Eric Havener has been interested in and working with wood since he was of high school age. Now living in Indiana, he attended Western Kentucky University where he enrolled in every woodworking course offered, including a class in making guitars. He studied Master Craftsmen Dr. Frank Pittman.
At WKU Havener earned a degree in education, and he went on to teach several high-school-level woodworking classes. “As an Indiana teacher I think it is important to carry on traditions that are slowly being lost in a community where woodworking has been a way of life for many years,” he noted.
Havener joined with his father-in-law, Steve Wathen, to pursue traditional crafts. “He and I have always admired the design, functionality, and craftsmanship of Shaker oval boxes,” said Havener. They started a business to make and sell boxes that they call Lincoln Trail Woodcraft.
After many years of building Shaker-inspired furniture, the two craftsmen decided to try their hand at oval box making. In researching box-making methods and supplies, they discovered a nearby source for box supplies and size templates—John Wilson in Michigan. “We quickly ordered copper tacks and a pattern packet,” said Havener. “Once we knew all of the sizes, we were able to make all of the tooling needed to craft the boxes.”
Among the tools they made for themselves were a 70-inch water tray, drilling jig, box-bending cores, and stretchers for box sizes from 0 to 12.
The two craftsmen make their Shaker boxes from wood veneer that they mill from native hardwoods locally harvested in Southern Indiana. They make both traditional boxes with maple sides and a pine top and bottom as well as Shaker-inspired designs using various decorative hardwoods such as cherry, figured walnut, curly and bird’s eye maple. They finish their boxes with traditional milk paint, Tung oil, or lacquer.
Artists appearing in the 20201 Directory of Traditional American Crafts have been selected, and the best of their handiwork has been photographed at Cedar Grove, an 18th Century house museum operated by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Look for the Directory in our August 2021 issue.
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