will see some friendly faces on Sunday joining me for a day of woodworking adventure.

Matthew York has been a woodturner since 2004 and has been interested in woodworking since he was a teenager. He currently lives in downtown Atlanta and has a small shop in his basement. He is an avid woodworker and is always available to talk about the craft. He can be contacted at or visit his website at You can also follow him on twitter at @raen425

Oct 072014

Basic Bowl Turning at Highland

Class starts early on a Saturday morning with everyone sipping coffee and chatting amicably, the group of us ranging in skill level from those who have been turning for a while to folks who have never held a woodturning tool before.  The classroom at Highland is a great place, all old wood with various projects and tables stacked here and there; the atmosphere in the room is one of eager anticipation.

When our instructor, Phil Colson, arrives he greets us all warmly and we do the standard introductory spiel, once around the room telling a bit about ourselves and a bit about why we are here. Once introductions had been made we begin the class itself, starting with a tour of the lathe, an overview of the basic tools we will be using and the theories behind turning a bowl. We discuss the roughing gouge, spindle gouge, bowl gouge and so on.

Phil sketches a simple bowl design on the board and illustrates how best to approach the tools and the work itself.  After the explanation comes the practical instruction, and we all gather around Phil”s large shop lathe while he demonstrates a few basic techniques, some do’s and don’ts and other pieces of information we will need to make our bowl. For instance, how best to hold a roughing gouge and introduce it to the spinning piece, allowing the bevel to rub before engaging the cutting edge of the tool.

Finally, after a coffee break, it is time to get our hands dirty. Using some cut off pieces of 2×4, Phil has us in front of the lathe learning how to round the stock with the roughing gouge and how to introduce the tips of the tools to the pieces we were making. We practice forming beads and coves using the spindle gouge and discuss the use of the skew and parting tool. There are plenty of hands on opportunities for instruction as Phil moves through the room. He offers tips and pointers and will correct someone’s stance or hold on a tool when the need arises. The class itself provides all the tools and materials needed, though you are encouraged to bring your own if you have them. Not only do you learn the proper use for the various woodturning tools, the instructor also covers the basics of sharpening, a vital skill for any woodworker. A sharp tool is far better to use than a dull tool.

Time passes and we all became more familiar with the use of the basic tools. After a bit more instruction at the blackboard and some conversations about bowl form and design we begin the true point of that day’s class, turning our first bowls. We utilize the bowl gouge for most of the work, shaping the outside, sanding and then turning the blank before hollowing out the bowl itself. I won’t bore you with the details, nor will I deprive you of the adventure of discovering turning for yourself. There is something magical about taking a rough piece of wood and creating an amazing piece of functional art all in a matter of hours.

My first bowl

My first bowl

With the tools, instruction and materials provided by Highland Woodworking and this class you are bound to have an exciting new passion in your life. This class was my first personal foray into the world of woodturning and I have been diving in ever since. I highly recommend any of the classes at Highland but if you are interested in turning, a wonderful place to start is the Basic Bowl Turning class.

Matthew York has been a woodturner since 2004 and has been interested in woodworking since he was a teenager. He currently lives in downtown Atlanta and has a small shop in his basement. He is an avid woodworker and is always available to talk about the craft. He can be contacted at or visit his website at You can also follow him on twitter at @raen425

Sep 192014

Two weeks ago I was listening to the Wood Talk podcast, and he mentioned that the next weekend there would be a great show in Winston-Salem, NC called Woodworking in America. I had personally never heard of the show but looked it up right then and there. Turns out it has been running for seven years, and is put on by the awesome folks behind Popular Woodworking Magazine. This year they moved the show to Winston-Salem and from what I can tell it was a great move.

I”ve wanted to dive deeper into my own personal woodworking journey and try and build toward something more than just a weekend hobby, so I thought “why not” and headed out to the show, which was one of the best decisions I have made as a woodworker in years. If you haven”t been to Woodworking in America yet, then I highly recommend looking into attending next year when they announce the dates.

The show itself spans three days: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, with a couple different ways you can attend. You can get the full pass that allow you to attend all of the various classes and other events going on around the show, or you can just get a pass for the dealers floor. Since I was going into this on such short notice I opted for the second, and cheaper, option. I loaded into the car with my companions, also known as my parents, and we headed north from Atlanta toward Winston-Salem.

We arrived in town on Friday afternoon, checked into our hotel and took some downtime to relax and do that whole family vacation portion of this adventure. That evening I had been invited to dinner by the awesome folks at Highland Woodworking to hang out and talk about all things woodworking. Dinner was wonderful; the conversations at the table ran the gamut of woodworking interests, from model making to furniture work, woodturning to carving, and everywhere in between. Along with good food and good conversation I got to meet Matt Vanderlist and David Picciuto of Matt’s Basement Workshop and The Drunken Woodworker respectively. Meeting two accomplished woodworkers and having an evening to converse and pick their brains about all things woodworking was one of the highlights of the show for me. One of the others was the excellent pizza we had for dinner.



Saturday at the show rolled around and my folks and I arrived at the convention center, not exactly sure what to expect. Most of my experience with conventions comes from the comic book and animation side of things, so this would be my first real foray into a woodworking convention and boy was I in for a treat. Stepping through the doors, I was greeted by what I can only imagine a piece of heaven for woodworkers might look like. There were rows and rows of booths, all filled with things that caught the eye: hand tools, power tools, and the products they can be used to make, stretched out in all their shiny perfection before me. It was a beautiful sight to behold and I eagerly began my exploration of the show floor.


Walking the floor could have felt overwhelming if it wasn’t for the people in the booths. The first thing I learned about the show is that everyone there was eager to talk to everyone else. Each and every booth I passed had staff who were willing to stop and spend time talking to anyone that walked by. If you have ever experienced a convention where the people in the booths look at you with dead eyes and no interest then you would have been as surprised as I was by everyone at Woodworking in America. Not only was I talking with the vendors at the Saw Stop booth, or the Micro Jig booth, I also spoke with amazing woodworkers like Scott Meek, and Peter Galbert as well. When you can stand around and listen to Scott Meek talk about his wood bodied hand planes, then talk to him about their construction, the design, and how he uses them in the shop, you know you are at a great show.

But talking isn’t the only thing I was able to do at Woodworking in America. If the conversation was one half of what made the show great, the other half was the ability to get hands-on with all of the various tools. The booths at the show were almost all interactive in some way. The vendors and tool makers were eager to show you how their products work but were almost more eager to have you test drive them yourselves. I personally got to use some fabulous planes at Scott Meek’s booth, at the Japanese Hand plane booth, and at both Lee Valley and Lie Nielsen’s booths. If you couldn’t get your hands on a particular tool at this show, the vendors were often eager to show you every in and out of the product themselves.


The final aspect of the show that I should mention was the class offerings and talks. Since I was unable to get one of the full passes to the show, I was not able to sit in on any of the big classes, but I stuck my head in the door to a few and they looked to be well worth the price. The class list was expansive, covering topics like French Marquetry, Southern Gothic style woodworking, Japanese hand planes, Table saw joinery and so much more. However, even with just the marketplace pass, I still had access to some amazing talks. One corner of the show room floor was dedicated to a small stage and presentation area. There I was able to attend several talks and conversations with many woodworking luminaries without needing to spring for the full pass.


The hands-on nature of the show and the interactivity of the floor really brought home to me just how different Woodworking in America is from some of the other conventions I have attended in the past. All around were people who were passionate about woodworking; every step I took on the convention floor brought me to some other conversation about woodworking. The atmosphere was so full of passion and a willingness to share knowledge that I left the show feeling invigorated and inspired. Walking in the door to Woodworking in America, I never would have thought I could spend an hour talking about chair carving, or get lost in a conversation about wooden hand plane construction. The show really made me appreciate being a part of the wonderful woodworking community. Every person I met at the show, whether they were a fellow attendee or someone like Matt, Scott, or even Roy Underhill, still took time to talk about woodworking. Within that space, everyone was equal. We all shared a passion for the same thing and I feel we all came away better for it. If you get a chance, attend Woodworking in America next year. If you have any sort of passion for this craft, you will only leave the show inspired and eager to work some wood.