Chris Schwarz's Blog

A Visit to Clark & Williams

I crossed the border from Missouri to Arkansas this afternoon, and I knew immediately I was home.

For starters, the land is achingly beautiful. I miss the Ozarks I grew up with, which are surprisingly unspoiled by development. Every curve in the rugged terrain brings a new vista. You might be high over a lake one minute, deep into a fog bank the next then spiraling down switchbacks the next.

The roads are magnificently contorted, narrow and treacherous. In other words, it’s a fun drive.

The other evidence I was home is that my electronic devices began to malfunction. I entered my hotel’s address in Eureka Springs into the Garmin on the dashboard. It promptly took me to Snaketown, a reptile farm six miles north of Eureka Springs, Ark.

I’m down here to interview Larry Williams and Don McConnell of the Clark & Williams planemaking company. I’ve known Williams and McConnell for many years, but I’ve never gotten to write about this remarkable little company, its interesting history and how they go about building their wooden-stock planes.

I arrived at their shop about 2:30 p.m. Thursday and we spent the next two-and-a-half hours just catching up. Then we went to dinner at an excellent little Italian restaurant and talked late into the evening. I’ve just now looked at my notebook. I don’t think there’s much there I can print. It’s too wild.

I’m going to try again in the morning, but already I fear there is little chance I’ll be able to do this story justice. That’s because every question and comment leads down an interesting and odd side road.

For example: Snaketown. I told Williams and McConnell about how my GPS landed me there. Larry laughed and told a hilarious tale about his daughter’s herd of bitey and impossibly fertile gerbils. And how Larry ended up taking the whole lot of them to Snaketown to become a little snack for the performing reptiles.

– Christopher Schwarz

8 thoughts on “A Visit to Clark & Williams

  1. BOB

    Mentioning Arkansas I recall that it is the only state in the Union mentioned in the Bible.

    When Moses stepped out of the boat and looked out the "ark and saw" a great wall of water….

    Silly, I know but kinda cute!

  2. PAUL (But I'm Much Better Now)

    Ghris,

    I know those roads intimately,born in Kansas,raised in Arkansas.I an 65 now living in "Kalifornia".
    I did lots of "Varmit huntin", for many years. Some hunts lasted for 3-4 days.Not, that I miss those days!
    Generations of my relatives come from the Ozarks,Eureka Springs & White County.
    Names like;
    Bailey,White,Edwards,Fowler,La Tour,

  3. Bill

    Chris,

    I agree with Chuck. You’ve gotten us intrigued enough to order their stuff to the point that the wait list for hollows and rounds is already over 2 years. Could you interview them after my planes are done in 2 years?

    Bill

  4. Chuck Nickerson

    C&W is busy enough, don’t give them more publicity. At least until after my plow plane arrives.

    Chuck

  5. Larry Chenoweth

    Chris,
    When I was at the first WIA in Berea, Kentucky I had the good fortune of having Don McConnell show me the proper way to use snipe bill planes. He took a marking gauge and scored a line down the length of a board cut on a forty five degree angle. He then grabbed a snipe bill plane and set it right in the marking gauge score line and commenced to make several fine ribbons down the length of the board without the use of a batten to run the plane against. He said this is the first process in making moulding as the snipe bill planes left a right angle area for rabbet,hollow and round planes to follow. I understand he shows this process in one of his new DVD’s but I have not aquired it yet. It is one thing to have a tool from a time gone by shown to you, but it is a special experience to have someone who has mastered making and using a tool pass this knowledge on to an unexperienced person in its proper use. It makes me think about the many times I have been out at flea markets and antique stores and run across a unique tool and have no idea how it works. If only I could find the knowledge of someone who once used this tool on a regular basis the tool would be so much more valuable to me. I am always concerned at the woodworking knowledge that goes to masters graves without being passed on. I am grateful to Don for passing this knowledge on to me. If you have not previously experienced this skill with a snipe bill plane, you have to have Don show it to you while you are there.

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