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Ely Folk School

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Make a Bent Willow Chair


with John Bajda

Calendar Sep 25, 2021 at 8 am

Saturday, September 25, 2021
8:00 AM - 4:00 PM

Tuition: $90  Materials $25 
One registration is good for two students and one chair.

If you have been looking for a statement chair or a way to dip your hands into furniture building for the first time, you've come to the right place! John will demonstrate making a chair from start to finish, laying the groundwork for everyone to make their own chairs. You will be amazed that you can make your one-of-a-kind, beautiful, functional, and comfortable chair in such a short time.

This furniture has long been made by country people, using the beautiful variety of materials collected in the forest. The bending quality and flexible strength of willow makes for easy construction of a comfortable, strong chair, with minimal tools. You'll be able to use your chair for years if you keep it under a roof, or keep it in your yard and make a new one every few years. Because the willow is very flexible and springy, it is best to have a partner working with you to hold the willow as you nail the sticks in place. The partner does not need to pay unless they also make their own chair.

Please bring gloves, pruning shears, and safety glasses if you have them. The folk school will provide safety glasses and earplugs if you don't have any. If you have an 18g air nailer that you can bring, please call the office to let us know. 218-235-0138.

About the instructor: John Badja is a retired high school teacher and has been teaching rustic furniture building though his local community ed program for the past 15 years.

Will run

Intro to Chip Carving


with Bart Dunning

Calendar Oct 2, 2021 at 12 pm

Saturday, October 2, 2021
12:00 PM - 4:30 PM 

Tuition: $55  Materials: $25

Chip carving is a very old craft practiced by many cultures. The patterns we typically see are based on Northern European tradition. This is an art form that almost anyone can practice. It just requires patience and a steady hand. Chip carving generally consists of a set of triangular cuts layed-out in regular, geometric patterns, but can be more free form, as in lettering and pictures. You will receive a sharp knife, the key to safety and ease of carving, and you will learn how to handle and care for the knife. You will learn to lay out a pattern for cutting, how to make the various cuts and as you develop a feel for the wood, you will learn how to deal with mistakes. You will leave with some new skills and, hopefully, a carved coaster.

About the instructor: Bart Dunning has done various woodworking activities for decades. He has built some furniture, and done some 3D carving as well as relief carving. About 20 years ago he ran across a book about chip carving and decided to give it a try. He has since chip carved numerous items ranging from little coasters to larger trivets and signs. Bart taught physiology for a number of years at several medical schools. He currently teaches skiing at Buck Hill in Burnsville, chip carving at Marine Mills Folk School, and demonstrates chip carving at the Dakota City Heritage Village at the Dakota County fairgrounds.

Snowshoe Lacing Workshop


with Peta Barrett

Calendar Oct 24, 2021 at 9 am

Friday, Saturday, and Sunday October 22-24, 2021
9:00 AM - 2:30 PM 

Tuition: $198    Materials: $122

Registration closes on October 10th to allow time for shipment of Country Ways snowshoe kits. Thank you!

When the magic sparkle of snow entices you to explore the winter lakes and woods, your hand-laced Ojibwa-style snowshoes will grant you the freedom to get there in style. This class begins with a Minnesota-made Country Ways kit that includes white-ash frames, tubular nylon lacing rated at 1,400 pound stress load, and an instruction booklet. Included in your kit will be a traditional lamp wick binding to try after you finish your ‘shoes at home with 3 coats of urethane. You’ll receive hands-on instruction every step of the way as you measure & cut your lacing material, then lace your snowshoes. 

Students should bring a pencil, Bic lighter, ruler, and sharp scissors or a knife. A wood burning tool will be provided should anyone wish to add a simple phrase, date, or design to their frame. You may also wish to bring your own water and snack, or a bag lunch.

On the final day of class, Peta will discuss and provide handouts with information/resources for the varnishing process, attaching the lamp wick binding, and choosing between the many styles of bindings available on the market, if you’d like a more ‘modern’ style to suit your needs.

About the Instructor: Peta Barrett is an avid outdoorswoman with 25+ years of wilderness trail experience leading groups in the BWCAW in all seasons, currently through her business, Women's Wilderness Discovery. She has had a life-long appreciation for the outdoors! Born and raised Minnesotan, she has always hunted, fished, camped, hiked, biked, paddled, and explored the outdoors. 


The Maasepän Puukko


with Paige May

Calendar Nov 13, 2021 at 9 am

Saturday, November 13, 2021 from 9:00 AM - 4:00 PM
Sunday, November 14, 2021 from 9:00 AM - 2:00 PM

Tuition: $144  Materials: $150

Registration will close on November 1st in order to ensure time to forge the puukko blades.

The Maasepän puukko is the oldest style of puukko, a basic villager's blacksmith knife, that dates back to the early Middle age. It is elegant in its simplicity and examples can be found using a variety of types of wood for the handles, and leather (tuppi) or birchbark (tuohituppi) sheaths.

In this class, students will learn about some of the process that goes into harvesting and preparing the handle materials for puukko making. They will shape their own maasepän puukko handles with a wood rasp and strips of sandpaper, sew the leather sheath, and learn how to take care of a carbon steel blade. This includes maintaining a good cutting edge. Students will then take home their very own puukko, with a handle and sheath they made themselves. 

The materials fee includes the blade, handle wood block, birch lesta sheath liner, epoxy, sandpaper, sheath leather, thread, needles, and sheath finishing wax. Students will need to bring their own cutting board, ruler, pencil, pliers, wood rasp, utility knife or razor blade, and thimble. If you are able, bring a set of clamps. Each day will include a lunch break - feel free to bring your own lunch or visit our neighboring restaurants. 

About the Instructor, Paige May: I grew up on a hobby farm in Northeast Nebraska, and starting at a very early age my parents got me out in the woods. I learned to fish as a toddler, and then started hunting and trapping. I’ve always liked to keep busy building things and crafting, so it’s no surprise that once I moved to Northeast Minnesota, I fell in love with wilderness here.

Over the past 13 years, I’ve focused my creative energy on using the wild fur that I trap and the raw materials from the boreal forest to create beautiful and useful things, like furry winter garments and knives. I have really resonated with the strong Scandinavian heritage in Minnesota and have gravitated towards becoming a puukko knife maker, or puukkoseppä.

While I have learned to forge puukko blades, my best friend Jamiah Mahoney at Subtle Forge, already has his smithy set up. Jamiah’s fine-tuned skills produce gorgeous high-quality carbon steel puukko, leuku and chef’s blades. For this reason, I currently source my blades from him and in so doing support not only one of my best friends, but another local business.

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