Highland Woodworking Wood News Online, No. 188, May 2021Welcome to Highland Woodworking - Fine Tools & Education Learn more about Highland Woodworking View our current woodworking classes and seminars Woodworking articles and solutions Subscribe to Wood News
Women in Woodworking - Meet Larissa Huff
By Char Miller-King
Atlanta, GA

Unique, timeless, and beautiful...these are a few words one would use to describe the work of Larissa Huff. In this fast pace world, it's easy to lose sight of the enthusiasm that can be created when furniture design is labored over and hand crafted. Each of Larissa's original designs exhibits functionality and passion. Whether it's Kestrel chairs or Biedermeier inspired pieces you will feel the genius of a true craftsperson.

Larissa's lifelong love of teaching began at an early age when she would teach math to her classmates. She obtained a degree in Secondary Math Education while living in Florida and then moved to Philadelphia. She was soon accepted into an apprenticeship program at The Lohr Woodworking Studio where, within the first week she was there, she built a red oak hall table using every tool in the shop. The studio is located inside a big red barn on 13 acres of land in Schwenksville, Pennsylvania. It's the brainchild of Jeffrey Lohr who began a custom furniture business in the 1980s and started holding classes there in 2001. Fast forward to 2018, Jeffrey Lohr stepped into retirement and Larissa and her business partner, Rob Spiece, now run the school on top of designing and building custom furniture that has been exhibited around the country.

With over 40 years of collecting tools, jigs, and history, the Lohr School of Woodworking holds intensive 6 day courses on Practical Woodworking, in addition to many other classes. After the 6 day course, students leave with a well-established knowledge of master level joinery, power tools, and a detailed hall table to take home with them. With room for eight students and loads of natural light, Larissa enlightens and broadens the horizons of possibilities of what you can do with wood.

Larissa's grandfather was a cabinetmaker, so needless to say it's in her blood. Who better to learn from than someone who was destined to be a woodworker? When she answered a Craigslist ad for a woodworking assistant/teaching assistant she had no idea it would lead her down the path of making her mark in the teaching and furniture design world. She and Rob were awarded the Wharton Esherick Prize for Excellence in Wood at the 2020 PMA Craft Show. Larissa has written articles for Woodcraft Magazine, Fine Woodworking, and has also appeared in Popular Woodworking Magazine and on the Maker Mom Podcast.

Larissa describes her style as freestyle fine furniture making which embodies the techniques of centuries-old makers using traditional joinery methods with machines and hand tools. Since much of her business is custom furniture, she begins with inspiration from clients and then has creative liberty to churn out one of a kind works, such as a solid ash hand painted decorative box. This design was inspired by the first edition of the UK set of the Harry Potter book series. Under the lid, a small house with a magnetic door holds a removable Golden Snitch.

Another one of her favorite projects is an elegant box she designed by running a mortised post that extends from the inside of the box and through the lid, which is then secured with twisted strips of walnut created by wrapping them around a hot pipe.

With all of her expertise, she admits every project has its challenges that can end up taking it in a whole new direction. Recently, she cut a set of dovetailed drawer pulls too deep. With little time left, she resorted to creating a bevel along the edge of the socket to make the offset depth of the pull a tactile detail. Of course it ended up being beautiful.

The sky is the limit when it comes to lumber resources. Pennsylvania is known for its beautiful hardwoods, such as walnut, oak, maple, and cherry. Much of the school's rough lumber is sourced from one of three small, family-run saw mills. The Lohr Studio is also fortunate enough to have their own saw mill where they can cut and dry themselves. It all gets turned into beauty using some of Larissa's favorite tools including the SawStop Cabinet Table Saw and the 3-1/4" HP Maikta Plunge Router. The other giant that gets plenty of use is the Grizzly 21" Bandsaw. Of course, there is every imaginable tool available at the studio as well as several planers, jointers, and lathes to ensure each student can work through a project and Larissa can continue to churn out wood masterpieces.

Thanks to the power of the internet, Larissa Huff has found a new community, not just of woodworkers, but female woodworkers. Through these connections a "small universe of encouragement, excitement, and support has formed...amplifying each others' voices, sharing their work, and drowning out any negative voices. Yes, it's harder to be taken seriously, people make assumptions about our skills and knowledge, and everything I make gets described as "cute" at least once, but one message from a woman maker I adiore will reinforce all my confidence to carry on."

A year from today, Larissa hopes to continue her mission helping The Lohr Studio and School thrive, learn new skills, and continue to grow as a maker.

Lastly, Larissa encourages those getting started in woodworking to "just keep making things. Start with projects you are confident you can take on and go for it. As a teacher, I will always suggest taking a class or two to get comfortable with new tools or techniques in a supportive environment but, honestly, momentum makes all the difference. If you keep at it, your skills and projects will grow and improve."

To learn more about Larissa and her woodworking, you can follow her on Instagram. You can learn more about the Lohr Studio on Instagram and by visiting their website and woodworking school.

You can find out more about Char and her woodworking by visiting her website and by following her on Instagram.

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