Plus You Might Learn Something…

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  •    Author: Mike Jasfer
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Six tool chests in five days (and six tired but happy makers).I left my woodworking magazine cubicle just a bit more than 18 months ago. Since then, I’ve been in the woodshop almost every day (a welcome change) building stuff for myself and for clients, prepping stock for woodworking classes, and teaching a lot of folks to cut dovetails (among other woodworkery things).
I used to take vacations from my woodworking job to take woodworking classes. Most of my work days were spent at the computer or—shudder—in meetings; I rarely got more than one uninterrupted hour of tool time. A full week in the shop was a rare and welcome treat. I would listen, learn, and pick up new techniques, but really, I was there to not be in meetings.
I am not alone in that. While I hope my students learn at least a little something about woodworking, what I’ve learned from them (and from fellow students during my aforementioned buswoman’s holidays) is that woodworking education is not always the primary (or even tertiary) motivation for taking classes:
As mentioned, it’s a great getaway from the day job
Time with fellow woodworkers (and new best friends)—sometimes more rewarding than toiling away alone in the basement or garage
Fellow students might actually want to hear about your tools and shop (your non-woodworking friends and family members are just being polite)
An excuse to buy a new tool (or three)
A chance to use tools you don’t have in your own shop (bonus: someone else sharpened them!)
A justification for the many tools you’ve already bought but not yet used
An excellent opportunity to show off your shiny new tools
An excellent opportunity to scoff at shiny new tools then show off the type 11 jack plane you brought back from the dead
A promise (possibly false) that you will actually finish on Friday the big project you start on Monday
Free doughnuts (and at one school, an endless supply of soft-serve ice cream)
A way to lose weight (hand tool-intensive classes only, and only if you don’t eat the doughnuts and ice cream)
It’s entertaining to interrupt every demo with, “Well that’s not how XX does it…” (your instructor will love you)
It’s rewarding to make things
A platform to show off your superior knowledge (your fellow students will love you)
It’s great to not have to prep the stock yourself for a large (or small) project
Likely to end in a bourbon tasting (possibly particular to my classes…)
A chance to see a new part of the country
An opportunity to pick the brains of the instructor on any and all woodworking (and sometimes other) topics, regardless of the specific class
Great fun to make a mess in someone else’s shop
An opportunity to post amazing woodworking pictures on Instagram
Beats a week in Vegas (though sometimes costs more)
While I no longer have meeting-avoidance motivation to take woodworking classes—with back-to-back classes coming up as I type “great to not have to prep the stock yourself” and “doughnuts”—it sounds like an unutterable delight. Sign me up. (I’ll bring the bourbon.)
Good friends, good week – thanks to instructor Larry Barrett (far right).Megan Fitzpatrick is the publisher at Rude Mechanicals Press and a peripatetic woodworking instructor and  freelance writer/editor. She lives in Cincinnati where she’s renovating a 1905 house, but can usually be found in the Lost Art Press shop in Covington, Ky.

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