Forgotten Treasures: Meet Magnolia Network’s ‘The Craftsman’ Eric Hollenbeck

Sean Scheidt

Far north of San Francisco sits the exquisite oceanside town of Eureka, California, known as one of California’s best-kept secrets for its giant redwoods, remote ocean landscapes and ornate timeless Victorian homes. The town also serves as home to about 25,000, including woodworking extraordinaire Eric Hollenbeck, a self-taught master woodworker who’s built his life around preserving and restoring buildings and items of the past. Hollenbeck is the delightful subject of Magnolia Network’s newest series The Craftsman.

The nine-episode series begins on Magnolia Network Tuesday, March 15 at 9/8c with two back-to-back episodes and will run through Tuesday, May 3. The series will also be available on the network’s streaming platform discovery+.

Born and raised in Eureka, the 70-plus-year-old Hollenbeck has spent the last four decades restoring historic relics through his family-owned business Blue Ox Millworks, which he started with a $300 bank loan. Cameras follow Hollenbeck and his family as he shows viewers the fascinating craftsmanship and self-worth that goes into preserving historic pieces. Episodes explore the history and restoration techniques needed to preserve things like finials and corbels to a trolley car from the 1880s, a call box in the historic Carson Mansion and much more.

Unable to read or write, Hollenbeck dropped out of school in his teens and headed into Eureka’s woods for work, where he forged for equipment and tools that essentially built his expansive workshops he uses today. With his pipe in hand, Hollenbeck chatted with us about this somewhat lost craft and why it’s so important to him to pass along his talent to the next generation.

“I’ve worked with my hands because I can’t read, and I can’t spell,” he shares. “I was born with a handicap, but life gives each one of us a compensator — something that we’re extra good at — and for me, it was working with my hands. That was my compensator.”

Hollenbeck describes his mind as mechanical. He’s gifted with a talent that helps him visualize how things work. In the third grade, his first real big wood project was with his best buddy Dennis, where they built a boat. Laughing, Hollenbeck recalls, “We went out and painted the whole boat with tar, and that’s how we made it semi-waterproof.”

If there’s one thing Hollenbeck would like younger generations to take away from the series it’s that you can start from nothing and build your own success.

“Forty-nine years later, we’re still here,” he says. “There was never any money to go buy equipment, so I either had to find it for free laying in the woods or find something that I could trade labor for. I could make them something and trade for it. I had to get the old junk nobody else wanted and then bring it and refurbish it. I could take it apart, see how it worked, see what was broken and make a new part for it and put it back together, paint it and then teach myself how to use it.”

Hollenbeck’s workshops are as historic as the pieces he works on. Viewers will be enthralled and educated on not just the process of restoration but on the history of the equipment he uses. In the end, it’s Hollenbeck that is the true treasure.


  1. I discovered this awesome series, about 1/2-way through its’ schedule, unfortunately. PLEASE bring this back … there are tons of things to appreciate as well as tons of values from not so long ago which most assuredly
    need to be re-discovered !!!

  2. We both enjoyed watching the show each week and didn’t realize it was ending on May third. When we sat down last night to watch the show, it was disappointing to learn it wasn’t on! Eric is a gem, a real person whom all of us can connect with in some way. He has a way of speaking to all of us, while he and his family welcome us into his workshop and life in Eureka. We hope another season is in the making!

  3. Eric is nothing but pure joy watch. He is passionate about his craft. His love of nature and connection with the red woods is amazing. My wife and I watch the show together and feel like we are there in the shop with him. He has a wonderful and joyful spirit. I love is wisdom. God bless you Eric and thank you for service to our nation during you tour of Vietnam.

  4. DON’T STOP……finally a “real” woodwork show and not these overblown reno shows
    Cam Allen
    Master Carpenter
    Wallacetown ON

  5. I love this show!! Discovered it on Magnolia Network one Sunday afternoon in early April. I totally respect Eric’s craftmanship and skill. I’m a regular watcher now.

  6. Raised in Eureka, CA myself; “The Craftsman” has been a great reminder on the surroundings I grew up on. The memories brought back by the show make me want to return to the simpler time. Thank you Eric!

  7. He brings tears to my eyes with what he does. I am homebound he bring me so much joy. I used to dabble in wood he means so much to me

    • Eric is a treasure. I love this show not only for his and his teams amazing craftsmanship but for the valued history, of making something of yourself through challenges, of family and friends.

  8. While on a road trip through Northern California in 1997 we were fortunate to make a stop at Blue Ox Millworks. Eric gave us a wonderful tour of his property and home owned business. I will never forget it. I left inspired by Eric’s skills and in love with the Eureka area.

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