"From the time I was 6, I was making my own toys with the jack-knife, it was a joy to me that I could rely on my hands and my eyes to produce things." –Jim Krenov
On October 31, 1920 Jim Krenov was born in the small village Uelen in Siberia. As an infant, Jim and his family went to live in Shanghai, China for a number of years. After leaving Shanghai the Krenoc family immigrated to a remote village in Alaska. The remoteness of the area required airplane drops for supplies. One of the bundles dropped contained a jack-knife which Jim acquired and used to create wooden toys. This was the start of a very rewarding career in woodworking.
Eventually the family arrived in Seattle where Jim spent his teen years. Developing a love for the sea he began creating model boats before graduating to sail boats. Then the Second World War struck and Jim served as a Russian interpreter for the military.
After the war Jim and his mother moved to Paris where in 1949 he met his future wife, Britta. Jim and Britta travelled throughout Europe where they spent many summers in Sweden. It was in Sweden where Jim secured a job building wooden architectural models for a restaurant designer. Eventually he was able to attend a design school to develop his furniture designing skills. After two years Jim create his own woodworking design business.
After a few years Jim started to establish a reputation for his simple furniture design, this eventually led to him being accredited as a master woodworker. As a master craftsman Jim began to share his experiences by showing others his techniques, this lead to a renewed interest in woodworking which had been in decline by the 1950s.
Over the next few decades Jim made an extremely good living with his craft but his attitude towards woodworking never changed. He regarded himself an amateur and felt the competitive attitude of a ‘professional’ compromised the values of a craftsman. Avoiding the term ‘design’ preferring to use a more inclusive term ‘composing’. Jim felt woodworking should be reacting to wood which entailed a continual re-evaluation and improvisation.
Jim Krenov died at the age of 88, 9th September 2009 after a life time of creating highly sought after pieces and creating awe inspiring training programs. He also authored many books on woodworking and received many accolades.
In 2003, Fine Woodworking magazine asked Krenov how he would like to be remembered... He responded, “As a stubborn, old enthusiast."
A list of Jim Krenov’s books.
- (1976). A Cabinetmaker's Notebook. Studio Vista.
- (1977). The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking. Studio Vista.
- (1979). The Impractical Cabinetmaker. Van Norstrand Reinhold. .
- (1981). James Krenov: Worker in Wood. Van Norstrand Reinhold.
- Krenov; Janofsky (2000). With Wakened Hands.
- Krenov; Finck (2005). Making and Mastering Wood Planes. Sterling.
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