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Frank Klausz: The Man Behind the Bow Saw

(The following is a Stumpy Nubs review of an interview conducted by David Thiel and produced by Popular Woodworking. It is available as an instant download or on DVD from the publisher.)

 

A generation of woodworking masters is passing away. Nakashima and Maloof are gone, Charles Neil isn’t getting any younger (just kidding, Charles) and Frank Klausz recently retired. That’s not to say there’s a shortage of masters. A new generation has already produced the likes of Adams, Huey, Sellers and Nubs. But the old-timers were different. And that’s why I enjoyed the new interview with Frank Klausz conducted by David Thiel and titled: “The Man Behind the Bow Saw”.

 

Let me make one thing clear- this is not your typical woodworking interview. Klausz spends plenty of time sharing stories from his illustrious career, but Thiel asks some very personal questions that probe deeply into the psyche of the Hungarian master.

His early life: Klausz was given little choice when it came to learning the craft. His family had been cabinet makers for generations and his father was the best around. But once he began his official apprenticeship everything changed. “I lost my father,” he says. The once endearing man became a harsh employer and demanding teacher. Nothing was good enough for him. “I hated that man for near ten years!” But the story doesn’t end there…

 

Flight from Communism: We are taken back to the cold war as Klausz recounts the dramatic tale of his escape from the Soviet Union, including his time as a Sergeant on the Communist border patrol and a tense encounter with a guard as he tried to sneak his wife into Vienna. I could sense pride in his voice when he spoke of his efforts to reach America for what he calls “the right reasons”.

 

Working his way up: Klausz takes us through the development of his career from cold mornings in a shop so small a log had to be fed in one window, across the band saw and out a window on the opposite wall; to the time his wife took him from shop to shop, bragging him up in German until someone would give him a chance. We see a man who was eager to work hard and refused to compromise. He was only fired once, but quit plenty of jobs as he longed to put his skills to work making quality furniture for a fair wage.

 

His business advice: Having run a business for 30 years, Klausz certainly knows how to succeed as a professional woodworker. His clients include former first ladies Jackie Kennedy and Lady Bird Johnson, and his name adorns a plaque in the New Jersey State House for the five stunning Jacobean pieces he created there. So I got a little bit closer to the edge of my seat when Thiel asks him for his advice for those looking to follow in his footsteps.

 

Retirement: After selling his business and moving his plumb bob collection to a beautiful new shop, Klausz isn’t ready to call it quits altogether. “I have always made sawdust, fished and traveled. Which one of those would you retire from?” He shares touching stories about his family and his plans for the future as he continues to teach. “The more people I have around my bench, the more enthusiastic I am to share what I know.”

 

This DVD isn’t about tips and techniques. It’s about a man who worked his way up from a boy in an old world cabinet shop to one of the finest woodworkers of our time. It’s like the recording you wish you’d made with your grandfather when he was still around to tell you about his life. Old timers like Klausz will be gone before we know it. This unique look “behind the bow saw” is sure to be a video I take out again and again as I cut out my own tiny place in the woodworking craft.

 

-SN 10/9/2014

 

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