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Teaching a class at Lee Valley

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Review by JuniorJoiner posted 04-06-2011 07:07 PM 2122 views 0 times favorited 13 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Teaching a class at Lee Valley No-picture-s No-picture-s Click the pictures to enlarge them

I want to start by saying I enjoyed myself and I think the students left with better hand tool and dovetail skills than they started with. I had many handshakes and smiles at the end, so I hope everyone feels that they got their moneys worth of instruction.

Now the critique. there was a critique form for the students, but not for me.

I had offered to teach a different class, but told them I was flexible if they needed something covered off, which I am. I received an e-mail some weeks later asking if I could teach dovetails, and provide a writeup, bio, and tool list, which I provided. They did not say I was on for the course.

Later, a friend sent me a congratulations e-mail saying he got the e-mail about the course I was teaching, it was the first I had heard of it (they only confirmed with me a week before the course). I looked at the writeup, they had changed my bio( not falsely, but added info I had not submitted). they had also omitted the tool list, saying it was a hands on course and all tools to be provided.

Having never taught there before, I needed to see the room. I stopped in, saw the benches, and informed on the particular cheap saw I wanted the students to have. I was told all was good and tools were in abundance.
No problems. I informed of my need for bench lamps, small chisels, and drafting pencils, and left.

So, about a week before the course, I find out , no pencils(too expensive), no bench lamps(no stock),
the small chisels would be narex(not worth the bottle caps they are made from), but lunch would be provided.
Hmm, this is where I start to wonder which will harm my sensibilities more, backing out, or teaching a class without the proper tools for the students.

So I go ahead, I’ve never backed down from anything before. I arrive early, knowing I will need to sharpen chisels for the entire class from new in an hour (not easy with the narex and their twisted backs). while I am doing that, I realize there are no clamps, how do you teach dovetails with no clamps? so , start a panic about clamps, they did manage to scrounge enough for the class, but most were from the return bin(one I had actually returned myself)

Students start showing up, I can’t greet them, I am still sharpening. I finish four minutes before the class is to start, and wash my hands.

So I start the class, nine of ten students show up, not bad. I start with getting names and where everyone is from, a short discussion on what dovetails are, why to cut them by hand, the tools, the material, then I start demonstrating.

I finish my demonstration just before lunch, get the students to start their layout, and start to put my checklist notes on the board. grab quick sandwich, and start answering questions and checking on progress.

The afternoon until 4pm was completely me helping students along, and I wish there had been two of me. There wasn’t really time to teach everyone how to saw a straight line and chisel against a guide block, So there were corrections and do overs. but everyone got the joint cut.
I have to admit, although many students had problems with poor light, waiting for tools to be shared around, and basic frustrations, I think they all enjoyed themselves.

If I were to do it again, I would ensure all students had a few jigs to ease the process with those benches, more tools for the class of proper scale and quality(not huge bevel gauges for dovetails) AND, proper light.

what I would do different would be to take a half hour for a sawing tutorial, as It would have been beneficial, and to have a handout of my notes and checklist, as time students spent copying off the board would have been better served working.

So, my conclusions from teaching a lee Valley class are to actively contact them to ensure all your class needs will be met. Never assume they will have something good just because they sell it. And stay patient.

Sorry I never took any pics.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.




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JuniorJoiner

451 posts in 2184 days



13 comments so far

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

12951 posts in 1437 days


#1 posted 04-06-2011 07:14 PM

I’m glad you enjoyed yourself & the students had a great experience. I’m genuinely surprised about the supplies. If I went to a class at Lee Valley, I’d be expecting my own giant bench with shoulder and wagon, death sharp LN Dovetail saws/chisels, Titemark markers, and high quality marking gauges! I’d certainly expect to be able to see it all. That genuinely surprises me. But I’m glad you rose to the Narex challenge & made it happen. Nine sets of chisels, wheesh. You’re the man.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View JuniorJoiner's profile

JuniorJoiner

451 posts in 2184 days


#2 posted 04-06-2011 07:27 PM

I wouldn’t expect tools from other manufacturers, but I certainly did not anticipate issues with supplies of their stock brands. It was a teaching point of what not to buy, where to spend money on a better quality tools. I think they all got that part.

I must add that the staff were extremely friendly and courteous, and none of the issues arose from an individual.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

12951 posts in 1437 days


#3 posted 04-06-2011 07:28 PM

I thought Lee Valley sold all that good stuff, but I guess you’re right. Veritas is no slouch in any of those departments. I’m glad to hear that you were treated with kindness. That actually makes me want to shop from them.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View Beginningwoodworker's profile

Beginningwoodworker

13347 posts in 2417 days


#4 posted 04-06-2011 11:16 PM

Sounds like you enjoy teaching the class.

-- CJIII Future cabinetmaker

View Smitty_Cabinetshop's profile

Smitty_Cabinetshop

10326 posts in 1362 days


#5 posted 04-06-2011 11:46 PM

I would expect quality Veritas tools at the benchtop as well; it would be one of my primary motivations for training at Lee Valley – to see what good tools can do! Big disappointment, thanks for sharing.

-- Don't anthropomorphize your handplanes. They hate it when you do that. -- OldTools Archive

View twokidsnosleep's profile

twokidsnosleep

1063 posts in 1717 days


#6 posted 04-07-2011 04:14 AM

Pencils were too expensive??? What kind of BS is that
Maybe will re-think taking a course from them if supplies are an issue

-- Scott "Some days you are the big dog, some days you are the fire hydrant"

View JuniorJoiner's profile

JuniorJoiner

451 posts in 2184 days


#7 posted 04-07-2011 04:42 AM

I did want a drafting pencil, which they sell, but it was not a request for a 50 cent pencil.

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View JuniorJoiner's profile

JuniorJoiner

451 posts in 2184 days


#8 posted 04-07-2011 06:25 PM

My purpose of writing this review is not to discourage from taking the class. I believe everyone who took the class learned a lot and left happy.
The point is for instructors teaching future classes to not assume their supply needs will be met. even if they say it will be ok, make sure yourself .

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View chickenguru's profile

chickenguru

45 posts in 1738 days


#9 posted 04-07-2011 06:25 PM

Hmmm. I just received an email about an upcoming classes in May/June. I Have been looking at taking some kind of turning classes as I’m having a hard time learning on my own. Maybe I should find a local club.

View Bertha's profile

Bertha

12951 posts in 1437 days


#10 posted 04-07-2011 11:31 PM

I think Junior’s message to us is nothing more than prepare. He clearly has respect for Lee Valley and was treated with courtesy. He just ran into a few snags. I think the message to potential instructors is to make sure you’re stocked; the message to future students is have fun at the class. I didn’t think he bashed Lee Valley with this post. If I’m wrong, Junior, please correct me. I’d hate to see someone miss a great class.

-- My dad and I built a 65 chev pick up.I killed trannys in that thing for some reason-Hog

View JuniorJoiner's profile

JuniorJoiner

451 posts in 2184 days


#11 posted 04-09-2011 12:47 AM

I would like to add that a Lee Valley rep just phoned me at home regarding my issues with teaching the class.
They are concerned, my needs were not met, and are dedicated to resolving any issues that arose. Again, kudos to them, they are committed to their customer service, and keeping the seminars enjoyable for everyone involved.
I’m glad that they were interested in my ideas for improvement.

So yes, the message is Lee Valley classes are a good experience,

-- Junior -Quality is never an accident-it is the reward for the effort involved.

View JeremyPringle's profile

JeremyPringle

284 posts in 1218 days


#12 posted 08-19-2011 06:51 AM

I think everyone needs to also understand that Lee Valley does not make a dine with the courses they put on. The money that the students pay goes into paying the teacher and the materials, what funds are left over ALL go to charity.

View Jorge G.'s profile

Jorge G.

1526 posts in 1219 days


#13 posted 08-19-2011 07:17 AM

Ok, I am curious, why do you need clamps to teach dovetails? All I have ever used the clapms for is to put together the box, not to cut them. I use my bench vises for that and for planning the edges.

-- To surrender a dream leaves life as it is — and not as it could be.

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