chat log
"The Moringa Community:
A Humanitarian Woodworking
Effort in Ghana"

a Special Guest Chat with
Woodworker, Teacher, Humanitarian Organizer

with host
Ellis Walentine

January 26, 2009, 9:30 pm EST

    CLICK HERE to read Jeffry's biographical information.

Ellis Good evening, and welcome to the WoodCentral Chat Room. Our special guest tonight is Jeffry Lohr, director of the Lohr School of Woodworking and the Moringa Community Project in Ghana. Thanks for being with us, Jeff....
Jeffry Lohr I didn't think it would be fashionable to turn up late to a thing like this, so Jeffry Lohr is in the building.
Ellis You are the perfect guest, Jeff.
Jeffry Lohr We will see, ha ha.
Ellis I'm very glad that you could be here tonight. I have long admired your woodworking and design skills, and I'm particularly inspired by your work in Africa.
Jeffry Lohr Thank you Ellis.
jimslim How is the West Africa project coming?
John_S So what's the latest news from Ghana, Jeff?
Ellis I think we're all wondering about the state of play in Ghana, Jeff.
Ellis Jeff is an ace furnituremaker and instructor, so woodworking questions are welcome, but he's also a woodworker with a mission, and I hope we can talk about that as well.
jimslim Jeff, didn't you have an appentise from Ghana staying with you?
wilbur Jeff, I had a chance to look at your website, and it sure is impressive what you are doing. How often/long are you in Ghana for this work?
Jeffry Lohr His name was Abubakar, and he lived with us for three months this past summer.
Ellis How do others sign up to help your cause?
Jeffry Lohr Well the amazing thing is that this entire mission is only 8 months old.
jimslim Is he running the school now in Africa?
John_S How did you manage to teach him? His woodworking culture must be totally different to ours here in the US
Jeffry Lohr If people are really interested in the Ghana project they need to visit
WCMike Type here Good Evening Jeff, I have a woodworking question. I am just finishing a Mission-style sideboard made from quartersawn white oak. Short of fuming the finish, do you have any recommendations for a classic mission-style finish that you would recommend by rubbing or brushing on?
Charles Are there cabinetmakers in Ghana?
Jeffry Lohr Fuming is actually pretty dangerous.
Ellis What finishes do you suggest to your students?
Jeffry Lohr I am going to tell you something here but I want you to understand to be very careful with it and research how to use it before you do it. A lye solution will turn White oak brown
Ellis Lye darkens a lot of woods. I've used it on cherry.
JohnP Isn't that also a bit dangerous?
Jeffry Lohr Yep. It is an old recipe, dangerous as all get out.
Jeffry Lohr Saftey glasses, an apron, and rubber gloves.
Ellis And a vinegar bath afterwards?
Jeffry Lohr but I am not real keen on talking about this.
Ellis Ok, let's don't.
Ellis What finishes do you recommend after the darkening process?
Jeffry Lohr there are some things that are done that really need a lengthy explanation and they are best left for a text book.
jimslim I have an ash sofa table from class still with no finish on it. I'm afraid to ruin it. Anything simple to use?
Jeffry Lohr Well, the wood is oxidized a bit by now
Jeffry Lohr so I think a real safe finish is Waterlox.
Ellis My old standby.
Jeffry Lohr You can't beat it for simplicity.
Bob_in_NJ one of my new favorites
Ellis So you like to wipe varnish.
jimslim You taught so much good stuff. I couldn't remember it all. Oh yeah waterlox!! Now I remember.
Jeffry Lohr good for you Jimslim, ha ha!
Roland Jeff, how are you doing on your big table?
Ellis You used to do a linseed oil finish followed by lacquer as I recall. Is that still acceptable?
Jeffry Lohr Well Rob, Eoin and I just finished up the top today. The base is on its way.
Jeffry Lohr We are trying to get ready for the Philadelphia Inviational Furniture Show in March.
John_W. Finished with Waterlox, I assume?
Jeffry Lohr I'll be showing all new work this time.
Jeffry Lohr Believe it or not, no more Arts & Crafts
RW_Spiece The top looks quite stunning, I must say....and the base has been an adventure in design and massive glue usage.
Jeffry Lohr Hey, glad you spoke up RW...
Roland What are the dates of the show in Philly?
Jeffry Lohr Rw Spice is my journeyman cabinetmaker that has been with me for 3 years now.
Mike no more A&C? I guess your gallery needs updating...
Jeffry Lohr Eoin is my other super guy, he has been with me for 2 years.
wilbur Why are you moving away from A&C?
Jeffry Lohr Well you have to go to the freeform/live-edge section
Charles cool
Jeffry Lohr Well Wilbur, very good question.
Jeffry Lohr Wilbur asks why I am moving away from Arts & Crafts; the fact is I still love the look and the style but there is good reason to move on.
RW_Spiece You can buy Arts & Crafts furniture at Target now.
Ellis Such as it is, RW.
RW_Spiece True, enough
Charles I love Arts & Crafts Furniture
Jeffry Lohr I do too, Charles. '
Charles I wont to build a piece in Arts and Craft Style
Jeffry Lohr AS you may know, we make a significant part of our lving from building furntiture
John_S Hey, Jeff, I've been looking at your website. The woodworking 101 courses look really interesting, but as a beginning woodworker, I'm wondering if this is the best way to start for someone at my level. What do you think? Any of you ex-students have a view?
WCMike Tool question; when I took your class in 2006(?) you mentioned Adam your apprentice had a Grizzly cabinet saw and for the price point was an excellent saw. What are your thoughts on the new Grizzly saw with the riving knife?
Jeffry Lohr Ellis, I think you may be able to back me up on this statement, but I believe it is safe to say that I was among the first studio furniture makers to start showing Arts & Crafts-inspired work in the early 90’s in such venues as ACC Baltimore, Long's Park, and the Philadelphia Furniture Show.
Ellis I'll vouch for that.
Jeffry Lohr So in the early 90's being one of the few, the stuff walked off the floor.
Jeffry Lohr Being one of the first and having such an extensive collection of every single type of household furniture in the line, it was not unusual to be booked out 3 years in advance.
JohnP Is Arts & Crafts and Mission one and the same, or is there a difference?
Mike John S - as former student; will learn
Jeffry Lohr John, very good question.
Jeffry Lohr Mission-style furniture is pretty much painfully rectilinear.
clarkbaker JOhn-S . it is an amazing class and well worth your time. .
RW_Spiece We pride ourselves on giving every student an individual experience, from beginner to seasoned professional.
Jeffry Lohr Arts & Crafts takes the style to another level.
Charles both use oak right?
Jeffry Lohr Arts & Crafts is more interpretive.
Jeffry Lohr It is not just a look it is a way of designing
WCMike I took Jeff's Woodworking 101 class and it was outstanding. He teaches you the correct way to woodworking tasks and even more importantly the safe way. Worth every penny and then some, assuming you are lucky enough to get a spot.
Jeffry Lohr It has purpose-made joinery throughout.
jimslim How did you come to embrace freeform live edge?
Jeffry Lohr hey Thanks WC Mike!
RW_Spiece I think one thing that has made Jeff's furniture so unique is that he didn't feel the need to only use white oak. The color and depth of walnut and cherry really make his A&C furniture what it is.
Jeffry Lohr I was trying to get to that.
Jeffry Lohr Ha, this can go in a lot of directions.
Charles The reason I like Arts & Crafts and Misson furniture is because I like building with oak
Jeffry Lohr I still accept commissions in my own Arts & Crafts interpretive style, but to make a living as a furniture maker you do really shoot yourself in the foot if you are making what everyone else is making.
John_W. So are you going as much live edge as possible?
frank_b Jeff, is your sawmill up and running and how does that come into play with your new live edge work?
RW_Spiece It's funny that as just as we're moving out of the A&C direction, we are starting to use more and more white oak.
Jeffry Lohr Even though the style is still hot , you really can’t swing a dead cat these days without running into dozens of Arts & Crafts and Mission style furniture makers. In my book, when Ethan Allen starts making things similar to the work of studio furniture makers, it is time to move on.
Charles Yes I've agree Jeffry
Ellis A lot of woodworkers get into the A&C vein because of the familiar aesthetic and the relatively regular construction, interpretative or not. It is definitely a platform for expression as well.
Jeffry Lohr So enter live edge free form work.
Ellis Nakashima was onto that idiom.
Jeffry Lohr We now have our own mill and can make alot of our stock ourselves.
Jeffry Lohr Yes, you got it ellis.
Ellis Let the wood speak for itself.
Jeffry Lohr I guess what has made Arts & Crafts and mission style furniture so popular among woodworkers is that fact that you have a lot of straight lines to it.
Ellis Furniture for Everyman
Jeffry Lohr From a production standpoint, it’s comparably easy to make in contrast to radically curved work.
Charles I pefer building Shaker Furniture
Jeffry Lohr A mantra that is spoken by many professional furniture makers like myself is that profitability of a project is inversely proportional to the number of curves you have in the work.
John_S There seems to be rather a lot of curved forms in the pics I can see on the website of the new stuff...
JohnP I've read that before.
Ellis ...unless you're jigged up to make those curves efficiently.
Mike Ah... the secret of profit
Ellis Stands to reason
Jeffry Lohr Now many a non-professional may say, “hey I think curved work is great” or “Hey, I do curves all the time, they aren’t so bad” The key here is, are your creations your sole source of income?
jimslim Jeff gotta go.... Keep up the great work! and Please stay in good health!!!!
Ellis Jeff, what makes your classes different from all the other workshops out there?
Ellis How many students do you have at any given session?
Jeffry Lohr Ten. Each student has his own bench.
Ellis And what's special about your course of instruction?
Ellis What do they learn?
Ellis Is there a skill level that you teach to, or does everyone get instruction suited to his/her particular level?
Jeffry Lohr The key is, however, that we have 3 tablesaws, 4 jointers, 3 thickness planers and 3 instructors, so beleive me, it is very unsuaual for anyone to have to wait arround in line.
Charles thats a lot of tools Jeffry
Charles you have a bandsaw in your shop?
Jeffry Lohr yes
Ellis Jeff, can people sign up online for your classes?
FredD how do you handle liability issues Jeff?
Jeffry Lohr Yes, there is usually a waiting list but anyone that really wants to get in will get in.
Jeffry Lohr You just have to go to
Roland Jeff first teaches about reading the wood that you have at hand and deciding how to memorialize its natural beauty. Then he demonstrates a variety of approaches to woodworking techniques and assists each student to make their own decisions and to advance as far as possible with their level of skills.
RW_Spiece I think what's special about the course is that each student starts with three rough sawn boards and each has their own separate journey into making a table. Those that are more advanced can be challenged and those that are just beginning are guided. We do make a point of not doing anything for our students.
Jeffry Lohr Thank you Roland that was a good description.
mike_in_montana Jeff, I have taken your classes two times. Each time was worth several times the cost and the time involved, including my travel from Montana to Swenksville.
Ellis So, Roland and RW, you are Jeff's assistants?
RW_Spiece I am....Roland took the course a few months ago.
Ellis Aha.
Roland I was a student last September
Ellis Excellent.
John_W. I thought it was worth it but I only had to come from Michigan.
Jeffry Lohr Ha, what a trip John.
Ellis I'm only 45 minutes from Schwenksville. I need to visit more often.
John_S Do you really have people coming from all across the country?
John_W. One day out, one day back!
mike_in_montana Mike in Montana here. Ther is nothing like Jeff's instruction. I have traveled through various states taking classes. Jeff is the only one worth taking.
Jeffry Lohr What a nice thing to Say mike,,!
Ellis That's saying a lot.
Ellis Jeff, not to change the subject too abruptly, but how did you get involved with the community in Ghana?
Jeffry Lohr Well I'll try to make this as short as possible, it is a rather lengthy story.
Ellis Bullet points, please.. :)
mike_in_montana Speaking of Ghana, I have contributed to Jeff's effort in the four figures, not enough but enought to tell you that it is a worthwhile cause. Every dollar goes to Ghana, not like other charities.
Jeffry Lohr You know I am hopeful people here will take a look at
Ellis We're running banners. I hope people are checking in.
Ellis Can woodworkers help in other ways besides direct monetary contributions?
Bob_in_NJ I looked the site over a bit today. I was impressed with the Third World machine setup, very clever.
Jeffry Lohr The amazing thing about the project is that 90% of it's entire funding has been from students of the J.D.Lohr School of Woodworking
mike_in_montana It is astounding what Jeff put together for a shop to work in Ghana, costing so little money. I cannot urge you enough to support this effort.
Jeffry Lohr we pride ourselves on what Mike in Montana says.
Charles Yes
Ellis That's great. Now how do you reach out to the rest of the world?
Jeffry Lohr This project is nearly a full time job and everyone does it for no pay. It is just the right thing to do.
Jeffry Lohr In fact, several of our staff are past students, including our accountant Frank Ruff.
Ellis I keep thinking that there must be foundations that fund this sort of effort'
Bob_in_NJ Bill and Melinda Gates come to mind....
Jeffry Lohr Our Fiscal sponsor was a past student
mike_in_montana Yes, Jeff says it all. It is the right thing to do. Jeff and his wife have expanded this so much that each and every dollar reaps several dollars of benefit. My recommendation is just transfer the money to Jeff. You cannot find anyone else more honest.
Jeffry Lohr Now boy would we love to connect with Bill and Milanda Gates
Charles They would be somebody to contact Bob
Charles Thats great idea Bob.
Bob_in_NJ Have you attempted to contact them?
Roland I have wondered about EXXON and SHELL Foundations since they have so much oil production in Africa.
Jeffry Lohr We have written everone many times. '
Jeffry Lohr and Oprah too!
Jeffry Lohr ..but it has just been students and friends that have made this happen to date.
mike_in_montana Bill and Melinda seem to be off on their own, on AIDS and such, and it is so sad that the Ghana project is not visible enough.
Jeffry Lohr I guess I should explain a bit what specifically was done .
John_W. Get Abu to send them emails. He'll never give up!
Ellis Maybe you need a success story in Ghana to convince major donors that your concept can work for the rest of the Third World.
Bob_in_NJ Yes I got that impression from looking over the Gates foundation web info.
Jeffry Lohr We need all the help we can get
mike_in_montana We need someone who has a connection to make this more visible, someone who knows someone.
Jeffry Lohr ...but amazingly we have made enourmous progress.
JohnP I must run. I will check out the web site. Jeff, thanks and I wish you well on your noble effort.
Jeffry Lohr The foundation was just poured for our training center on nine acres of land we acquired in the village of Bako, central region.
mike_in_montana Lastly, might we all on this chat agree to send our own contributions? Not a bad start.
Jeffry Lohr hey mike, now you are on a roll,,
Ellis I'll be happy to donate.
Jeffry Lohr We made a machine that Third World woodworkers can easily make for themselves.
Ellis I just wonder how you might get other American woodworkers to help in other ways as well?
Ellis How about donating their unused routers and skilsaws?
Bob_in_NJ You might look at marketing that machine design to fund the Ghana project....
Jeffry Lohr There is a problem with that, Ellis. We need 230-volt machines.
mike_in_montana Jeff, I only wish I could do more. When I have seen what you have done, it brings tears to my eyes and humbles me.
Ellis Ah, so you need European models?
Jeffry Lohr yes
Jeffry Lohr 230 volt 50 hertz
Ellis How about voltage converters?
Ellis Transformers
Jeffry Lohr We have been trying to get tool companies to donate circular saws and routers but so far no luck, which is really foolish on their part.
Jeffry Lohr I think this is going to be pretty big in Ghana at least.
wilbur Have to get to bed -- this has been fascinating. Thanks jeff, Ellis!
Ellis I see it as having much wider application
Bob_in_NJ Nite wilbur
Ellis Bye Wilbur
Jeffry Lohr For $500 they essentially will have a tablesaw, jointer, and planer
mike_in_montana I wonder whether General of Quebec might help? It just came out with machines for the handicapped.
Roland Is this a project that would fit with Heifer Project?
Jeffry Lohr You know Roland we have been trying to work that angle.
Jeffry Lohr People could buy a Euro circular saw for an African Carpenter
Jeffry Lohr The key with this project is to help Africans help themsevles.
Jeffry Lohr It is not just charity; it is to create a cottage industry enviorment and economy.
Ellis What other foundations are trying to enable impoverished communities?
Bob_in_NJ Yes, I like that whole aspect of the project, one of those 'teach a man to fish' type things
mike_in_montana That is the point. Each and every dollar goes to helping them help themselves. It is not a handoout.
Charles Yes I think its a great project
Roland The Kellog Foundation and World Bank have large community development projects
Roland The PEW Foundation also funds a lot of large projects for education and community development
Ellis Well, I do think it would be good to piggyback with a larger charity.
Jeffry Lohr I know it is getting late for those on the East Coast here tonight so before a lot of people leave I want to be srue they know to connect to our websites sometime. and
Charles Jeffry you teach the students hand tool use as well?
Jeffry Lohr Yes we do Charles.
Jeffry Lohr The way the class works is this.
mike_in_montana Yes, it is good for us to brainstrom on getting bigger entites to help. My best estimate is that we need to continue plodding along, each of us helping Jeff and his team keep it going by funding what we can. In time, this will become further noticed and then things will happen. Meanwhile, it takes you and I to keep it going to see it through. An accomplishment is not easy and is easy to dismiss, but so what. That is just what it takes.
Jeffry Lohr You send a good message, Mike!
Jeffry Lohr Charles the way the class works is we teach everything three different ways: first we do each joint by strictly hand tools; next we do the same joint with hand held powertools; and finally with stationary machines.
Ellis Well, the WoodCentral community is always behind selfless efforts like this. Not everyone is in a position to donate vast sums (we're woodworkers after all), but there is a viral marketing aspect to all this. If we can tell friends and have them tell friends, the word spreads. I think that marketing is a key element here.
Charles I am just one of them folks that does all of the finish work with hand tools
Jeffry Lohr The woodworking student picks what best suits there home shop
Ellis That's an interesting way to teach the gamut of skills, Jeff.
Jeffry Lohr It works well.
Bob_in_NJ thats a great method
John_S Do you teach how to set up and maintain machine tools?
Jeffry Lohr Yes John..
Jeffry Lohr We demonstrate how to tune your tablesaw, how to change the knives in your jointer and planer. The to tune a jointer and planer to cut as well as it can. A jointer should never ever have any snipe. A planer should not have it either but a lot do. Most times you can tune it out.
Ellis Do you get into design aesthetics, or mostly the mechanics of joinery?
Jeffry Lohr Yes we spend time on design, and also how to make a drawing and a full bill of materials.
Mike Jeffry - you were planning a video a while back.What is prospect of that happening?
Jeffry Lohr Mike I know you have heard that repeatedly. Yes we are still working on it but it is not ready for JQ.Public yet.
Ellis Well, I'd like to be the fly on the wall sometime when you're in session, Jeff.
Jeffry Lohr We can talk about that Ellis. \
Jeffry Lohr I think you would find the experience here unique.
Ellis I'm sure. It was unique 15 years ago when I first visited you.
Jeffry Lohr You haven't seen the new 3,600 sq ft shop and the 2,400 sq. ft sawmill building Ellis. '
Jeffry Lohr You got to come.
Jeffry Lohr I'll treat you to a beer.
Ellis I definitely want to continue to support your efforts overseas. Let me know how I can help.
Jeffry Lohr or well water if you prefer.
Ellis And, I'll take you up on that beer.
Bob_in_NJ 6K sq feet of sawmill and shop, sounds like a vacation resort!:)
Jeffry Lohr Well we now can take donations directly to MoringaCommunity.Org
Charles Makes my little shop looks like peanuts :)
Ellis Tax deductible?
Jeffry Lohr We are a legal noprofit now so donations are fully tax deductible. '
Bob_in_NJ Excellent, you got your 501.c3 status filed?
Jeffry Lohr Charles, my first shop was the second floor of an apartment.
Charles ok
Ellis Set up a PayPal account for yourself. It makes it easier to donate.
Jeffry Lohr I have to do that, and about 1,000 other things. I don't want to have another heart attack.
Bob_in_NJ Yes, Paypal will let you setup subscription-type monthly donations etc.
clarkbaker I took Jeff's class last Nov. It was everything he represented on his website. Frankly I was afraid of some of my tools and not as respectful of others. Jeff taught the tools and the safe way to use them. His Ghana project is fully worthwhile. . . as is his class.
clarkbaker Have to bail . . thanks Jeff.
Jeffry Lohr Hey one thing I will warn folks here
Jeffry Lohr I get up at 6 am so 11pm Eastern is my bed time.
Bob_in_NJ We're all Old, Jeff, :)
Ellis I get up at 4am, so I'm already past mine... :)
Mike better than alternative to being old
Ellis Okay, well I'll wrap things up at this point.
Bob_in_NJ I watch TV with my eyes closed for an hour or two every night
Ellis Thanks Jeff for coming out to talk to us tonight.
Jeffry Lohr Ellis and everyone, it was my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Ellis I hope that some of our WoodCentral folks contribute in some way to your cause, and take your classes.
Bob_in_NJ Jeff, thanks, this has been a great chat, hope to see you back here soon.
John_S Thanks for your advice and enthusiasm, Jeff. Your ex-students are great advocates for you
Ellis Yeah, your guys are great. You've taught them well.
Jeffry Lohr They are the best John,,,, look what they did for my (our) Ghana project
Ellis The key is going to be to get beyond your inner circle. I hope we can help somehow.
Jeffry Lohr That would be wonderful Ellis, I have been trying to do that for the past 6 months, but I am proud what I, Eoin, Rob, my wife Linda and our the students have done.
Ellis You have a dedicated following.
Jeffry Lohr They are great.
Ellis See you all later. Jeff, I'll see you soon!
Jeffry Lohr I love them all. '

About Jeffry Lohr:
Jeffry Lohr is an accomplished studio furniture maker and woodworking teacher who runs a state-of-the-art furniture studio, school and sawmill at his 13-acre horse farm in Schwenksville, PA. Jeffry is well-known for his unique Arts & Crafts furniture and his more recent live-edge, free-form furniture, which graces the homes of collectors in 30 states across the country. Since 2001, over 580 students have participated in his hands-on, machine-based woodworking course aptly entitled "Practical Woodworking," taught by Jeffry and his two assistants and offered as one-week-long sessions eight times a year.
     In 2008, Jeffry and his wife Linda founded, a non-profit philanthropic project that seeks to bring cottage industry education to West Africa and to provide hope for a brighter, more self-sufficient Africa through the creation of sustainable small local economies. Through their efforts and those of a poor yet remarkably intelligent and resourceful native African named Abu, they have secured a nine-acre parcel of land in Ghana. Funded almost entirely by alumni of the J.D. Lohr School of Woodworking, the first Moringa Community Training Center is already under construction. For more information on the Moringa Community visit their website: