|Forum topic by paratrooper34||posted 09-17-2010 08:43 PM||1348 views||0 times favorited||7 replies|
09-17-2010 08:43 PM
I attended my very first woodworking class. I want to share some points of the experience to hopefully encourage some of you out there who may be thinking of going to one of these things to go out and attend one.
I am primarily a hand tool user. The hand tool user has information available, but I think the power tool guys really have much more available to them. I have read a bunch of books and watched a lot of videos in my search for knowledge and nailing down techniques. I realized after the second day of this five day class, that although I have a “good enough” knowledge base to accomplish most of what I do, the instruction I received I validated some of what I do at home and I caught on to few methods/ideas that I hadn’t thought of. It was nice to have a professional confirm what I do and fine tune what I needed.
The class was a traditional joinery class with a build project of a small Shaker cabinet. It was held in Metten, Germany, which is in Bavaria. The instructor was Chris Schwarz. I am sure you all know who he is. For those who have never met Chris but know his work, let me tell you that he is a great guy. Incredibly smart and knowledgeable but down to earth and a great sense of humor. His method of instruction was easy to grasp and he never left us hanging. He answered each and every question we had for him and he did it in a way that never came across as “Well, do it this way because I said so”. Rather, he answered questions with this type of logic that instilled confidence with his answers. For instance, he covered sharpening very in depth. He never mentioned stropping blades. So I asked him about it because it was obvious he left it out. He told me “I don’t strop after honing because it I feel it is basically diminishing returns.” Rather than leave it at that, he further explained that an 8,000 grit stone polishes at whatever micron level of finish and stropping was very close to that level at whatever micron level. So he rationalized why he does what he does. He did tell me that he strops to refresh a blade after use. Well, I hope I explained this well enough for you. My point being he was a great instructor.
The class covered hand tool use in depth. From sharpening, to planes and setting them up (and using them correctly), to chisels, to saws, to drills, etc, etc. He didn’t just sit there and tell us what to do, he did them with us. He showed us how to do it, then walked around and really worked along side us to make sure we were doing things correctly. He showed us what wrong looked like and then what right looks like. He always had an answer for all questions. And you could tell he wasn’t BSing anything. He KNOWS what he is talking about. Also, Dick had a huge assortment of tools available for our use. LN, Veritas, Japanese tools, etc. So we got to try out all of their stuff to see how premium tools measured up. As students, we got a 10% discount on tools for purchase at the class. That was a nice touch!
During the week, the tool classes were put to practical use by making the Shaker cabinet. The lessons were integrated well with the particular phase of the cabinet project. Over the course of the week, you ended up with a complete (or very near complete) cabinet made exclusively with hand tools. Ok, some power was involved as the parts for the cabinet were milled by Chris and the staff at Dick Fine Hand Tools. But we took the parts from there and kept away from the power. I will admit that I cheated when I made one rip cut on a bandsaw. But that was it.
The course was held at a classroom owned by Dick. The classroom featured an Ulmia workbench per student complete with a small box of hand tools, mostly Japanese. Some students, me included, brought some of their own tools. There was also a dedicated sharpening room, again with a bench per student and a set of stones for each. Lunch was catered everyday with a choice from a menu in the morning. Drinks, fruit, and afternoon pastries were free. The students were diverse. I actually traveled the shortest distance to the class (45 minutes from my home). There were guys from around Germany and also from Switzerland, Sweden, Hungary, and Poland. We also had a diverse background in woodworking. Some said they were absolute beginners. The Shaker cabinet was the very first project for one guy. Others had lots of experience: the man behind me had actually built his own 26 foot sailboat at one time. But the course instruction was aimed at everyone. Even though I had a good working knowledge of sharpening, I still learned some good stuff. I guess we all learned at least something.
Overall, I learned some new techniques and I learned some methods to fine tune my existing techniques. I cannot say enough about Chris. He is a great teacher and made the extra effort to ensure everyone understood the lessons. If you ever have the opportunity to get some instruction from him, go for it. He is a wealth of knowledge and teaches in a way that you can understand and learn. I hope to attend more woodworking classes in the future now that I got my feet wet. The bar is pretty high for me now, so I hope what I get in the future will measure up to this experience. If you ever wanted to try one out but are on the fence, I say go for it! Good Luck!
Here is the link to Dick Fine Hand Tools: www.dick.biz