Wood Finishing Legend Visits DCTC

Two-day seminar offers treasure trove of wood conservation and restoration knowledge

Mitch Kohanek (left) & Don Williams

Mitch Kohanek (left) & Don Williams

Don Williams, senior furniture conservator at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Materials Research and Education, gave two full-day presentations at the DCTC National Institute of Wood Finishing March 25 & 26, 2010.

Williams considers the trip one of the highlights of his year. “The students enjoy the free-form discussion and high-level discourse,” he said. “They ask serious and hard questions, which indicates a superb education.”

A world-renowned expert who consulted on such artifacts as Archie Bunker’s chair and FDR’s desk, Williams worked with students in the DCTC Wood Finishing Technology program on day one, covering such topics as safety, restoration, conservation, chemistry of solvents and conservation repairs. On day two, the students were joined by woodworkers from the Minnesota Woodworkers Guild, which sponsored the seminars along with the DCTC Student Senate.

“Don Williams has been my mentor throughout my professional wood finishing career,” said Mitch Kohanek, the instructor of the DCTC program, “starting from when I apprenticed at the Smithsonian Conservation and Analytical Laboratory.”

Historic Fort Snelling Field Trip

(left to right) Roger Ratajczak, Mitch Kohanek, Lisa Garmoe

Students from the Wood Finishing Technology program took a working field trip to Historic Fort Snelling Tuesday, March 23, to apply their knowledge and expertise at Fort Snelling’s Memorial Chapel. The students completed crucial conservation and restoration tasks as part of the service-learning project.

“The chapel has not looked this good in years,” said Wood Finishing Technology Instructor Mitch Kohanek. “My students brought historic wood back to life with the skills they performed today. Organic solvent cleaning systems were invented to clean off years of dirt without hurting the existing finish. They brushed on shellac like pros. They really grew up today and I was proud of them.”

Travis Beard, a DCTC Wood Finishing alumnus, volunteers at the Fort Snelling Memorial Chapel and has done considerable work in the chapel over the years, cleaning and restoring woodwork, carvings and wooden statues. “Thanks again to you and the troops for the visit yesterday,” Beard told Kohanek. “The chapel looks great!”

For more information on the DCTC Wood Finishing Technology program, contact Mitch Kohanek at 651-423-8362.