John Mark Wilson

John Mark Wilson, well-known craftsman and founder of the Home Shop in Charlotte, Michigan, died peacefully at his home surrounded by loving family on January 27, 2023. Born June 2, 1939, John was the youngest of four children. His father, William Dexter Wilson (1889 – 1968), graduated from Syracuse University Engineering school in 1912, served as a Captain in the anti-aircraft artillery in Paris in WWI, and married Christine Keith Ross (1899 – 1974) in 1925. John’s siblings are his two brothers, William Dexter (1927 – 1985) and Alexander Ross (1929 – 2012), and his sister, Christina Keith Wilson Adams (1936 – ___).
As a young man, John earned the rank of Eagle Scout in the Boy Scouts, and was on the staff of Askononta Explorers Camp, in Lake Placid, New York. He graduated from Nottingham High in 1958 and attended Carleton College, graduating in 1962 with a BA degree in Sociology. John continued his studies at London University, England, where he earned a Master’s in Social Anthropology in 1964.
Following graduate school, John taught Anthropology, first at Purdue University, then Michigan State University, then for five years at Albion (Michigan) College. In his anthropological research, John studied commercial fishermen in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. As John often said later in life, he was fortunate that he never finished his PhD dissertation, for when the door to university teaching closed, the door to a new career opened.
Career as craftsman
While in college, John had worked summers as a carpenter in residential construction. This was in the days before specialization in the construction trades, at a time when a builder took the home from foundation to paint, giving him experience in all aspects of the trade. Using the skills and knowledge he had gained as a carpenter during those years, John became a licensed remodeling contractor in Charlotte, Michigan.
By 1977 he knew it was not general carpentry he loved, but the craft of woodworking. He started teaching woodworking at Lansing Community College (LCC). The college encouraged teachers to follow their interests and design new courses. John started classes in Shaker Furniture and Boat Building as well as general woodworking and taught at LCC for the next 23 years.
His teaching job at LCC allowed him free time to work on what would later become his own woodworking shop. In 1988, he finished the building and established the Home Shop business. Over the next thirty years, John partnered with John Kellogg (now retired) and Eric Pintar to provide materials, instruction, manuals, classes, and support to the many craftspeople who shared their interest in the historic craft of making Shaker oval boxes. The Home Shop takes the wood for bending from log to final dimension, makes the required forms and jigs needed for shaping the pieces, and produces the copper tacks on original machines, circa 1860, obtained from the now closed Cross Nail Co.
In addition to running his woodworking business and teaching, the third strand of John’s life work was writing. He credited the tutorial class structure at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies with sparking his interest in writing. Required to write a five-page paper on a new topic in anthropology every Tuesday and Friday for the whole school year, “I began to see the whole world in this framework: defining – development – conclusion,” he said. Over the years he published over sixty articles in Working Wood (England), Adirondack Magazine, Workbench, School Shop, The Shaker Messenger, Woodworkers Journal, The Crafts Reports, Small Boat Journal, Wood News, The Shaker Quarterly, Fine Woodworking, Messing About in Boats, The Ash Breeze, and Wooden Boat.
Most prolific and important was his association with Popular Woodworking. His first cover story “Making Shaker Oval Boxes” was published in 2003 which by this time had become the signature activity of the Home Shop. The journal’s format which combined photos, drawings, and ample space, made the publication an ideal forum for his work. It also established a long partnership with their editors (Chris Schwarz and Linda Watts) who were instrumental in the design of his future books.
John authored and published four books that have been widely acclaimed. Chris Bagbee of Highland Woodworking News wrote of Making Wood Tools, “Wilson brings us what may be both the most beautiful book of the year as well as the most useful.” This book was also a gold star winner with the Non-Fiction Writers Association. Later, John published the Shaker Oval Box trilogy (2014, 2017, 2019). Other writings include “Your Own Woodworkers Bench” (1997), “Building Sailor Girl” (2004) — the design that won an award from Wooden Boat Magazine for new small craft suitable for a family boatbuilding weekend event — and “Skaneateles Skiff No. 5” (2005) documenting the rowing boat from his childhood on Otisco Lake which is now included in the Howard Chapell collection of American Small Craft at the Smithsonian.
In 2014, PBS produced an episode of their series “Craftsmen’s Legacy” featuring John titled “The Woodworker.” John’s legacy as a craftsman includes the beautiful objects he created, the pieces he taught others to create and the instruction he shared with so many others in his wonderful books.
John met his first wife Abigail McLean Brown (1940 – ) in high school. They were married in 1962 in Montreal, Canada, where she graduated from McGill University. During their twenty-year marriage they had two sons, David Reynolds (1964- ) and Andrew Ross (1966 -). David retired from an engineering career in 2021 and lives in Michigan with wife, Denise, and their twin daughters, Merle and Veronica (2004- ), who are both students at Michigan Technological University. Andrew heads a consulting firm he founded in Florence, Italy, specializing in international tax law. He lives there with his two daughters Sofia (2005 -) and Diana (2007- ).
John met Sally King (1961 – ) in 1985 while John was teaching at LCC. They grew to be devoted soulmates and married in 1988, raising their children in Charlotte. After receiving her MD degree in family practice from Michigan State University and completing her residency at St. Lawrence and Sparrow Hospitals, Sally practiced medicine in Charlotte until her retirement in 2015. John and Sally had two children: Molly Christina (1994 -) and William Dexter (2000 – ). Molly graduated from the University of Michigan, served in the Peace Corps in Tanzania, and is pursuing a medical degree at Wayne State University. William is a junior at the MSU College of Engineering pursuing a degree in Computer Science.
Child of God
Above all, John considered himself a child of God. He grew up in the Episcopal Church and explored many different denominations as an adult. He believed that all worship the same God who is alive and well and knows his name. His was a very personal relationship with God and his Redeemer Jesus Christ. He lived by faith every day, believed the universe was a friendly place, and had an incredible number of friends. John was very engaged in his community of Charlotte, where he lived and worked for most of his lifetime. He generously contributed his time and talent to many organizations, including the Boy Scouts, the local food bank, and Crop Walk. John was also involved in the activities of his church, St. John’s Episcopal Church, where he served as a lay preacher. He loved to repeat the old chestnut, “God has no grandchildren, only sons and daughters.”
A memorial service to celebrate John’s life will take place at St. John’s Episcopal Church, 201 W. Shepherd, Charlotte, Michigan, on March 4, at 11am. All family and friends are welcome to attend. A luncheon will follow the service. In lieu of flowers, those interested in honoring John are invited to donate to St. John’s Episcopal Church or to the Eaton Clothing and Furniture Center, links available at
eof flowers, those interested in honoring John are invited to donate to St. John’s Episcopal Church or to the Eaton Clothing and Furniture Center, links available at