We All Need to See it

Try square hand tool woodworking

My wife, Julia, and I have been baking our own sourdough bread for ten years now. Early on in our marriage, we began learning the building blocks of using different flours, kneading methods, and how to accommodate for temperature and humidity changes. For years, our bread was not much more than passable. We loved doing it but the books we read and videos we watched online could only take us so far. We needed someone to show us.

Fortunately, when we moved back to Maine eight years ago, some of Julia’s old friends generously taught us the way they make the sourdough in their incredible wood-fired bakery. Spending that day with them revolutionized our baking. They taught us little new information but it was watching it actually happen that turned the lights on for us. We didn’t need to hear it as much as we needed to see it.

I’ve always felt that the same principal applies to woodworking. You can read all the blogs and watch every video but it isn’t until you see it done in person (and get to try it yourself) that it clicks. Face to face instruction cannot be replaced.

This past fall, when Deneb Pulchalski contacted me about teaching a weekend workshop at Lie-Nielsen on June 17th and 18th, I said ‘yes’ without flinching... even though, as a young family man trying to keep a magazine and conservation practice running, I can’t really get serious into the teaching circuit. As of right now, I am only planning on doing one or two teaching gigs a year but Lie-Nielsen is a perfect fit for the class I had in mind.

It seems there are a lot of folks interested in building furniture without power tools. Since Mike and I launched the Apprenticeship Foundations video last year, we have been getting very enthusiastic feedback so when Deneb and I were discussing ideas for the class, focusing on efficient hand-tool furniture making made a lot of sense.

Although some people may be familiar with individual skills like cutting joinery or processing stock with handplanes, I think it’s better to refine those skills in the context of a build. Throughout the class, we’re going to be working on a simple (almost Shaker-esque) table in pine. This project will show how to prioritize surface quality in stock prep, cut joinery in a practical (read: not precious) way, and assemble without clamps.

hand plane tool workbench woodshop

Can you expect to complete this small table in the two days? While I do expect some folks to finish construction, in truth, it will depend on prior experience. But because the whole goal of this workshop is to show you how to work efficiently, I am confident anyone can finish at home and the lessons learned will empower all the rest of your woodworking experience.

Throughout the class, I’ll have available a few pre-industrial pieces for students to examine in person because this kind of focused look at period originals is key to absorbing the pre-industrial mentality and tolerances.

Check out more about the class here. I hope to see you there.


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