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  • Writer's pictureWilliam Francis Brown

Al Breed - Master Furniture maker and carver teaching at Maine Coast Workshop - July 11-15, 2022

It's an honour to have Allan Breed agree to come teach a class on carving in the Newport furniture style. This class is open to intermediate to advanced carvers. We will cover a ton in this 5 day workshop including the hallmark Newport elements: concave and convex shells, ball and claw and bracket feet, and the Egyptian-like sparse knee carving seen nowhere else in colonial America.

Learn the hallmark elements of this prized colonial style

July 11-15, 2022 Register here​

Some of the most highly prized furniture by today’s collectors and museums was built in Newport, Rhode Island in the second half of the 18th century. Wealthy families commissioned elegantly proportioned and embellished pieces from the Townsend and Goddard families as well as other skilled Rhode Island craftsmen. There’s a great reward in challenging yourself as a craftsperson and recreating one or more of these iconic works. In this class I will pass on the basic processes and tricks I’ve learned in making nearly 30 Newport pieces over the years.

All the photos are Al's work.

Here's a little background about Al in his own words:

Allan Breed

Cabinet and Chair Maker, Carver

The origins of my present career as a cabinetmaker and carver lie in my fascination with history, architecture and archaeology while growing up in New England.

As I grew into my teens, my major interest became the early furniture of the area and culminated with a job in the restoration department at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston at the age of 19. I worked under Vincent Cerbone, an Italian trained cabinetmaker, and it was from Vinnie that I learned the rudiments of hide glue, carving theory and furniture construction while we took apart and reassembled pieces from the museum’s collection.

After leaving the museum I went on to get a degree in History and set up my own furniture restoration business doing work for museums and collectors. It was by working on period furniture that I learned cabinetmaking, and have gone on to reproduce many of the iconic pieces of American furniture, from the Nicholas Brown Newport secretary to a Reynolds Philadelphia Rococo mirror from the Metropolitan Museum in NY. In addition, I have made demonstration pieces and videos and given lectures in conjunction with several major museum exhibits, including the Phyfe and Townsend exhibits at the Met in NY, the “New England Begins” exhibit at the MFA in Boston and others. In 2012 I received the Cartouche Award from the Society of American Period Furniture Makers.

Throughout my career I have taught and lectured on early cabinetmaking practice, connoisseurship and hand tool cabinetmaking at my shop and at sites across the country including the education departments of both Sotheby’s and Christie’s in New York. I have presented many demonstrations and lectures at the Winterthur Furniture Forum as well as lectures on American furniture connoisseurship at Bayou Bend, The Dallas Museum of Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and others.

I have handled and evaluated hundreds of pieces of early furniture in the course of my work, and I believe this experience sets me apart from many other modern practitioners of the craft.

As noted, this class will be for intermediate to advanced carvers. We have a small class size and Al individualises his teaching to each student, so no worries about keeping up. No matter where you in your carving journey, Al has a treasure trove of experience and will be teaching you new tricks.

In addition, Camden is just a wonderful place to be in July! The shop is full of light and with wood floors, raised benches, and wonderful surroundings, this will be an experience you will always remember. One of the highlights of any class is the camaraderie that develops amongst the students. We offer a sail on the Penobscot Bay mid-week, when my captain friend is available. Spouses are welcome to join in.

The Maine Coast Workshop is an intimate space featuring:

  • 6 student benches with 2 vises each, and a master instructor's bench

  • Student hand tool and carving sets

  • Full slate of power tools including 8" jointer, 15" planer. We focus on safety!

  • Library of woodworking, carving, and traditional arts books & videos

  • Plenty of info on local eats, places to visits, beaches, and things for family to do

  • Coffee & beverages

  • Pine floors are easy on the feet

  • Lots of natural light

  • 3 blocks from the Camden Harbour

  • Lunch provided

Here's the recommended Tool List for this class:

  • #49 rasp, cabinet scrapers like Lie-Nielsen hand scraper set, dividers like Lee Valley 05N20.01, low angle block plane like Veritas 01, 05P22.51, a spokeshave like Woodjoy 2″ performance spokeshave

  • Carving tools 1-3, *1-8, 1½″ paring chisel, ¼″ same

  • *3-8, *3-12 fishtail, 3-16, 3-25, 3-30

  • 5-5, *5-12, 5-20, 5-25, 5-35

  • 7-8, 7-20

  • *8-4, *8-10, 8-11, 8-13, 8-16

  • 9-3, *9-10, 9-13, 9-5 fishtail

  • 11-2, *11-3, 11-7, 11-10

  • 12-3 bent (12A-3), *12-8

  • backbent gouges 25-3, 25-6, 25-6, 25-10, 28-10

* indicates availability as an intermediate size. I recommend these as they are easier to use and cost less.

10% Off Lie-Nielsen Tools

Lie-Nielsen will give a 10% discount on any tools purchased by students for a class. This only applies to tools they make, not other brands that they carry.

Five-Day Course

Skill Level - Intermediate

Tuition - $950, plus materials fee TBD

There will be a small materials fee which will be determined as we get closer to the class.

Be sure to fill out the questionnaire (contact info and ideas for future classes) and to include the one-time $55 Registration fee with your payment. As always, William will be sending updates and further information as we get closer to the class start. Please look over the extensive Camden information, as well as parking, lodging, etc. on the Maine Coast Workshop website.

What's New.....

We have a STORE now for all your Maine Coast Workshop needs ("needs" mind you, not "wants"): T-shirts (of course), bags, mugs. All designed by famous Parisian artisans (hah, hah).
I'm also often selling off duplicates of my carving tools (Phiel, Addis, Two Cherries, Stubai, etc.) and shop tools and paraphernalia as they become available. Also my easy sharpening/honer which I have developed and other nifty items. If anyone is looking for Virginia holly for inlay, I also have that available for sale.

I've got an article in the recent 2021 annual magazine, American Period Furniture, published by the Society of American Period Furniture Makers (I was their 32'nd member many years ago). I go through the building of a reproduction Thos. Jefferson lap desk which he carried with him for 50 years. He wrote the Declaration of Independence on this desk......

There will be an exhibit of my Bellamy eagle carvings in the Pickler Gallery in Camden, Maine from May-July, 2022. I will be giving a talk about Bellamy and my work......

You can keep up with my work on Instagram here.

Hope to see some of you this summer and fall!

God bless,


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