Great Woodshops: The Home Shop

John Wilson has made a successful career out of writing, teaching and selling a Shaker craft.
By Kara Gebhart Uhl
Pages: 82-85

From the October 2007 issue #164
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In 1977, Wilson received an offer to teach furniture making at Michigan’s Lansing Community College. There was only one catch: The class they wanted him to teach began in two hours. Wilson drove to a library, checked out Ejner Handberg’s “Shop Drawings of Shaker Furniture & Woodenware” (Vol. 1), and with the help of his students chose a dovetailed dining tray as the class project. It was in that book the now-famed Shaker-box maker discovered the oval boxes.

Wilson tells this story 30 years later on a cool May evening in Charlotte, Mich., while sitting around a bonfire and eating chocolate with his wife, Sally, and two children, 13-year-old Molly and 7-year-old Will. In front of him is his 32′ x 86′ shop, The Home Shop. To the right is The Little House, 16′ x 16′ of space in which he lived for 12 years, including five years making boxes before his shop was finished. Behind him is his current home. For Wilson, home and shop have always been deeply intertwined. Although once one-in-the-same, the two are now separated only by a small yard that serves as a playground for Molly, Will and a handful of chickens.

Today, the teacher, craftsman and writer is best known for his Shaker boxes (see August 2003, issue #135 for his Popular Woodworking article on how to make these). For more than 20 years he has made boxes, taught box-making classes, and sold bands, tops and bottoms for various sizes and styles of boxes, carriers and trays. Since 1991, Wilson also has produced and sold the hard-to-find copper tacks, distinctive of the box lap.

From the October 2007 issue #164
Buy this issue now