Lifelong M'ville man shares passion for fine woodwork

Cary Ashby • Feb 19, 2019 at 4:00 AM

MONROEVILLE — Rachel Herner has become a cooperage apprentice with her 86-year-old grandfather.

Two or three years ago, the Monroeville High School freshman and her brother Ellis started helping their grandpa Jim with fine woodwork at his Ohio State Fair booth. He has done demonstrations in the Heritage building for nearly 30 years, but his health after a stroke means he will retire from being a cooperage — which his granddaughter is learning from him. A cooper is a person who makes or repairs casks and barrels.

“(It’s a) good way to spend time with my grandpa and make something cool,” said Rachel, the daughter of Paul and Barb. “I’ve made a basket and barrel.”

One of Jim Herner’s pieces of fine woodwork is on display in the Monroeville village hall. He sculpted the village seal, which is on the Monroeville vehicles.

In addition to baskets and barrels, Herner has created butter churns, a cherry wood clock, jewelry boxes and wine casks.

For several days last week, Herner’s skills were on full display in the front of the Monroeville Public Library. Jerry Robinson, of Willard, made a stave on a shaving horse one day with with Herner.

A 35-gallon wine cask that Herner created in 2005 was near the front door. The detailed carving on the face of the cask features a German vineyard that one of Herner’s cousins owns in the nearby village of Krombacher.

“It’s a smaller town than Monroeville,” said Herner, who graduated from MHS in 1950.

The face of the cask essentially outlines part of Herner’s genealogy.

“My great-grandfather’s great-grandfather was a charter member of that church in 1750,” he said, referring to one of the buildings on the cask.

Upon graduating from The Ohio State University with a degree in architecture in 1960, Herner was employed at Janotta & Herner. He retired from the Monroeville general contractor after 24 years in 1995. For the last 10 years, he was the company president.

Looking back at his time with Janotta & Herner, Herner said one of his biggest jobs was “the big warehouse at MTD.” The Willard project took nearly six months.

One of his first jobs was a three-building medical complex built across from Fisher-Titus Medical Center in 1962.

Herner was asked how he became interested in woodwork. 

“My brother and I collected antique tools,” he said, which inspired them to learn how people used those tools.

The size of Herner’s Monroeville house compared to his workshop tells you everything you need to know about the passion he has for his hobby.

“My house is 24 by 48 feet. My shop is 28 feet by 48 feet,” he said.