Teachers and Craftsmen
Each teacher uses his own practical experience as a furniture maker to teach others the methods and techniques in the classes. The custom furniture business and woodworking school work hand in hand, with the teachers being able to hone their furniture-making skills by working on different furniture projects when not teaching. So the learning continues even for the teachers! Following is a short description of each instructor who teaches at Heritage School of Woodworking, and those who work for the furniture business.
In 2006 Jonathan Schwennesen had an opportunity to begin an informal apprenticeship with Frank Strazza at the age of 17. He spent 4 years working with Frank, learning the fundamental skills needed to build custom and speculative pieces of furniture.
After his four year apprenticeship, he began working for Homestead Heritage Furniture building custom furniture for different clients, gaining additional experience and knowledge making Windsor chairs, federal-style cabinets, clocks, workbenches, sleigh beds and even a waterwheel! It was during this time that he began to show an interest in teaching. Jonathan became a teacher’s assistant in 2009. He quickly began gaining the knowledge and skill to teach some classes himself. Now he spends most of his time working for the woodworking school. “My desire is to teach others an important aspect of life: working with your hands.”
Stan Beckworth began his woodworking career in 1983. His wide experience in woodworking enables him to teach as a practicing master craftsman. He began woodworking because of a desire to work with his hands and pass some hand skills to his children. Some of the classes he teaches are the Finishing class, Relief Carving class, Foundational Classes and the Advanced Furniture courses, such as the Chest of Drawers and Rocking Chair classes.
Stan has spent a lot of time learning about furniture finishes, as well as relief carving, studying with Mary May, a renowned woodcarver in South Carolina.
When Stan isn’t teaching, he runs a small remodeling business at his home and builds and refinishes furniture for different clients. He has been commissioned to make furniture for several congressmen as well as refinishing furniture for past presidents. ”Being able to pass on practical skills that are useful for everyday application is what I love to do.”
At the age of 9, Mark’s interest in woodworking began, which led him to begin an apprenticeship with Homestead Heritage Furniture at the age of 17. In his own shop he has built many pieces of furniture from small dovetail boxes to large 10′ round conference tables. Most of his work has been for clients who have ordered custom pieces for their homes and offices. Mark has been building custom furniture for the last 20 years and is now the manager of the Heritage Furniture business.
Mark enjoys making hand tools and jigs that can simplify the building process. He has taught children how to shape simple utensils like wooden spoons and cutting boards as well as other larger projects. “Seeing the young grow to maturity in their craft is what I appreciate.”
Timothy Anz began an apprenticeship in 2011 working with different craftsmen at Heritage Furniture. At the end of his apprenticeship in 2013 he made an exit-piece that won Best of Show at the Texas Furniture Makers Show. His attention to detail can be seen in everything he makes, as you will see if you handle one of the tools he frequently makes for our shop. Timothy is setting up his own home shop now and will continue to produce quality furniture for our business.
Joe Slack has 30 years’ experience crafting wood. Having played guitar for 40 years, he continues to play and also teach guitar lessons. Joe teaches guitar making through seminars and workshops here at the woodworking school. His goal is to help each student make a quality instrument and continue guitar making at home.
Frank Strazza’s interest in woodworking began at the age of 7 when his mother bought a small hand crank drill for him from an antique store; since then his passion for woodworking has never ceased. He made his first project at the age of 12: a hand-cut, dovetailed cedar chest! Frank began an apprenticeship in Austin in 1992 at the age of 17, then later moved to Waco, Texas, to continue his learning with Homestead Heritage Furniture. Many woodworkers know Frank for his willingness to undertake difficult and complex projects. Because of this he has learned about marquetry, inlay, tool making, violin making, carving and green woodworking to name a few.
Frank has been an excellent teacher here in our shop and while he has chosen to step aside for a time, we hope he will be rejoining us here in offering woodworking education to you all. Frank was also a real asset to our online courses and we hope to continue to expand them. In the meantime please continue to send us your requests for furniture critiques and pictures (see our Q&A comments section).