Royersford furniture maker passes skills to others

A Royersford furniture maker is offering woodworking classes at Signature Gallery. Instructor Edward Schoen works on assembling a bench that will be made in the introductory class. (21st Century Media photo by Heather Tyrrell)

ROYERSFORD — After making furniture for more than 30 years, Edward Schoen is sharing his expertise — by teaching woodworking classes.

Schoen, of Perkiomenville, has owned Signature Gallery LLC at 50 First Avenue since 1987. The idea for 1st Avenue Woodworking classes came about when customers started asking questions about how to make furniture.

1st Avenue Woodworking is offering seven classes: Intro to Woodworking and Cabinetmaking 1, Woodworking and Cabinetmaking 2, Kitchen Cabinet Construction, Introduction to Veneering, Spray Finishing & Hand Applied Finishes, Hand Tool Woodworking and Ornamental Wood Carving for Furniture.

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People of all skill levels will benefit from taking the classes, Schoen said.

“Some experienced woodworkers are in a niche,” he said. “Their skill is great, but their technique can be narrow. Some people who do finishing use the same technique they used 30 years ago.”

Schoen said people can use “better and greener ways” to put finish on furniture.

Schoen received a lot of his training in furniture making on the West Coast. He took several classes at Bucks County Community College before moving to California in the 1970s. He enrolled in the Fine Arts program at the College of the Redwoods in Fort Bragg, Calif. Schoen said he worked with one of the key guys in the business and he was in his first-year class. The man that taught him, James Krenov, was in league with the furniture maker George Nakashima, Schoen said.

Schoen used to run Draper Cabinetry in Perkasie.

He said he is used to teaching people how to make furniture.

“I’ve hired people with little or no experience,” he said. “They have the better desire to learn. They make the best employees.”

Those who take 1st Avenue Woodworking’s introductory course will learn about the fundamentals of furniture and cabinet making. People who have more experience in the craft will be able to hone their skills, according to 1st Avenue Woodworking’s website, 1stavenuewoodworking.com.

Students will be making a bench during the class.

“All the grunt work is done,” Schoen said, referring to the fact that the pieces will already be cut and ready to go for the class.

His friend, Randy Pease will teach the woodcarving class.

Pease is an expert who worked with Schoen at Draper Cabinetry, he said.

During the woodcarving class, students will be learning how to create the fine details by using the basketweave and linen fold techniques. In that class, students will make a lid for a jewelry box.

The kitchen cabinetmaking class will be more involved. It will be a week-long course and cover constructing doors, drawers and cabinets, Schoen said.

Students in the veneering class are welcome to bring something in from home, he said.

The schedule for classes will depend on the students’ schedule. Schoen said most classes are two days on Saturdays and Sundays, or the classes can be once a week for five weeks. The classes will have a maximum of eight students in them. Except for the woodcarving class, Schoen will be teaching them along with another instructor, making the classes four students for each instructor.

Schoen said the classes will help simplify the furniture construction process.

“When I first started (making furniture), I didn’t have someone telling me what to do first,” he said. “I didn’t think about the steps that were in the process.”

Schoen said the classes can be a fun escape for people.

“People may not want to make furniture for a living, but some people like to tinker around on weekends,” he said. “(The classes) can be like a mini vacation for some people if they approach them that way.”

Registration can be done on the website, 1stavenuewoodworking.com.