Preserving heritage

Andrew Jones shows off one of the milling areas at Jessup Mill.

Mike Davis and Andrew Jones are working toward creating a heritage center at Jessup Mill. They are going to start this summer with a series of woodworking workshops held on the third Saturday of each month.

Do you know how to build a chair? How to make a piece of pottery? How to cook molasses?

These are all skills that many people in Stokes County used to possess, but have been lost over the years as society has moved from its agrarian roots into a more consumer based technological world.

They are also all skills that Andrew Jones and Mike Davis hope to continue teaching in the area, with a dream of creating a heritage center at Jessup Mill in the northern part of the county.

“The long-term goal is just keeping those skills sharp and in a position of being able to be passed down,” said Jones.

“We are really hoping to attract local people. This county is in a transition form tobacco to whatever,” agreed Davis. “We are hoping to be help people build skills and attract crafts customers to the area. We are looking at building something that will help the area.”

The first step toward that dream will start this Saturday as Davis offers the first in a series of woodworking workshops at the mill.

The series of beginner level classes will be open to anyone 13-years-old or older and will help participants get started in wood working with hand tools.

The series of classes will kick off Saturday with a free open house and tool sharpening workshop held from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Classes are planned to be held every third Saturday, starting on July 18.

The first class will cover choosing old or new, fair prices for tools, restoring, sharpening, maintaining and storing hand tools. Bring any old tools you may have and learn to sharpen and care for them. A list of suggested tools will be provided and some tools are available to be shared in class.

The July 18 class will study saws and build a saw bench.

For Aug. 15, the class will study planes and take rough lumber to finished boards.

Sept. 19, class will study shop furniture building a bench hook, and a tool tote.

Oct. 17, boxes and case work will be discussed and we will practice dovetail joinery.

The fee will be $75 each class for adults and $40 each class for students from 12 to 18 years old. A discount of 20 percent is available for those who choose to prepay for all 6 classes. Sign up available at Class sizes will be limited to around five people.

“These are not designed to be something where you come and listen to a lecture,” said Davis. “It is come and get some supervised work with tips and instruction and adjustments as you along to build skill upon skill.”

Davis said he hopes to help students build their own tool collections to use the skills they learn at home.

“We encourage people to build their own tool chest and fill it up with tools,” he said. “We will have instructions on selecting, refurbishing and maintaining tools.”

Jones said they hope to expand the program to include other traditional crafts like pottery and glass blowing.

“We are definitely open to other practitioners of heritage crafts,” he said. “Some of the other heritage skills we have had around here have been cane press grinding and molasses cooking. This fall we will also have a family here making apple butter. We are looking for things that are a connection to the area’s past, but could also be a connection to the area’s future.”

Nicholas Elmes may be reached at 336-591-8191 or on Twitter @NicholasElmes.

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