Friday, September 23, 2011

John's Handtool Class

As the chief-cook-and-bottle-washer of my woodworking school, I'm constantly striving to make it better. Sure, some of the things are easy to accomplish - add a tool here, rearrange a few things, add some new shop aids, like vices or tool supports. But introducing something really different is always a leap of faith. Will it work? Will the students accept change with open arms?

Yesterday marked the end of an experiment of which I am particularly proud - hiring a guest instructor to teach a new class. John Eugster's Hand Tool class ended yesterday with many praises for not only the content of the class, but for his enthusiasm for teaching, as well.

This class focused on dovetails - and for the sake of simplicity, everyone built the same wall cabinet, as shown below. This cabinet featured both full and half-blind dovetails; no small feat for new woodworkers!

It was genius that John started the class by having everyone practice dovetails on scrap wood, before starting their actual cuts on their cabinet members.

And by the end of that first session, everyone had a nice joint that they'd cut. I say it all the time, but woodworking is 95% practice. If you do it long enough, you'll get better; it's as simple as that.

By the fourth class session, most had their cabinet assembled, and were ready to start their drawer. What's even better, during each class, John added some great demos to the material he presented. At any given class, you might have found him sharing his knowledge on sharpening, using scratch stock to achieve a custom profile or tuning up a hand plane. You can read all the books in the world, but there is nothing like watching an expert do it right in front of you.

Here are a few cabinets that started to take form.

This one features a shelf with a stopped dado, so that the shelf line on the front edge of the cabinet is clean, without the interruption of a dado.

A very nice detail to attempt! Also, this cabinet was a little larger than the others, as it will eventually be used as a bathroom cabinet, holding rolls of bathroom tissue in the drawer. Smart!

Most of the people in the class had some woodworking skills under their belt, but this particular cabinet was made by someone that has been working in wood less than a year.

She sure looks like she knows what she's doing - and you know what? She's turning into an excellent woodworker!

This gentleman's wife is such an amazing artist, and he constructs many of the wooden items that she turns into amazing creations. There is a ton of creativity going on in their home, and he puts a great deal of attention to detail in his work. I find that to be a completely admirable quality in a woodworker. People who say "oh, that's good enough" make me want to scream. I want to see passion in someone's work, and it is evident here, in his work.

This isn't just a plug for my school - but for all art programs in small towns across the country. There is a certain sense of accomplishment that is gained by stepping out of your comfort zone and learning something new. It doesn't matter if it's a cooking class, a spinning class, or a woodworking class - I urge you to try something new. You'll meet some new people, learn a new skill, and certainly gain a little swagger in your step about what you've accomplished. How amazingly cool.

Thanks to everyone who enrolled, this was truly an amazing class to host at my shop, and hopefully, the first of many to come.


John said...

Thanks for an awesome "pat on the back" Jamie. I think the experience was great and I hope we can do this again sometime! Students were awesome and their dedication and desire to do quality work was great -- I hate saying "that's good enough" and so did they!

Jay Amundson said...

Thanks, Jamie for a great class and also to John for putting "his all" into the class.


Bobbie said...

First let me say Thank you for the kind words Jamie, I am only as good as my teachers. Your passion for wood and teaching have made me confident to continue learning new things. Thank you again. The class John taught was great, I got a slow start but was able to get it done in the end. Thank you John! You both have such great knowledge and passion it can't help to spill over everyone else. I learn something new every time I talk to one of you. Thank you again for the great experience and memories.