montana photographs of Al Swanson, Master Woodworker
Al Swanson is a gifted, highly skilled craftsman who uses age-old, hands-on woodworking techniques to make fine furniture at his studio in downtown Helena.
He says this dovetail joint on a bookcase he’s making demonstrates a timeless strength, elegance and beauty. “It’s all done with hand saws and chisels,” he says. “And you can tell by looking at it.”
Swanson is dedicated to his craft, despite the tremendous amounts of hand work that go into each piece he make. He teaches woodworking classes in the shop behind a large glass window in his gallery/studio.
And, like many people who move to Montana as adults, Swanson is an avid fly fisherman.
People would come from around the country to take his classes, but it was hard to send them home with a table or chair, so he needed a product that wasn’t quite so big. When he noticed fishing guides picking up their clients at a nearby hotel, he hit on the idea of a wooden fly box.
Made of quarter-sawn sycamore and tiger maple, these boxes are the result of more than 20 prototypes and hours and hours of thought and work.
See these images big here.
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