James Krenov

Birth date: 10-30-1920
Date of death: 09-10-2009
Country of origin: Russian Federation Russian Federation
Primary Occupation: Woodworker
Secondary Occupation:
Spouse(s): Britta Krenov

Early Life

James Krenov was born in a Chukchi tribal village

Choris Tschuktschen The Chukchi, Eskimos of Western Chukotka (Russian: чукчи (plural), чукча (singular)) are an indigenous people inhabiting the Chukchi Peninsula and the shores of the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Sea region of the Arctic Ocean within the Russian Federation. They speak the Chukchi language. The Chukchi originated from the people living around the Okhotsk Sea.
Chuckchi Tribe

above the Arctic Circle in Siberia. James was an only child born to Dimitri and Julia Krenov. His parents were of well means, not quite aristocracy but well off enough they were "people who did not have to work", as James Krenov stated in his oral history of 2004 for the Smithsonian Institution.

The Krenov's fled St. Petersburg during the Russian Revolution and later found their way to Alaska through Shanghai.

While in Alaska James's parents became teachers at an Inuit Inuit (pronounced /in(y)o͞oit/, "the people") are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Greenland, Canada and Alaska. Inuit is a plural noun; the singular is Inuk. The oral Inuit languages are classified in the Eskimo-Aleut family, whereas Inuit Sign Language is a critically endangered language isolate spoken in Nunavut.


village outside of Anchorage to the north. This is where James, as a boy, began carving model boats and toys.1

Later Life

The Krenov family re-located to Seattle in the 1930's, there James acquired a job building yachts.
Because of his family roots James became an interpreter for the Lend-Lease program to provide supplies to the American allies that were dealing with Russian cargo ships during World War II.
After the war, in 1947 James moved to Sweden where he worked in an electrical appliance factory, meanwhile he would travel Europe during his stay there.1


"Enter your factual information of your research subjects career(s), most likely something in woodworking or the related disciplines, what did he or she specialize in, what did they enjoy doing, what impact did their career choice have on the arts and crafts and industry of woodworking, etc. Replace this text with your own. ''

Image Gallery

A tall cabinet by James Krenov, this particular cabinet is a walk around, to be placed away from any wall area.

Attribution: Glenn Gordon, James 
Source:A (19).Jpg (JPEG Image, 800 × 1210 Pixels) - Scaled (75%). http://thekrenovarchive.org/inc-item%20(1)/img/a%20(19).jpg. Accessed 10 June 2018.
A concave maple tall cabinet by Krenov.

Attribution: Krenov
Source: “A (51).Jpg (JPEG Image, 800 × 1211 Pixels).” The Krenov Archive, 9 June 2018, http://thekrenovarchives.org/inc-item%20(1)/img/a%20(51).jpg.
Krenov Walnut parquetry cabinet built in 1993

Attribution: Seth Janofsky
Source: “C (71).Jpg (JPEG Image, 1800 × 2759 Pixels) - Scaled (33%).” The Krenov Archive, 9 June 2018, http://thekrenovarchives.org/inc-item%20(1)/img/c%20(71).jpg.


James Krenov wrote:
I have been reminded that photographs can mislead one as to the sizes of the objects themselves, especially when there is nothing to compare them with. Most of the work I do is fairly small. This is partly because to me wood is precious, and very often I have planks with parts that contain something that interests me and may lead to a certain piece being made. Also, my shop is small, with rather unprofessional equipment; it is difficult for me to join and surface wide stock. And finally, by my nature I have a tendency toward detailed work; there is a dimension beyond which I feel I will accomplish less rather than more.

James Krenov wrote:
…most good craftsmen work by themselves doing all their own work. So if you are a loner, you and your work are different from most. Accept that, and be glad. Either you are the competitive, speculating sort, or you’re not. And if you aren’t, then turn this fact into an asset; it can be the greatest asset of all. Realizing it helps you to stop being afraid, and allows you to be proud of living with what you do best.


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Further Reading

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Oral History with James Krenov 2004

External Links

Jame Krenov on Hand Planes Fine Woodworking
James Krenov, Master of the Hand Made Fine Woodworking

Obituary Notices

New York Times on James Krenov


1 Hevesi, Dennis. “James Krenov, Wood and Word Worker, Is Dead at 88.” The New York Times 19 Sept. 2009. NYTimes.com. Web. 5 June 2016.
2 “Krenov Furniture.” N.p., n.d. Web. 5 June 2016.
3 “James Krenov Craft Wisdom, 4: Forget about Competition.” Art Calling. N.p., 19 May 2011. Web. 9 June 2016.


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