studying with a master

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Forum topic by woodnut posted 02-15-2009 02:44 AM 1031 views 0 times favorited 10 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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393 posts in 3475 days

02-15-2009 02:44 AM

After looking at Marco’s post with the sculpture, I started thinking about how great it would be to be able to study with someone who has mastered there craft. There is no way that I could do it but would love to all the same. All the humdrums of live would not allow me to do so, but how great would it be. So I have a question for you guys and gals how many have been able to study with someone and was it as great as I think it would be. I am not knocking learning on your own, becouse outside of the net that is pretty much what I have done. Just seems that there is alot that could be learned form guys like this.

-- F.Little

10 replies so far

View Karson's profile


35032 posts in 3823 days

#1 posted 02-15-2009 07:25 AM

I took one 2 day class with Jeff Jewitt on French Polishing. the class was held at Steve Latta’s school shop. We had a great time there.

High school shop 1 yr. and the rest all self taught. other than a few demos at some wood shows.

Sharpening, raised panels, door construction, case construction all self taught. Try it and make it better next time.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View John Ormsby's profile

John Ormsby

1283 posts in 3160 days

#2 posted 02-15-2009 08:40 AM

I learned a lot while working on wooden boats in New York city in the seventies. These guys really new their stuff and passed it along to whoever wanted to learn. They would tell stories about sailing the big boats and such. But, it was through these stories and histories that one came away with the knowledge of why something was done a certain way. My uncle played with wooden boats for years and we were restoring a sailboat he bought to go sailing. He was a big influence. It was an interesting time.
I live in San Francisco for almost eight years and spent countless hours with real pros who new the ins and outs of all aspects of Victorian and Art Deco homes and furniture. I mixed in some Arts & Crafts style also. It was a fantastic learning experience. I got tired of all the loonies in the city and finally moved out.

However, one eventually must go out on their own direction and keep adding to the knowledge acquired. I also believe it is a good idea to take a break every once in awhile and come back with a clearer mind. I usually stop woodworking every two years for two months and do something else.

I guess it is like any profession. You don’t go to the desert to enjoy and get to know the beach & ocean. You go where it’s happening.

If given the chance and you have the time and means, I say go for it.

-- Oldworld, Fair Oaks, Ca

View JuniorJoiner's profile


463 posts in 2863 days

#3 posted 02-15-2009 09:22 AM

it’s funny that you posted this today, because today i stumbled into a local master woodworker. I had no idea his shop was there, and he has no website. But for the 3 hours we talked and looked at the mounds of workpieces he had in his front room.
there is no doubt he is a master of the highest level, and has personal stories of james krenov and alan peters from the early eighties.
the other thing about him is that he is cantankerous to the highest level. he spent the first half hour trying to shoo me away.He dislikes company so much that he hasn’t taught an apprentice since 1980. but once he realized we spoke the same language well(woodworking), it was hard to get away when i had to go.

I did get what i think was a compliment from him, i’m allowed to come back.
I have to say that after seeing his work, i am excited that he may let me watch him work on some of his projects. and just from a three hour meeting, my head is reeling with techniques i want to experiment with.

from the lightbulbs that came on from just a short afternoon, I say that any time spent with a true master is worth it’s weight in gold, and i hope to have more.

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

View kiwi1969's profile


609 posts in 2865 days

#4 posted 02-15-2009 10:29 AM

I,ve been lucky to have worked with a few old guys who have probably forgotten more than I will ever know, not really masters, just years of knowledge doing great work, and whose names will never be remembered despite the skill and care they put into their work. Sadly these men have all but vanished as old age, mass production and the apathy of the younger generations push them aside in the rush for whats new and up to date. I,m guilty of just that and now, too late, I realise how precious that time was. If I could find a “master” now I would sleep on his workshop floor and live in his toolbox! After 15 years in factories all I have become is a very very good and efficient button pusher, in no way would I consider myself a craftsman. And so, while I may never find a master in life, I seek out their words and examples in books, magazines and where ever else they left their mark. It,s the closest I will ever get. JuniorJoiner if all you ever do is make that guys coffee you have an opportunity that is becoming increasingly rare and should be cherished. Make the most of it, I never did, and am the bigger fool for it.

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3316 days

#5 posted 02-15-2009 02:11 PM

I’ve studued under 4 world champion master carvers, a couple of master finishers and worked with several master joiners.

Guessing I’m lucky!

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

View woodnut's profile


393 posts in 3475 days

#6 posted 02-15-2009 03:10 PM

Karson, we seem to be in the same boat, I did take a one year shop class, it was carpentry geared toward building houses, never even made it into the shop. That was for 2nd year students. Like yourself I try something and then try it again and again. As others have said it is hard to find anyone in my local area to study with. I no of only one older gentleman and he has been quit for a very long time. A story about him, I was at work installing a drain pipe infront of his house when we started talking and woodworking came up, one thing lead to another and we ended up in his basement. He showed me some tables he made then said, do you want to see my last project, I said yes and he walked me to a covered piece, when he pulled the cover off there was a coffin, as far as coffins go it was beautiful the time and craftmanship were like I had never seen before, he laughed and said the cover was for his wife, she was mad at him for building his on coffin and didn’t want to see it. He said, don’t get me wrong I hope it sits here and never gets used, but when I need it it is hear.Thought that was funny. Another thing I am remembering about the visit is that most of his power tools he had made himself even the table saw. I remember it was a wooden cabinet with a motor in the bottom and a wooden top with a blade and pulley . I left their knoiwng ,it is not the tools but the person behind them that makes the craftsman.

-- F.Little

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F Dudak

342 posts in 3233 days

#7 posted 02-15-2009 04:09 PM

I took classes with Mike Dunbar and can’t get enough. Each class enlightened me a little more about how to deal with certain situations that occur during chair building. Mike has implimented several steps to help keep his students from making mistakes. The mistakes still happen from time to time and if the mistake is ridiculous enough you earn your spot on the wall of shame. The great thing about his classes is that they are ever searching for improvements in the chair building process. Students often contribute to these improvements and they can actually change the way the class is taught from year to year. The improvements come under careful scrutiny from Mike and his staff before they are accepted.

Just watching these guys that have mastered chair building is humbling. Detailed instruction is given and then you are set free to complete a task. Help is always close at hand which makes it possible, for people who have never even used a hand tool in their life, to complete a chair. This may be the most impressive thing about Mike’s teaching. I would recommend a Windsor Chair class at the Windsor Institute in NH to anyone.

-- Fred.... Poconos, PA ---- Chairwright in the making ----

View 8iowa's profile


1540 posts in 3184 days

#8 posted 02-15-2009 05:02 PM

Highland woodworking in Atlanta, which is within reach of you, has Saturday and week-end classes. I’m sure that a Woodcraft store near you also has classes. While these instructors are good, and the information is highly beneficial, this is not exactly “studing with the old masters”.

That being said, the Marc Adams school South of Indianapolis, (www.marcadams,com) also within reach of you, offers 5 day classes with some of the most noted woodworkers in the country. If everyday life won’t permit you to take a year off and study as an apprentice, this would be the next best alternative. Three years ago my son-in-law attended a segmented bowl class at the Marc Adams school under the tutelage of author and artist Malcom Tibbets.

-- "Heaven is North of the Bridge"

View Waldschrat's profile


505 posts in 2858 days

#9 posted 03-06-2009 04:20 PM

I have had the luck to live where I live!

You guys ought to come to germany… here you are only allowed to learn woodworking (as a job) from Masters! (I do not think that there are many places left with such culture of learning wood working like in Germany, and I must admit that I am proud of that)

We have a pretty cool system, and if you want to take on an apprentice you can only do it as a Master. Of course some masters are better than others… I have had luck, the ones that I have worked with have been pretty good so far. But like 8iowa said, its not everybody who can take a lot of time off and learn a just go to school. By us here in germany we have to complete 3 years going to school and working for a Master Cabinet maker or carpenter, wood turner, carver… whatever (in most hand working jobs it is like this, baker, tailor, smith, gold smith, clockmaker…) before one is a journeyman… not to mention all the tests and exams and projects to build, its a lot of work, but one becomes very fast and good that is certain.

in risk of going off the subject, something of interest:

There is perhaps one disadvantage to our system… because of the high quality that the german Masters and Journeyman hand workers and educatedr, the cost of our expierence and quality is almost unpayable by t people, so that it is getting harder and harder every year for shops to get by, especially with the economy crisis and all. for example: for a journeymans time a master has to charge (average, depending on where they live) around 46 euros, per hour! thats like 60 dollars an hour. Thats expensive.

-- Nicholas, Cabinet/Furniture Maker, Blue Hill, Maine

View kiwi1969's profile


609 posts in 2865 days

#10 posted 03-07-2009 02:42 AM

Long may your master/aprentice system survive . Combine that with the beautiful beer,food and fraulines you have there it sounds like a woodworkers paradise!

-- if the hand is not working it is not a pure hand

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