Pine Croft, Berea College and Woodworking

Maker and author Nancy Hiller posted a nuanced look at Berea College’s history and woodworking efforts. She’s taught in Berea before, at the first incarnation of the school – The Kelly Mehler School of Woodworking. She was aware of the College and it’s “tuition free” education. The article explores the connections between Berea’s mission (and how the mission drives the decision making process), the craft work happening here, and the College’s recent purchase of the Mehler school and property.

I play a part in this part of the story. I typically share my after hours woodworking on the blog. Most of my work is with the Berea College though – running Woodcraft (training and operating the shop) and with Pine Croft. It should be highlighted here more.

It’s strong work, as Nancy is just as skilled in writing as she is in making and design. I encourage you to take a couple of moments to read it – it’s about much more than woodworking.

Find Nancy’s piece on the Lost Art Press website: click here

Header Photo: Pine Croft. Photographer: Justin Skeens

Pine Croft

The reopening of The Kelly Mehler School of Woodworking.

Early in 2019, Berea College purchased the Mehler property – 10 acres, the cottages, barn and woodworking school & shop – that’s tucked into the forest just under the West Pinnacle in Berea, KY. Berea Collge now owns and operates both the cottage and the woodworking school.

the lane leading into Pine Croft

Anna Ernburg, the Director of Fireside Weavers at Berea College from 1911-140, built the log cabin and lived at the property during her life in Berea. A deep search through the archives found that Ernbrug referred to her homestead as “Pine Croft.” Boone Tavern rents out the main house – now named Pine Croft Cottage.

Because of this, The Woodworking School at Pine Croft was both “created new” and “reopened” in summer 2019. We quickly put together plans for a couple of classes. Kelly Mehler taught the first one and I taught the second, and last, of the season. Kelly’s help has been instrumental in getting the school going again and he’s on the schedule to teach again in April 2020.

I will help lead the efforts at Pine Croft. Our plans are to run it in much the same manor as Kelly did – with the emphasis on high quality instruction (and instructors) and a welcoming heart. We have 15 classes scheduled for early 2020, and five free “commmunity maker-talks.” I will teach a handful. Seven guest instructors will come to Berea to hold classes on their specialities. The classes run April through July. Kelly ran it seasonally and we anticipate a continuation of that approach.

upstairs benchroom

There’s not a plan for wild growth. My hope is that the school finds it’s footing – with a woodworking community happy to back it (Kelly’s school had immense support). The school will grow if the demand is there, otherwise it’ll stay a similar size. Growth isn’t the goal – quality and community are.

The timber-framed space will stay the same. The building faces south and collects light throughout the day. There’s a well-stocked machine room on the first floor and an open benchroom, with 12 benches, on the upper level. Lunch happens in the library or out on the deck overlooking the creek. The forested setting, budding flowers and chirping birds are distracting, but I’m able block all that out if I really focus.

spring at Pine Croft