James McMartin, James Beggins, & Mark Wiest

furniture making Wittman, Maryland
2018 - 2019 Folklife Apprenticeship Award recipient
Photo Credit: Edwin Remsberg Photographs

James McMartin and James Beggins own and operate McMartin & Beggins, a custom furniture-making company that employs traditional techniques. A self-taught furniture maker, McMartin founded the company in St. Michaels, Maryland, drawing on his expertise as a boat builder and restorer. Beggins too began his woodworking career building boats. The pair has gone on to build many notable pieces of furniture, including the desk of the Governor of Maryland, made from the famed Wye Oak tree.

Apprentice Mark Wiest also has a background in boatbuilding. As he is learning through his apprenticeship, the woodworking of a boat builder and the woodworking of a master furniture maker are similar and yet far from the same. As Mark states, “The scale of my work on large skipjacks or workboats is typically measured to the 1/16th of an inch, whereas Jim and Jim measure to the 1164th of an inch.”

Over the course of this apprenticeship, McMartin and Beggins will work with Mark on milling techniques, choosing wood, hand-sharpening tools, and using hand tools to create dovetails as well as mortise and tenon joinery (a centuries-old method for joining two pieces of wood, often at right angles). At the conclusion of this apprenticeship, Mark will be at home woodworking on land and on sea.

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