Offering woodworking classes at my shop...any advice?

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Forum topic by davewest1 posted 03-11-2010 05:41 AM 11545 views 1 time favorited 15 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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24 posts in 3087 days

03-11-2010 05:41 AM

Topic tags/keywords: question

I operate a high end custom cabinet shop in MA and am about to offer several levels of woodworking classes to the general public. My intention was to share some knowledge, build a following, generate some referrals for the shop and possible inspire some folks to take on some basic projects on their own. I am sure there are a whole bunch of scenarios I have not even thought of but can you offer any advice to me before I get started?

-Days and times?
-Cost per class?
-Class size?
-Safety switches?
-Different levels?
-Children’s classes?
-Ways to get some publicity?

Thanks in advance.

-- Dave West - Best Behaved Boys in Construction (and cabinet making)

15 replies so far

View sikrap's profile


1121 posts in 3358 days

#1 posted 03-11-2010 05:52 AM

Hmmm, this might be just what I’m looking for. Where in Mass are you? I’m in Albany, NY and I’ve been looking for classes. If there are any local woodworking clubs, you might consider offering their members a discount. I know that our members often come back from classes and discuss the class at the meetings.

-- Dave, Colonie, NY

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24 posts in 3087 days

#2 posted 03-11-2010 05:55 AM

Our shop is in Georgetown, MA which is right near the Northeaster shore line. Might be a haul from Albany :)

-- Dave West - Best Behaved Boys in Construction (and cabinet making)

View Peter Oxley's profile

Peter Oxley

1426 posts in 3873 days

#3 posted 03-11-2010 06:02 AM

I have had several people ask me to teach classes or give them private lessons. I was seriously considering it until I talked to my insurance agent.

-- -- --

View Sawkerf's profile


1730 posts in 3067 days

#4 posted 03-11-2010 06:37 AM

Talk to your insurance agent before you do anything else – and be sitting down when he tells you the preminums. If you’re thinking that some kind of disclaimer will cover you, see your lawyer next.

-- Adversity doesn't build reveals it.

View bill merritt's profile

bill merritt

203 posts in 3288 days

#5 posted 03-11-2010 08:36 AM

In the last class I took they had forms at the door for you to sign before the class started. If you can work out details, I think there is a large market waiting for you or someone else.

-- Bill Merritt -Augusta Ga. woodworker

View a1Jim's profile


117091 posts in 3576 days

#6 posted 03-11-2010 08:46 AM

Get an attorney to type up a release form and get liability insurance.

-- wood crafting & woodworking classes

View richgreer's profile


4541 posts in 3073 days

#7 posted 03-11-2010 03:44 PM

I thought about this once until I talked to my attorney. A release form only offers some limited protection. Of course, the litigation risk varies, to some degree, by state. I strongly encourage you to talk with an attorney before proceeding.

-- Rich, Cedar Rapids, IA - I'm a woodworker. I don't create beauty, I reveal it.

View Chiefk's profile


163 posts in 3770 days

#8 posted 03-11-2010 04:35 PM

When I lived in Dayton, Ohio, I took a couple of woodworking classes from a local custom woodworking shop. They offered basic and intermediate classes. Each of their classes was designed around a specific project. They had a class to build a blanket chest, a shaker style candle table along with other projects. The classes were generally over a two day weekend or evenings during the week and set up to allow each student to complete the project. One of the classes I took was building the oval shaker nesting boxes. The cost of the classes included the price of the materials. I don’t recall what I paid for the course, but believe it was around $100. They generally had a waiting list for each of the classes. God Luck, pkennedy

-- P Kennedy Crossville, TN

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Glen Peterson

556 posts in 3055 days

#9 posted 03-12-2010 02:44 PM

Liability is my first, second, and third concern. I tried to get my daughter(then 12) into a turning class a few years ago and they wouldn’t take her at CT Valley School of Woodworking, even with me in the class. Rightly so, if a kid was seriously hurt the legal costs could put a school out of business. Phil Lowe did let us take a class at his school in Beverly in your neighborhood.

I’m a school principal and teaching is also quite different than doing. I know the old saying, “those that can’t do teach” but that doesn’t necessarily mean that all those who can do can teach it to others. I’d recommend starting to get into teaching to see if you even like it by doing something such as teaching a night or weekend class through your local or regional adult education system. The added benefit is that you don’t have the personal risk exposure.

-- Glen

View Kjuly's profile


308 posts in 3285 days

#10 posted 03-12-2010 08:42 PM

Hi Dave,
I have been teaching woodworking classes for several years. I started at the local high school wood shop and after having trouble with scheduling, looked for other places to teach. Now, I teach at a local Lumber store and Woodcraft.
The advertising, scheduling and fee collection is handled by the stores, which I prefer. When you add up all the time spent doing these things, it can drive the price of the class to unreasonable levels. A quick search of the internet will give you a good idea as what to charge for your classes. I break mine down to class hour times the number of students and go from there.
I would suggest that you find a place to teach and test the waters before you offer classes in your shop. This will give you a chance to see what types of classes are popular in your area and what will fit your teaching style.
Teaching is very rewarding and offers you a chance to interact with other woodworkers. It will show what you know and what you thought you knew but in any case well worth the effort.
I have gotten a few referrals and several leads from teaching but I do it for the inspiration, for me and the students.
Good Luck

-- Keith, Charlotte, MI

View TheDane's profile


5423 posts in 3662 days

#11 posted 03-12-2010 11:03 PM

The insurance and liability issues can be huge … but you also need to make sure you are offering something of real value as well.

There is a guy in a nearby town that offers ‘seminars’ ... 4 hours on Saturday mornings … where it is basically him doing a lecture to a group of people sitting on folding chairs in his shop. Attendees get to watch him work with his tools, listen to what he has to say and ask a few questions. He charges $50! I attended one, then asked for my money back. I could have gotten more benefit and spent less money on a DVD that I could watch anytime I want in the comfort of my own home.

On the other hand, I would almost kill to be able to attend one of Rob Cosman’s workshops. His classes run for 5 days, you bring your own tools, and the cost is $995.00 plus expenses … but I think it would be worth it.

-- Gerry -- "I don't plan to ever really grow up ... I'm just going to learn how to act in public!"

View paperclip's profile


11 posts in 1572 days

#12 posted 02-04-2014 02:49 PM

go for it if you haven’t already. I am teaching no part-time too. my avenue started in 2008 for a summer day camp. safe way for me to ease into this arena as well as not get slammed with insurance and disclamer issues all at once.

-- paperclip, texas,

View Grandpa's profile


3259 posts in 2674 days

#13 posted 02-04-2014 05:46 PM

I had some people approach me about teaching such a class. I didn’t even have to see the attorney and insurance agent before I knew it would be expensive and very risky. I have taught at our local technical school and they takes a load off you as an individual.

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2849 days

#14 posted 02-04-2014 10:29 PM

My experience: Teaching through the community college had this advantage: they did all the advertising and registering. Together we set the minimum # of students which of course raised the cost per student for a smaller group which would be easier to manage.

I taught one of those adult ed classes at the high school but that didn’t work well.

I went on my own then, with the blessing of my insurance agent, kept the enrollment at 5 and did the Thursday night, Friday night, all day Saturday, Sunday to noon thing.

I set the projects up so each student would go home with a finished or nearly-finished project. What was left could be done at home (though I have no assurance that it always was).

Projects were: Adirondack chair, sofa table or writing table (same plan, different dimensions), Arts and crafts glass-door bookcase, Router table and Basic workbench.

Machining was set up to be as fail-safe as possible. If anyone was leery of a machine, I’d do the run for them. I did all the advertising and usually had to buttonhole people to get them to sign up.

Everyone worked with the same species, which I provided. With the Adirondack, for instance, I’d purchase good widths of #2 furniture grade eastern pine and rough cut blanks, excluding the knots. They had clear wood, manageable sizes, and could get right to shaping.

So. Was it successful? Yes. I made money, had a great time watching people grow, and I am sure it broadened my top-of-mind awareness in the community. People often would end up taking two or three classes. I usually lost a day of production in preparation and cleaning on the front end, cleaning and resting on the back end. I learned to factor that into the $ equation.

However, I did not “teach” much. I led people through the projects. They got a taste of using good commercial grade tools. They went home with an object that was structurally sound, made of good quality material and pleasing in proportions.

No one asked for money back and everyone who started—and this was over about a 5 year period—finished.

About mentoring in the next post.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

View Lee Barker's profile

Lee Barker

2170 posts in 2849 days

#15 posted 02-04-2014 10:44 PM

Now I have one person I am mentoring. This has turned out to be a fantastic process for both of us.

He picks the project. I may or may not have input. I may or may not help him design it. We may work together to select the material. I help him access wood and hardware.

We meet at the most once a week, an afternoon. His shop. The goals (safety being the prerequisite) are:
1. To learn at least one new skill per project.
2. To learn the whys as well as the hows.
3. To learn how to fix mistakes.
4. To learn the potential and the limitations of his equipment.

A session lasts from 1 1/2 to 3 hours, his call.

This is the most rewarding teaching of all my experience. He asks excellent questions, and he really wants to learn.

The people in my previous post could legitimately buy and wear the “been there, done that” T shirt.

Phil, in this post, is constantly growing and improving and getting increasing enjoyment out of his chosen hobby. We both think it’s a breakthrough model. (Phil has taken “several students, one teacher, one project” classes and has little good to say about them.)

I hope that Lumberjocks, who may be mentors or students, will try this approach and work to make it even better.

So, Dave, to your questions!

-Days and times? Set some and try it.

-Cost per class? Your time, including prep; materials (I strongly recommend you buy); machinery wear and tear and runtime; and insurance.

-Class size? Depends on your shop. If every is ready to sand at once, you’d better have the bench space for that. Etc.

-Safety switches? I don’t know what you mean.

-Insurance? Approach it as doable and it will become that.

-Different levels? Yes. Pick an easy first class project and go from that. You may require that class as a prerequisite for some more complicated ones.

-Children’s classes? A whole different ball o’ wax. If you’re not inclined to instruct youngsters, listen to yourself.

-Ways to get some publicity? I used community newspapers but we don’t have one now. Craigslist I suppose.



-- " his brain, which is as dry as the remainder biscuit after a voyage, he hath strange places cramm'd with observation, the which he vents in mangled forms." --Shakespeare, "As You Like It"

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