Thetford Center Furniture Maker Shares Craft with Emerging Woodworkers
Garrett Hack, an accomplished furniture-maker, writer and educator, carries old fence posts through a red pine forest on his Thetford Center farm. “This is what I do,” he said. “I turn a local product into a good thing. It takes a ton of wood, and all the shavings go to bed my animals. They love it. It satisfies all my kindling needs, too. I love it.” (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
A thirst for bridging cultures with his craft has sent Garrett Hack across the globe to teach woodworking classes. These traditional tools were given to him during a recent trip to Japan. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Thetford Center furniture-maker Garrett Hack examines wood to be used for an upcoming project in his shop. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Hack uses a wood plane to smooth the surface of a cabinet under construction inside his shop. “My father was very practical and my mother had a really nice artistic side,” he said. “I learned a lot from her about making things.” (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Jazz, an 8-year-old Belgian draft horse, helps Hack log trees that he uses to build his furniture. “Come on, Jazz,” Hack said between directional commands. “Let’s focus on what we need to do.” (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
The intricacies of Hack’s “Port” cabinet, built with Douglas fir, cherry, rosewood, aspen and bone, with painted overlays by his wife, Carolyn Enz Hack. (Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Garrett Hack begins work on a new piece of furniture in his wood shop in Thetford Center. "You have to have a lot of patience," Hack said. "And a certain amount of common sense, to some degree."
(Valley News - Ryan Dorgan) Purchase photo reprints »
Thetford Center — When Thetford furniture-maker Garrett Hack talks about his 38-year career, he uses words like “blessed,” “lucky” and “satisfaction.” Hack, who also writes about woodworking and travels the world to teach it, says diversity — and a constant desire to improve — keep him excited about his work.
“It’s an evolution for me,” Hack said last week. “I feel lucky that I found it.”
A Connecticut native, he studied architecture and civil engineering at Princeton University. He worked in engineering for a short time after graduating in 1974, but he’d caught “a bug for woodworking” in high school, and it wasn’t long before he took up carpentry and furniture making.
“I knew I wanted to something with my hands,” said Hack, who went on to study in Boston University’s artisanry program.
And, he said, it’s not all that far off from engineering. “How do you design structures that are aesthetically pleasing but that function well? That’s still what I’m doing.”
In 1979, he moved to Thetford. There, on the grounds of his 24-acre farm, he built his shop, a brick Federal-style building.
The workshop is a pleasant jumble of tools, drawings and all sorts of wood, some pieces in use, others waiting for the right project to come along. He tries to focus on one piece at a time, Hack said. At the moment, it’s a butternut chest for a client in Charlestown, S.C.
Last Tuesday, Tom Latourelle, 33, pushed a small metal plane across a wide board for the chest’s interior. As he smoothed the surface, curly blond shavings piled up around him on the wooden floor.
“On a good day, that’s what happens,” said Hack, 60, smiling.
Hack says he enjoys working with younger artisans like Latourelle, a Norwich resident who helps in the shop two days a week. And he’s eager to pass on his skills to aspiring woodworkers.
A member of the New Hampshire Furniture Masters Association, Hack has written two books, The Handplane Book and Classic Hand Tools. He is also a contributing editor with Fine Woodworking magazine.
He’s traveled the U.S. and to Japan, Italy, Germany, England and Canada to teach and study, and for the second year running, he’s received a private grant to mentor emerging woodworkers under the age of 35. He also leads an annual winter workshop in his studio.
During the popular “Saturday Seminars,” Hack demonstrates, step by step, how to make a particular piece of furniture. Each week, he models various aspects of the project, such as making a joint or cutting out a leg. Then, his students head home to create their own versions.
The workshop, which is “really interactive,” starts off with a talk about design. It’s a topic Hack is passionate about.
He doesn’t have a name for his style, he said, but people have told him it’s distinctive.
“I do a lot of decorative stuff,” he said, such as using ebony and holly, a light-colored wood, for inlay and beading.
Some of his pieces feature decorative panels painted by his wife, the artist Carolyn Enz Hack. He also aspires to make his furniture as lightweight as possible.
“It’s easy to build battleships,” he said. “I’d rather build yachts.”
Aimee Caruso can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3210.