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Meet Our Woodworking Instructors

Meet the Highland Woodworking Instructors

Highland Woodworking's education program attracts many talented and qualified woodworkers and craftsmen willing to impart their knowledge and share their skills with those eager to learn.

Carley Abner
This award-winning artist began his journey of woodworking over 50 years ago while working in his Dad’s cabinet and church furniture shop. It was there that he learned to love and appreciate the natural beauty of wood. When he acquired a shop of his own he started with small items, moved onto furniture and kitchen cabinets, then realistic wood cravings and even wooden hats.  But none of those items consumed his thoughts as much as building wooden canoes and kayaks.  If you run across Carley at an art show, you will find him more than eager to talk woodworking. Carley thoroughly enjoys building these boats but he says, “It is a true joy watching a client paddle them.” Carley’s boats have been featured on the TV show “Hand Crafted America” and in Garden & Gun magazine as well as a 3-time first place winner at the Georgetown Wooden Boat Show in Georgetown, South Carolina. Each of Carley’s award-winning kayaks or canoes are a one-of-a-kind work of art. See Carley's work at

Chad Awalt
Since earning his bachelors' degree in Anatomy and Physiology in 1981, Chad has actively pursued his talent for carving by studying under the masters. He is a Colleague of the National Sculpture Society, and his work has been shown all over the country and has won many awards. Visit his website at

Julie Bender
Julie Bender is an accomplished fine artist who is enthralled with pyrography, the art of wood burning. Her work is driven and motivated by her passion for art and nature, the animal and human form. She successfully captures the soul and character of her subjects by bringing to her art work that "special spark" that sometimes is nothing more than a twinkle in someone's eye, or the mischievous bend in the corner of a smile. Visit her website at

Curtis Buchanan
Curtis has been making Windsor chairs for a living since 1984 and has taught a number of workshops in the U.S. and abroad. He has written articles for and has been featured in Woodwork, Home Furniture, Fine Woodworking and American Woodworker. He is also the co-founder of Greenwood, a community-based sustainable forestry initiative in Latin America. His work can be seen on his web site at

Jane Burke
Jane was born in South Africa and moved to Paraguay in 1987 where she was introduced to marquetry. Since moving to the US in 1996, she has developed her own marquetry technique which she promotes by giving seminars around the US at woodworking shows and clubs and through sales of her DVD, The Art of Marquetry. Jane has also appeared on several TV shows demonstrating how marquetry is done, as well as having articles published in magazines in the UK, USA and Japan. Jane sells her work through her website,

Tom Calisto
Tom Calisto has been making things of wood and metal for the better part of his life. He became serious about crafting furniture while studying Mechanical Engineering in college. Due to a lack of funds he began building his own hand tools. At first it was simple marking gauges and laminated bench planes. Over the years it has evolved to dovetailed infill planes, brass and rosewood sliding t-bevels, hand saws and even a few power tools such as a long bed lathe and horizontal slot mortiser. He has written several articles for Popular Woodworking and Fine Woodworking magazines. He lives with his family near Chapel Hill North Carolina and teaches regularly at Roy Underhill’s Woodwright’s School in Pittsboro, NC. .

Nate Chambers
Nate had been working framing houses, and decided one day that he wanted to learn how to carve a bowl. Early on he learned that he needed to make decisions without even being aware of it: proper wood selection, tool selection and, most importantly, where to receive proper instruction. In the past ten years he has been able to study with some of the best craftsmen and women working today. He makes functional tableware. Spoons, bowls, cups, rice buckets, cutting boards. All are born out of thousands of years of tradition and well considered elements of function and design. All are handmade. They are not sanded and come finished with the clean marks made by a sharp tool. Careful thought goes into each piece that he makes, and the price of his items directly reflects the care and consideration involved. For more information visit his website at

Phil Colson
Phil has been working with wood for most of his life. His father, who was a master craftsman, exposed him to woodworking at an early age. It was here that he developed his love of wood. As a young man he was a dancer, stained glass designer and horticulturist. He brings all three of these disciplines to his turnings; a sense of balance, design and knowledge of wood. He selects pieces of wood for their inner beauty and unique grain patterns. Phil has studied with Nick Cook, Franck Johanneson, Chris Stott, Ray Key and Christophe Nancy from France. Visit his woodturning website at

Jim Dillon
Jim Dillon has been teaching at Highland since 2000. His day job is as Cabinetmaker at Fernbank Science Center, building exhibits. He was self-employed as a custom furniture maker for 8 years, and before that, taught college English. He finds that coaching other woodworkers to develop their problem-solving and hand skills is an inspiration for his own work.

Mark Duginske
Fourth-generation woodworker Mark Duginske has written 10 woodworking books - including Band Saw Handbook, the best selling band saw book in the world - made instructional videos and has been a contributing editor to Fine Woodworking magazine. Also an inventor, Duginske holds six patents for woodworking machine accessories and recently licensed his patented FastTrak product line to Kreg Tool Company. Over the last fifteen years he has taught woodworking classes for people of all skill levels from Maine to California, and has now set up his own woodworking school in Wisconsin, Prairie River Woodworking.

Bob Flexner
Bob Flexner has operated his own furniture making and restoration shop in Norman, Oklahoma for 30 years. For the last 15 years, he has taught wood finishing and restoration. His accomplishments include writing the authoritative and best-selling book, Understanding Wood Finishing, now in its second, fully revised edition, editing Finishing and Restoration (Professional Refinishing) magazine, making the award-winning videos, Repairing Furniture and Refinishing Furniture, and writing the long-running columns "Finishing" in Woodshop News and "Flexner on Finishing" in Popular Woodworking. Bob is probably best known for defining the products used in wood finishing and organizing them into categories that make them easily understandable.

Peter Galbert
Peter Galbert is a full time chairmaker. Before specializing in green wood chairmaking he built custom cabinetry and furniture as well as museum displays.Peter has taught at many craft schools around the country including the Penland School of Crafts, the North Bennet Street School, the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship, Peters Valley Craft School, Kelly Mehlers School of Woodworking, Highland Woodworking and the Arrowmont School of Crafts.

Mike Goldberg
I helped a friend restack an old heart pine log cabin in the late seventies. As I held the end of this massive, beautifully hewn timber, I was mesmerized by the precision that a carpenter some 100+ years earlier had carved this dovetail joint with only an axe. And it fit perfectly! I was hooked and have been striving for that same perfection ever since. I’m sure it had something to do with having an excellent woodshop teacher in high school, but clearly there had to be some kind of taste for wood in my psyche. After spending most of the 80’s building log homes, I was bored by the roof systems we kept putting on them, 4x8 rafters. Then one day another friend put a mortise machine in my hands and showed me the mortise and tenon. I had to have more, so I joined this group of guys up north called The Timberframers Guild. And it was through them I truly found home. That seemed like a lifetime ago. It could be said I chose heavy timber, but in retrospect I truly believe timber building chose me because it gave me the chance to work on projects around the world, with the most talented people in the industry today. Looking back,  I can’t help but be humbled by more than 30 years of gracious opportunities given me by these fellows of timberframing.

Steven Johnson
Steven Johnson is retired from an almost 30-year career selling medical equipment and supplies, and now enjoys improving his shop, his skills, and his designs on a full time basis (although he says home improvement projects and furniture building have been hobbies for most of his adult life). Steve Johnson, AKA The Down to Earth Woodworker, contributes regularly to Highland's Wood News Online newsletter, our You tube channel and does product reviews for woodworking tools.
Check out some of his videos and articles:

Frank Klausz
At the age of 14, Frank began his woodworking career in an apprenticeship system that had remained essentially unchanged since the Middle Ages. What was unusual about it, was that Klausz entered into a formal, contractual apprenticeship with his own father. At the end of four years, Frank became a certified journeyman cabinetmaker, on his way to becoming a master (which required one year of work in each of three different shops). Ten years later, Frank and his wife, Edith, packed their lives in three suitcases and left Hungary. Like the journeymen of old, Frank was on the road except that his only tools were his hands and head, not chisels and saws in a toolbox strapped to his back. Over the years Frank has built furniture for the New Jersey State House, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Malcolm Forbes amongst others. He has taught numerous woodworking seminars in the US and Canada and we offer a series of his DVD's.

Jim LeClaire
Jim began carving on and off about 20 years ago doing mostly folk art replicas of Santa Claus and humorous caricatures.  He began teaching wood carving to himself with books and periodicals. When he moved to Northfield, MN in 2000, Jim took lessons from Marv Kaisersatt and developed a friendship with the Whillock family in Faribault, MN. Chris and Ivan Whillock were extremely helpful in guiding Jim about proper tool use and critiquing his works in progress, always patiently offering their advice. Jim has also had instruction with Gary Falin, Steve Brown, Mark Akers, Wayne Shinlever and Tom Wolf. When Jim moved to Greenville, SC in 2005 he joined the Piedmont Woodcarvers club, and displayed work and earned ribbons at the clubs annual Expressions in Wood Show in 2005 & 2006. Moving to Fayetteville, GA in 2007, Jim became an active member in the Atlanta Woodcarvers club and Flint River Carving Club. Some of Jim’s work was been published in Carving Magazine.

Grant Lutz
Grant was born in Reading, Pennsylvania and then later moved to a small town outside of Phoenix, Arizona. He was introduced to woodworking by his father and grandfather as a boy in Pennsylvania. It was in Arizona where Grant started to develop his design abilities while working in architecture. Using his woodworking experience to bring to life his creative designs, Grant realized a career in furniture making was his calling. He then expanded on his skill set by attending North Bennet Street School for Cabinet and Furniture Making in Boston, Massachusetts. Upon graduating Grant moved to Cumming, Georgia to establish his fine furniture making business.

Mary May
Currently residing in Charleston, SC, Mary May has been carving for over 20 years and has studied with a variety of European carvers around the world; including carving Master Konstantinos Papadakis. She endeavors to keep the art of traditional hand-carving alive, with minimal use of electric tools. Most of her wood carvings are traditional furniture, antique reproductions or architectural details. You can see some of her work at

Kreg McMahon
Kreg McMahon was born in 1954, when real woodshop was still taught in high school. And that’s where he got his first taste of woodworking, that and playing in the new post-war housing tracts in the San Fernando Valley. His father’s side of the family was in sales, and his mother’s side was in construction, so it’s not surprising that’s Kreg spent the first half of his life in sales. From the age of 12, Kreg has knocked on people’s doors to ask if they had any small jobs to do: weeding, cleaning, trash removal. Kreg has sold Amway, insurance, and advertisements in the Yellow Pages. But he’s now in the second half of his life — working as a carpenter and running a one-man business: “Honey-Do Handyman and Carpentry Service.” For inspiration and new tips, Kreg turns to the HGTV Network and the New Yankee Workshop. He likes to say: “There’s always something to learn.” Visit his website at courtesy

Jeff Miller
Jeff Miller is a furniture designer, craftsman, teacher, and author of woodworking books and articles (he's also a former classical musician, and a dad). Jeff's furniture has been shown in galleries and shows nationwide, and has won numerous awards. His furniture is in the Decorative Arts Collection of the Chicago History Museum. See samples of his work at

Sabiha Mujtaba
Since she formed Chrysalis Woodworks in 1986, Sabiha Mujtaba has been a designer and maker of custom studio furniture, in Atlanta GA. Her art work has been exhibited in juried and invitational shows in galleries and museums across the States. A recipient of the NICHE awards, Sabiha's work has been published in Studio Furniture (204657), 500 Tables (202467), 500 Chairs (202454) and Fine woodworking-design book 7. In addition to running her business in Clarkston, GA, she works part-time at Highland Woodworking and teaches classes here. Sabiha has also taught at Penland School of Crafts in NC and Arrowmont School in Gatlinberg, TN. Visit her website at

Alan Noel
Alan is the proprietor of Noel's Woodworks here in Atlanta and has been a professional furniture restorer for over 25 years. He has extensive experience in a wide range of finishing techniques. He writes regular columns for Finishing and Restoration magazine and for Highland Woodworking's Wood News Online™, and has also written for Wood magazine. Alan has taught his skills throughout the Southeast and has served as a finishing consultant for various furniture manufacturers.

Rita Poole
Rita has a background in art and design that has spanned a career of more that 40 years. Her recent passions are for drawing and photography. She has worked in ceramics and glass with many world famous companies such as Royal Doulton, Wedgewood, Pilkington and German porcelain Companies like Rosenthal, Hutchenreuther, Villory and Boch. She developed decoration colors and application techniques for tableware, metalware and glass. Rita also worked for many years in the Scotch whiskey and vodka markets where she created methods to decorate the high end bottles with innovative designs in enamel. From there she moved to the United States where she joined a French company in Georgia and decorated perfume bottles for well known major perfume houses, including Calvin Klein, Estee Lauder, Elizabeth Arden and Coty. She now turns all her creative talents into creating beautiful Marquetry pictures, photography and drawing. Rita has taken Marquetry classes at John C Campbell and has pictures up in different Galleries in North Georgia.

Toshio Odate
Toshio Odate was born in Japan in 1930 and during the immediate post-war years served an apprenticeship as a maker of sliding doors. He went on to study art and design, and in 1958 was awarded a fellowship for the introduction of traditional Japanese woodworking in the United States, where he has remained. Over the following four decades, Odate taught industrial design and sculpture at the university level, exhibited his own sculptures, and demonstrated Japanese woodworking techniques and attitudes at many workshops, classes and seminars throughout the U.S. and Europe. He has written articles for Fine Woodworking, American Woodworker, Woodwork and Woodshop News magazines, and is the author of Japanese Woodworking Tools: Their Tradition, Spirit and Use and Making Shoji. Odate has also been featured in several videos and televison productions, including Martha Stewart Living and the Woodwright's Shop. He currently resides in Woodbury, Connecticut.

Gary Rogowski
Gary Rogowski has been making furniture in Portland, Oregon since 1974. He is the director of the Northwest Woodworking Studio that has been offering woodworking classes since 1994. His long standing presence in the woodworking community, along with his frequent contributions to woodworking magazines and his published books and DVD's on woodworking have inspired and influenced an entire generation of woodworkers. You can find out more about Gary and his life in woodworking on the Northwest Woodworking Studio's website:

Hal Simmons
Hal began turning in 1997. He has studied with Nick Cook, Willard Baxter, David Ellsworth, Johannes Rieber, Chris Scott, Soren Berger and Ray Key. He enjoys traditional spindle bowl and hollow form turning using both exotic and domestic woods. Hal is a member of the Georgia Association of Woodturners.

Curtis Whittington
Curtis Whittington is a long-time custom furniture designer, maker and carver with over 40 years of professional experience building distinct, heirloom quality furniture from his shops located in Pawley's Island, South Carolina and outside San Antonio, Texas. .

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