Woodworking 101: My Class at Palomar College #1: Week 1

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Blog entry by WayneS posted 08-22-2007 11:51 PM 4856 reads 1 time favorited 17 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Woodworking 101: My Class at Palomar College series Part 2: Wood Technology »

Let me start by thanking everyone that has commented on my blog thus far. The warm welcome is appreciated, and the voiced interest in my experience is great motivation to keep me committed. As far as pictures are concerned, I’m a photographer, so be careful what you ask for. Just kidding, I will do my best to document the process with plenty of eye candy.

With that said, let me just say that my first day of class was one of the most enjoyable things I’ve done in a long time, and I never touched a piece of wood. Today’s session was devoted to covering policies and procedures and getting acquainted with the facility.

The Facility

WOW! What a facility. My decision to take a class over striking out on my own was justified in spades today. This is one incredible place. At 15,000 square feet, the facility is enormous. Equipped with three complete machine shops, each with adjoining class rooms, there is every possible machine that a woodworker could ever dream of. Can’t wait to get my hands on them, but I have to keep telling myself …patience grasshopper. More on the facility in a moment.

One of 3 machine shops.

Awesome sharpening station.

All kidding aside, the facility really is amazing, and the staff is top notch. My instructor, Dave Thomsen, has been teaching at Palomar for 17 years after spending many years building cabinets. Also on staff is Russ Filbeck. Many of you may have seen Russ featured on HGTV’s Modern Masters series. Just do a quick Google on his name, and I think you will be impressed. There are a number of other staff members, but I haven’t had a chance to meet them …yet.

Timber Frame Structure built by students.

Several impressive things about the program at Palomar: They run 600 students per school year through some 50 classes that are offered. Among the classes are everything from my Woodworking 100, to timber frame structures, to specialized classes like guitar making. There really is something for every skill level. They’re even starting a bamboo fly rod class this semester.

One of several lumber storage areas.

Newly arrived lumber waiting to be stored.

Just an example of how respected the program is. In my class is a lady named Sue Spray. Sue builds most everything, but her specialty is canoes and kayaks. Her award winning work is already incredible, but she decided to start going through the Palomar program to fill any gaps she missed from being self taught. I’m really excited to have her as a potential resource to learn from, and bounce ideas off of.

So what did I learn today? Mostly that I have a lot to learn. We really won’t get into the shop until week four or five. Our class meets every Wednesday from 8am to 4:30pm, so I’m sure I will have to start doing some work at home to feed my new addiction.

Instructor showing us a piece of Carolina Cherry that is in stock.

The first weeks are going to be dedicated to learning safety, wood technology, and hand tool selection. While my anxiety level will be maxed out to get to work in the shop, I am really thankful that the instructor is taking so much time to cover everything, and provide me with a solid foundation.

Once we do get going, I will have my choice of four clock plans to choose from. We are free to customize the plans however we choose, but at the basic level, we will all be building clocks. At first glance, I really like a shaker style clock that is one of the options. I will let you know when I decide.

The programs sawmill, dubbed the Urban Forestry Program. Note the timber frame structure housing the sawmill that was built by students in the program.

Slabs cut at the sawmill.


More on the facility: Perhaps the thing I’m most excited about, outside of my class, is the opportunity to work in their Urban Forestry Program. In 2001, the school received a sawmill from the California Department of Forestry. Since that time, they’ve established a program where trees from the local area are brought in and milled on site to provide wood for the program. Mostly the trees are recovered fallen trees, and removed from property around the county. It’s going to be incredible to learn the entire process from sawmill, to kiln, to milling, to finished project. I doubt there are many opportunities out there like this for $100 bucks a semester. They have two huge areas with a wide variety of woods to choose from for our projects. We do have to buy it, but at discounted rates.

Structure built by Japanese craftsman at a Kezurou-kai conference several years ago. Serves as the entrance to the facility.

That’s about it for now. Enjoy the pictures, and please let me know if there are things of interest that I’m leaving out. Now I’m off to work on my 200 question open book exam on the shop safety manual. Gotta keep all my digits don’t you know.

-- Wayne - Newbie looking to learn!

17 comments so far

View Thos. Angle's profile

Thos. Angle

4444 posts in 3960 days

#1 posted 08-23-2007 12:09 AM

Let me be the first to congratulate you on a great set of photos and an interesting blog. It almost makes me want to come out and join you. I’d have to have 5 days a week to be happy though. You will learn so much you will be ahead of all of us. I can’t wait for the next installment. Talk about vicarious enjoyment!!Great Wayne

-- Thos. Angle, Jordan Valley, Oregon

View schroeder's profile


702 posts in 4123 days

#2 posted 08-23-2007 12:34 AM

Thanks for sharing this! – I am looking forward to seeing the blog continue! great job!

-- The Gnarly Wood Shoppe

View Jeff's profile


91 posts in 3945 days

#3 posted 08-23-2007 01:42 AM

I am impressed, this looks to be a wounderful place to learn woodworking I only wish I could be there to, maybe one. Good luck learn a lot and talk to you later.

-- Jeff B.

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4158 days

#4 posted 08-23-2007 02:22 AM

Great photos!
Yes, our first day was a great success and inspirational. Can’t wait for day 2.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 4084 days

#5 posted 08-23-2007 02:43 AM

You are extraordinarily fortunate to have such a resource. I would love to be able to join you. It sounds strangely similar to comments in a thread I started awhile ago.
and later in the thread Doug added the idea of a city sawmill doing exactly as you have described. What a blast! Best of luck on the courses….you’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll be building beautiful things.

Great to hear that you are a photographer…now we do have high expectations…:)

Wow….I just reviewed the photos again….$100/semester and access to tools and materials of that quality…..amazingly great deal!

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4325 days

#6 posted 08-23-2007 02:49 AM

can anyone say jealous? I sure can. Wow!

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View TomFran's profile


2957 posts in 3992 days

#7 posted 08-23-2007 02:53 AM

The only trouble with having this kind of opportunity is that we are going to expect WAY more out of you as far as expertise!

This is an amazing opportunity for you, and it appears that you are just the type of student who will benefit from the education.

We’ll look forward to seeing that clock!

-- Tom, Surfside Beach, SC - Romans 8:28

View Dan'um Style's profile

Dan'um Style

14172 posts in 3981 days

#8 posted 08-23-2007 02:55 AM

what is the cost of the class ? how long does it last ? do you have a link to the program ?

-- keeping myself entertained ... Humor and fun lubricate the brain

View Drace's profile


10 posts in 3928 days

#9 posted 08-23-2007 03:34 AM

Seems I joined at the right time! Very interesting blog, can’t wait to hear about day 2!

View brunob's profile


2277 posts in 4167 days

#10 posted 08-23-2007 03:58 AM

There’s nothing like that near me. I wish there was.

-- Bruce from Central New, if you'll pardon me, I have some sawdust to make.

View Karson's profile


35120 posts in 4398 days

#11 posted 08-23-2007 04:25 AM

Great opportunity that is being presented to you. Thanks for sharing what you have found and are going to participate in.

-- 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 Buckskin's profile


486 posts in 3986 days

#12 posted 08-23-2007 05:47 AM

I want to go to school again. I think I will enjoy following you on your journey!

View dennis mitchell's profile

dennis mitchell

3994 posts in 4312 days

#13 posted 08-23-2007 06:00 AM

Sounds like a great program. I’m a graduate of a community college woodworking program and have nothing but good things to say about it.

View WayneS 's profile


34 posts in 3929 days

#14 posted 08-23-2007 06:18 AM

Thanks everyone for checking in. I will do my best to keep it entertaining and educational.

Dan – Cost was $20 per unit. With all student fees, came out to $101 for the semester long class. Here is a link to the progam at Palomar

-- Wayne - Newbie looking to learn!

View mot's profile


4911 posts in 4034 days

#15 posted 08-23-2007 03:55 PM

Who found this guy? Wayne, great first blog entry and let me be the first to hand your the band aid to patch up the hole you just shot in your foot. You do realize, you have set a very high standard for your blog which has to be maintained through your entire program! Start off small, cutting board like…then move into a built in entertainment centre and then exotic veneers on flowing curves. Nope, you go and post a fantastic photo essay and explanation of your first day. HA…I can’t wait to see what comes next! Great job and it sounds like you’re going to make the most of this program!


-- You can discover more about a person in an hour of play than in a year of conversation. (Plato)

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