Great Woodshops: Woodworking With a Mission


Tillers International teaches sustainable skills to help improve lives.
By Jeff Skiver
Pages: 74-76

From the June 2008 issue #169
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Most woodworking classes start the same way – with the students introducing themselves and telling about their backgrounds and interests. The most recent class I attended, at Tillers International, was different. It started with a walk in the woods alongside a couple big fellows named Marco and Polo.

I arrived on Friday afternoon, well before the 5 p.m. start of the class, so I joined Marco and Polo and a few other staff members as they gathered wood for the weekend-long Windsor Tall Stool class.

Throughout my life, lumber always seemed to fall into two overly simplified groups. Before I became a woodworker, the two types of lumber were 2x4s and plywood. After I discovered woodworking, I tended to think of hardwoods and softwoods. Later, I found wood could be kiln-dried or air-dried. Then, just four hours before the class officially started at Tillers, I discovered something that should have been obvious: Lumber comes from trees.

As I watched, Christian Guerrero drove Marco and Polo (they’re oxen, you see) into the woods where they picked up their prize. As they returned dragging a log of cherry behind them over the snow-covered ground, I struggled to visualize the finished Windsor tall stools that were hiding under the bark.

Then, outside the woodshop, as John Sarge used a chainsaw to segment the tree into the lengths that instructor Dave Abeel requested, I struggled with the concept of a log becoming usable furniture without spending either years as rough-cut boards air drying in stickered piles – or at least a few days in a kiln. However, as I helped wheel the cut logs into the shop, time started to roll back, as I began a weekend where I discovered tools and techniques that although new to me, date back to the foundation of woodworking.

Online Extra

To view a slide show of pictures from the Tillers International woodworking school in PDF format, click here.


From the June 2008 issue #169
Buy this issue now