For Cornell Evans, supervisor of the exhibit shop for the Smithsonian Institution's Freer Gallery of Art, the motto is: "Anything made of wood, we can make."

The "we" consists of fellow woodcraftsmen John Marshall and Francis Smith, and finisher John Bradley.

Since last fall, the four men have worked on the display areas of the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery. They have constructed a large moongate entryway, 10-foot-long lattice panels, ornate brackets, display cases, window frames, floor moldings, and two 8-by-5-foot lattice doors.

Scheduled to open Sept. 28, the Sackler gallery will showcase Asian and Near Eastern art including ancient jades, ivories, ceramics and paintings -- part of a $7.3 million museum, research and educational complex on the Mall.

(Because of space considerations, most of the Sackler complex has been built underground.)

The display areas for these artifacts were designed by the Sackler's assistant head of design, John Zelinik, who along with department head Patrick Sears spent months researching Chinese and Near Eastern architecture. Despite the often elaborate plans, Zelinik and Sears had no worries about the Freer woodcraftsmen being up to the task.

"We didn't even ask any questions about whether they could do it. We knew they could do it," Zelinik said.

"We looked upon it as a challenge," Evans said.

For the lattice panels, Evans and his crew took 6-inch-by-14-foot boards of poplar and cut them into 10- and 12-foot strips called "runs." These runs were then planed down to three-quarter by seven-eighth-inch pieces that were glued together to make the lattice pattern.

A 10-foot panel requires 1,000 such pieces, and all of them have to be planed to the exact measurements specified in the blueprints. An error in even one piece will create a flaw in the overall scale of the panel.

It's the sort of precision demand that the Freer craftsmen are used to. "You have to be right on it," said Marshall, a 20-year veteran of woodcrafting who made the doors to the Freer's souvenir shop. "Even with things like floor moldings; you want those moldings to look like they grew around that wall."

In most cases, a designer turns over blueprints to a woodcrafter. After studying the blueprints for a while, the woodcrafter draws the design onto the wood, enlarging it to the proper scale. This drawing is called a layout and is often done with nothing more than a pencil and a straight edge. For designs that require curves, the craftsmen use trammel points, two clamps with attached pencils that can be fitted to either end of a narrow length of wood. The craftsman centers with one marker and draws the circular line with the other in much the same way a geometry student uses a drawing compass.

Sometimes, the craftsmen have to work without blueprints. Evans was once asked to build two replicas of a lattice-back, Ming Dynasty bench. The designers had no blueprints, just a book photograph. In addition, they wanted him to "westernize" the benches by making the seats shorter and the legs longer. With only the photo to go on, Evans built the two benches that can be seen in the downstairs hallway of the Freer Gallery.

A craftsman for 23 years who is also an assistant football coach at Ballou High School, Evans first became interested in woodworking while growing up in the Manor Park area. He built soap box cars for himself and his friends, and they staged races on Peabody Street.

Evans enrolled at Bell Vocational High School, where he studied in the wood shop. By his senior year, he was in a job training program at Garrett Plastics and Store Fixtures. "Mr. Garrett was a big influence on me," Evans said. "He was the first black man I'd ever seen who had his own mill. He was a sharp woodworker and he encouraged me."

After high school, Evans did four years of apprenticeship under German woodcraftsman Wilhelm Linden.

"He was precise," Evans said of Linden. "He stayed on my back. He taught me about taking an image of a drawing off the paper and putting in my mind."

Seeing-in-the-mind and patience are two skills Evans considers essential to his work: "When you get the blueprint, you have to be able to see what it {the design} is going to look like when it's done, like a camera . . . . And you have to be patient, otherwise you'll get frustrated because a good woodcrafting job takes time."

When the woodcraftsmen are done, they turn the work over to John Bradley.

"What I know you can't get from a book," said Bradley, who has been a finisher for 18 years. "What I know comes from experience."

Bradley mixes and experiments with lacquers to come up with the best stains for each project he is given. "Oftentimes a manufacturer will state in the directions that a stain or lacquer won't do certain things, but I can work with it in the shop and get more out of it. There's a lot of creativity involved."

The woodcrafters feel the same way about their work.

"You have to use your mind as well as your hands," said Smith, a woodcraftsman for 16 years, the last four at the Freer, "and the work is difficult because you have your different cuts and measurements."

"You have to put yourself into it," Evans said. "This work is my love. We're artists."