Want to improve your skills? Conquer a technique that has been giving you fits or you can’t understand from YouTube? Overcome a creative block? Find some inspiration and motivation for your woodworking or other craft? Then take a class.
When I first got in to handtools I took a handplane class at The Woodwright’s School in NC. Bill Anderson put on a great class and had us all six-squaring boards by the end of the two day class. That class was in 2010 and since then life has gotten in the way, I haven’t maintained my skills and I was feeling frustrated with handplanes in my shop. Most vexing to me was my smoothing plane which for the life of me I could not seem to set up right to yield those gossamer thin shavings we all dream of making. So this past January I signed up for Handplane Essentials at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking.
I went to the class knowing I would be satisfied if I merely conquered my frustrations with my smoother. To be honest I had recently let this frustration be an excuse for not getting in the shop at all. What I got instead was so much more. Jim Tolpin’s staff of knowledgeable instructors put together an engaging and awesome class that kept us all busy over the two days. Although they had a well-planned curriculum, they began by asking us what individual goals we had for the class. As we went through the practicums and lessons of the class curriculum, they found ways to tie in our individual goals and coach and mentor each one of us to meet them. For example, as some of us worked on six-squaring boards others learned to hollow grind their blades, fettle their smoothers, set up an electrolysis bath, or just work on body mechanics and techniques. There was no pressure to finish a certain project or hands on practical exercise, which allowed us to follow along and learn these side lessons too. This is just one of the many of what I would call unintentional benefits of taking a class: learning from the questions of others.
In the end, I departed Port Townsend with my desire to work wood reinvigorated. In the few weeks since I took that class I have made huge headway on my kayak and even started a new project, a dutch tool chest because of the motivation I took from that class. Over the coming days I hope to tell you about a few more unintentional benefits of taking a class that help to make them such a worthwhile investment for any maker, craftsman, or tinkerer.