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Review of Instruction offered at Lonnie Bird's School of Fine Woodworking

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Review by BenR posted 337 days ago 3080 views 0 times favorited 8 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Review of Instruction offered at Lonnie Bird's School of Fine Woodworking Review of Instruction offered at Lonnie Bird's School of Fine Woodworking Review of Instruction offered at Lonnie Bird's School of Fine Woodworking Click the pictures to enlarge them

Several years ago, I became interested in woodworking. I liked the idea of working with my hands and having something beautiful to give as a gift or pass down to the next generation. Since I didn’t have the slightest idea how to begin, I thought I would take a class. I found Lonnie’s school, and it was only about a 6-7 hour drive for me, I signed up for the Woodworking Essentials class. We made a shaker table, and I was hooked. Since then, I have taken three other classes at the school. Lonnie’s classes are in Dandridge TN on his property. Most of the work taught is by hand, save an occasional bandsaw or router cut. Beginning in the first class, we were introduced to sharpening tools, cutting dovetails by hand, planning off machine marks, mortising by machine, and how wood moves. In other classes, I have learned line and berry inlay with hand tools, tombstone frame and panel door making, fitting mouldings, fitting a drawer, fitting a door to the case, installation of locks and hinges, and more.
I find Lonnie’s instruction to be top notch, as well as his skills. In addition to explaining how to do something, Lonnie shows how to do it. It’s the picture is worth a thousand words thing. His method of teaching is just to jump in and get started as he will help you along. Lonnie has an easy going style, and it is easy to catch his enthusiasm about woodworking. He has every confidence that he can teach you (even me) how to make beautiful furniture.
Each class is six days of instruction from 8am to 5pm, with a Subway lunch provided. You can bring your own wood rough cut, or buy it from his associate Jason Bennett and have it waiting on you when you get to the school. Usually there are eight or nine students per class. Everyone has his/her own bench. Lonnie comes around and checks on each student individually a couple of times a day. You are free to ask questions at all times. The cost is about $ 1200.00 per class, plus wood. You bring your own hand tools. I believe it is money well spent. I find it frustrating and slow to learn on my own. But, as “they” say, the proof is in the pudding. Check out my projects to see the line and berry spice box and keepsake box I made in his classes (I also made a hanging corner cabinet, which I haven’t finished). He really can teach you to woodwork. All in all, it is a nice privilege to take a week just to woodwork in rural Tennessee. Highly recommended.




View BenR's profile

BenR

247 posts in 1224 days



8 comments so far

View doordude's profile

doordude

1085 posts in 1579 days


#1 posted 337 days ago

that’s some nice work. it does help to take classes to learn a particular technique, which shortens the learning curve by months on your own.
don’t you think so? I mean taking a class from a pro…
keep it up

View Woodtodust's profile

Woodtodust

16 posts in 433 days


#2 posted 336 days ago

I am planning on taking the essentials class this fall. Nice to hear from a repeat student. That says a lot about the benefits you feel you derived from his classes. The keepsake box you made is beautiful. Hopefully, I can get to that level some day.

-- Bill...Richmond Hill, GA--"83% of all statistics are made up."

View stefang's profile

stefang

12537 posts in 1930 days


#3 posted 334 days ago

Sounds great. You must be an excellent pupil judging by your work.

-- Mike, an American living in Norway.

View AC2013's profile

AC2013

8 posts in 346 days


#4 posted 333 days ago

As they say, it is great to learn something new every day. Lonnie’s classes really seem to hit that mark with amazing quality end products. Great work to you Lyn.

-- AC2013, Pepperell, MA USA, http://performancepowertoolsreviews.com

View stevo_wis's profile

stevo_wis

64 posts in 1623 days


#5 posted 328 days ago

My experience was not good at Lonnie Bird’s. He had some good things to offer, but they were negated by not so gracious comments about other woodworkers in his class. He also had sort of a weird manner in that if he didnt like the questions, he simply ignored them. I clearly dont have all the skill he had, but I am not dumb and resented the way he did that. I talked with him after the class and also phoned him later and let him know his performance was a B grade at best. His response was that well a B isnt so bad. Well, it was for me and my advice would be to go somewhere else.

-- Stevo

View stevo_wis's profile

stevo_wis

64 posts in 1623 days


#6 posted 328 days ago

My experience was not good at Lonnie Bird’s. He had some good things to offer, but they were negated by not so gracious comments about other woodworkers in his class. He also had sort of a weird manner in that if he didnt like the questions, he simply ignored them. I clearly dont have all the skill he had, but I am not dumb and resented the way he did that. I talked with him after the class and also phoned him later and let him know his performance was a B grade at best. His response was that well a B isnt so bad. Well, it was for me and my advice would be to go somewhere else.

-- Stevo

View stevo_wis's profile

stevo_wis

64 posts in 1623 days


#7 posted 328 days ago

sorry, didnt mean to post twice.

-- Stevo

View Dexter1's profile

Dexter1

12 posts in 180 days


#8 posted 180 days ago

I have been interested and involved in woodworking for 35 years. The first 20 years was what I would call trial and error woodworking. I’d find plans in magazines and books and follow the printed directions with mixed results. Most of my projects were done using machines only, as per the instructions. Hand work was limited to assembly and finishing. Hand planing, hand cut dovetails, carving and the like were way beyond me knowledge. About 15 years ago, I decided to get serious and quit allowing so much of my work to end up in the wood stove because of errors. I started taking wood working classes from several instructors in the eastern U.S. All were excellent craftsmen but their teaching methods varied. I noticed that most would never be critical of students work or technique, even in a constructive way. That’s what I preferred. I wanted someone to push me to strive for the best of my abilities and not make me feel satisfied with something that could have been done better. With woodworking, each step of the process determines the quality of the next step. If your drawer opening isn’t square, a squarely made drawer won’t fit. After 12 years of continuous classes at Lonnie Bird’s school, I can say that his instruction is tops. At times I have been satisfied with a single task completed on a project. He wasn’t and asked me to do it over. Regretfully, many times this has happened because of my lack of personal expectations. But after DOING IT RIGHT I was happy I was pushed to improve the quality and improve my skill level. I’m paying to learn and not just get by. As my son who is a professional pilot says, “Fairly close on take offs and landings isn’t survivable. Only repeated “right on the mark” take offs and landings are. I know my hobby isn’t as critical as passengers in a multi million dollar aircraft, but learning to push my expectations in woodworking has carried over to other aspects of my life. I left the “Bell Curve” grading system in high school. In woodworking, I want my personal grade to be earned as a result of my newly learned skills. Lonnie Bird has help me do that.

-- Rex, Bellefonte, PA

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