First the disclaimer…I have been teaching woodworking classes for several years. Just so you know up front, this is not a sales pitch, just a look into why someone wood (pun intended) want to spend time and money to take a class when there is so much free information on the web.
There are countless woodworking forums, blogs and online magazines packed full of useful information. As fast as you can click your mouse, you can find a boat load of information on every aspect of woodworking. Just one click and you can find a step by step tutorial on how to make mortise and tenon joints, another click and you can watch a video on how to cut dovetails. Look a little more and find page after page on boat building. With all this good (and free) information at your finger tips, are woodworking classes worth the investment?
Here’s a quick look at few of the different types of classes that are offered.
Classes that are focused on one piece of furniture, such as a chair, http://bit.ly/bqGuHY , be it a Windsor, Adirondack or rocking chair, the goal of the instructor is to teach you how to build that particular chair. These classes offer a great opportunity to learn the steps needed to build a single piece.
Marquetry, http://www.djmarks.com/classes.asp inlay or carving are disciplines taught in phases, (like most woodworking). Starting with the basics and move forward as your skills progress.
There are classes that cover the set up and safe use of a particular type of tool. This could be a table saw, http://bit.ly/bqGuH band saw or router. Usually geared toward the beginner, these instructions are designed to help you get the most out of your woodworking equipment.
Classes that teach you about a specific type of tool, such as the lathe http://jlrodgers.com/classes.html or scroll saw. In this situation, the tool and the different methods of using it, are the center of the instruction.
This list is by no means a complete list of woodworking classes, just a few examples of what is offered.
Hands on classes offer a chance to learn directly from someone skilled in your area of interest. When reading “How to” instructions or watching videos on line, the information is delivered and then it’s up to you. If the information is vague or unclear then you are left sorting out what is relevant or useful. In a class setting, you have the opportunity to ask questions and insure that you have a clear understanding of the material. This is also a good time to exchange information with fellow classmates. The chance to hear the instructions, discuss them, and either watch someone else practice the technique and/or give it a try yourself, all while under the guidance of the instructor.
I have often wondered why woodworking tool manufactures don’t directly support classroom instruction. It seems to me a great opportunity for them to promote their products directly to the people that would be buying them. As mentioned above, I teach woodworking classes and one class that I offer is a basic router class. In this class I ask each student to bring a router, so that they have the opportunity to see first hand other routers and their different features. Having several routers lined up for inspection, the students get a first hand look at what features the different manufacturers have to offer. I call this “the Good, the Bad and the Ugly” session. I always bring the ugly one. As the session progresses I often see the students borrowing routers from each other and then comparing notes. The likes and dislikes discussion eventually turns to which one would you buy and why.
Have you ever taken a woodworking class? Did you find it worth the investment?
-- Keith, Charlotte, MI www.julyswoodworks.com