View Full Version : Woodworking school
09-20-2001, 09:16 AM
We (my SO and I) have now been to the first four classes of the fine woodworking intro class at Santa Fe Community College.
I am learning so much! Even though I have made some fairly decent projects over the past five years, I am finding that working in a structured learning environment is really helping.
Our first task was to mill a maple board with four even, parallel sides.
Then the instructor checked the board for plane and parallel, then he measured the board and gave us dimensions a bit smaller and told us to re-mill the board to the dimensions he specified, and to mill a second board to match the first.
The third step was to mill a third board to match the first two. The fourth step was to glue the three boards together to make a panel.
Now that may seem really simple, but the expectation was that nothing could be out of line by more than 1/64th of an inch. If your boards were not right, you had to start over.
The person who started this program is a graduate of Krenov's College of the Redwoods program, so the local course is based on Krenov's. The entire program is about 40 semester hours (about two years if you go full time). It is very inexpensive ($33 per credit hour plus materials and $5 per credit hour if you are over 65!)
I have already taken two other courses while waiting for the intro course to be offered outside my regular job hours. I took a class in finishing and the introduction to turning. Both were wonderful courses and helped me get a better grip on the basics.
It is especially wonderful that my SO is taking the class. She has always been very afraid of the table saw and the router. Now she is learning to use the tools safely in a carefully monitored situation, so she feels much better about it. She has never been much on careful measurement and detail, so she was really pleased with herself when she got her panel glued up correctly!
In case you are wondering if all we are going to do is glue up boards, the intended outcome is to build a small table. Each step, however, is preceded by practicing on scrap wood pieces. This Saturday (our class meets for 8 hours on Saturdays from late August through December), we will select our wood, mill, and glue up the top of the table using the skills we learned last week.
I hope to become a really good woodworker over the next few years -- which certainly looks possible considering the work that some of the students exhibit!
John Lucas (Guest)
09-20-2001, 03:16 PM
I think the experience and skills you are gaining are fabulous...more than most of us "woodworkers" have...me included. I just moved my very equipped shop and in the move, a cherry chest of drawers my father made in his woodshop course ended up next to me as I sit in my packing box filled office. For the first time, I noticed that the back panel is as finished a raised panel as the rest. When I was a youngster, he would describe the "pain and suffering" demanded from him and the others in his class by the teacher who, like yours, insisted on arduous, meticulous hand tool skills. This chest has about 12 years before it officially becomes a 100 yr old antique, but I will tell you right now, it is in great, "good as new condition" - no cracks, warps, splits, broken drawers or corners or joints. I do pretty good work myself, but I can't be sure that I could say the same.
Enjoy the course. I, for one, am very jealous of your experience...and pure delighted that you decided to go for it.
09-21-2001, 12:20 PM
Me, too, Johanna-
I live in an area where I'd have to drive three hours to get to a woodworking school, and then pay for a motel room to attend the classes! I'm jealous as can be. Keep us updated on what you are doing there. Sounds great. -Barb S.
D for Dusty (Guest)
09-22-2001, 05:17 PM
How to build on something you have done already is fantastic..I really like the idea about what else you can do with what you have done. When I started my classes just a year ago, I went from one project to another..each one introducing another technique...which was fine!! I have learned alot but feel along with learning woodworking also what you can do to make something better is a unique way of teaching...This Krenov guy knows his stuff and the way to teach it...
I am currently working on two tables...one a bench table and one Im afraid may be over my head...but will attempt it..There are a few new procedures that I have no idea about, but my instructor is a fantastic guy and feels I can get through it..It is the gateleg table...I decided to work on both because of the bench table being a bit on my level, I can go with that instead of standing around for the next available time with the instructor instead of wasting my time..I discovered this is working out fantastic..He sees what im doing and appreciates my hands not being on my hip. Johanna I loved your posting...Thanks
09-22-2001, 06:59 PM
OK, here is what we did today.
We selected the wood (5/4 ash) for our table top, milled it, and glued it up. Then we selected the wood (8/4 ash) for the legs and milled 5 legs square to the correct length plus an inch.
It took a couple of hours to select and lay out the tops. We were expected to demonstrate an understanding of how to make the best layout given the supply we had (which was sufficient to make some pretty good choices). Our tops were also checked for plane, of course. We have quite a variety of designs. Those of us with some experience are expected to design and build a more complex project that those who are quite new.
My partner, Joanne, confessed to the instructor that she did not figure out until last week's milling exercise why it was going to take all semester to make a little table. "After all," she said, "what is so hard about nailing a few boards together". She has told everyone that when she saw 16 foot rough boards it dawned on her why it was going to take so long!
One thing I learned today was that you should sticker the boards you have milled. I had always thought that was just for drying wood. It is little details like that that are making this class so rewarding. I also learned a great deal about layout after the demonstrations and readings on that subject. I always understood that you should make the seam lines in panels as invisible as possible, but we went into how grain can change the apparent shape of an object.
Next week we will begin practicing making mortise and tenon joints.
This is heaven!
09-22-2001, 07:06 PM
John, you may not realize it, but you are one of my instructors. Your web page is just wonderful! I really appreciate all the work you put in to make it so helpful. Thanks!
09-23-2001, 01:01 AM
Johanna- Did you do 5 legs so you'd have one extra to practice mortise/tenons on, or is it a five-legged table? -Barb S.
09-23-2001, 01:18 PM
and thank you. The site is fun to do, but it only really makes sense if people can make use of it. I have a great fall list of projects. products and skills to do. I am always looking for ideas, so suggest away...
09-23-2001, 08:05 PM
The fifth leg is the practice leg and would become the "rescue" leg if something went amiss with one of the other four.
When we cut the legs, we used the center of the boards for the practice legs since these are flat sawn boards. I have the diagonal grain reserved for the front legs, of course.
09-24-2001, 06:51 AM
By any chance are you talking about Santa Fe Community College in Gainesville, Fla? I just returned from there. Our daughter lives in Gainesville and takes classes at the Community College.
09-25-2001, 05:30 AM
I am simply green with envy! Oh for some similar woodworking classes here in country Victoria, Australia. My skills have mostly come from reading books and simply "having a go" but I would love to have access to the kind of tuition you are able to access Johanna.
Like the others who've posted replies, I look forward to further reports on your progress. Meanwhile, I shall go back to dreaming about the arrival of the pocket hole jig which I ordered today!
Cheers from Downunder
PS I am going to ask my SO Loretta to read your post and replies as she regularly expects that I shall be able to complete my furniture projects in "a couple of days"....
09-25-2001, 07:37 AM
'Fraid not. This is the original Santa Fe - in New Mexico.
09-29-2001, 10:23 PM
LAST EDITED ON Sep-29-01 AT 11:27PM (CDT)
Today was mortising lessons. We have two methods available: a horizontal boring machine and a router with a fabulous mortising jig. We will practice on both but use one or the other on the table legs.
First, however, he went over design and layout of legs and aprons. Depending on the shape of the legs, we had to arrange the leg blanks so that the grain goes with the shape. The legs for my table taper outward below the bottom shelf, so I had to be sure the grain followed the taper.
The grain must not go toward the taper. Since each leg is tapered on two sides, that gets a bit tricky trying to be sure all four legs have appropriate grain patterns on all four sides.
The next bit of design consideration was to locate the position of the mortises. We had a couple of people who choked up on adding fractions while figuring out the distance from the edge of the leg to the mortise!
The horizontal boring machine is certainly a great way to make mortises! Too bad it costs about $3000! Not in my shop budget.
Someone at the school designed a really fine jig for mortising legs. We can get the plans for it, and I will certainly do so. The jig is adjustable for any thickness up to at least four inches. It has stops to control the position and length of the mortises. The router is mounted on a frame that slides on top of the U-shaped adjustable box that holds the leg. The frame keeps the router steady and correctly centered over the mortise because it has a sliding rail that is adjusted to the width of the leg box. The final touch is that if the mortises for the end aprons are the same distance from the edge of the leg as the mortises for the side aprons, then all you have to do is turn the jig around to do the second set of mortises instead of having to re-do all the settings.
Finally, we had a lecture on table saw safety (again). The instructor saw someone reaching over the blade. It is good to have someone checking our technique for safety.
I brought the pieces for the bottom shelf of my table home so I can get it glued up by next Saturday. I got it milled on 3 sides, so just have to complete the milling and do the glue-up.
10-06-2001, 07:50 PM
Today was mortising day. After practising first on a piece of poplar and then on my extra leg, I successfully cut all sixteen mortises using the router. Joanne is using the horizontal boring machine. I need to do a practice piece on the boring machine since we are expected to be proficient in both methods.
The big lesson for today was that plunge routers have a bushing that can become worn. When the bushing is worn, the router does not descend in an absolutely true path. The mortise, then, can have ridges or grooves. The router I was using did need a new bushing, so I had to do several practice mortises until I learned to compensate for the "slop" by keeping my hands quite steady as I plunged, then locking the depth in before moving the router from side to side. Only one of the sixteen mortises in the table legs has a ridge, and that one is easily smoothed.
The other big lesson was that careful setup and testing pay off. I took plenty of time checking my alignment, and all the mortises are in exactly the right places. I had made five tables prior to taking this class, yet I have improved my techniques immeasureably.
Next week it is on to tenons!
When I finally acquire the plans for the mortising jig, I'll make it available to this group, provided there is no restriction on its publication. I have never seen a jig quite like it in any publication. It is very easily adjusted for a wide variety of mortising tasks.
Let me know if y'all are still interested in how this class progresses. Also, if anyone wants to know what equipment and facilities the school has I would be glad to list them.
10-07-2001, 09:19 AM
LAST EDITED ON Oct-07-01 AT 10:26AM (CDT)
Please do continue to post. Very interesting. Thank you for taking the time to share. How many days/week do you attend this class?
10-07-2001, 11:16 PM
This is a one-semester class. It meets on Saturday from 8:30 to 5. The semester began the last week of August and ends in mid-December. The other two sections meet twice a week for four hours each session.
I can only attend Saturday, Sunday, and evening classes, but the school makes certain that all classes are offered on evenings and weekends, although you often have to wait awhile until the class you want is offered at a time you can attend. This intro class was already full last fall when I found out about the woodworking program, so last year I took a course on finishing and the introduction to turning. Spring classes have not yet been posted, so I do not know what is next on the agenda.
01-02-2002, 12:34 AM
So nice to see positive comments about a structured learning envirionment. I also have about five years of project experience (with greatly varied outcomes)and took an introductory woodworking course at a community college in California. The class was extremely helpful.
I'm making a career change and am trying to decide the feasibility (considering income potential and my skill level) of making a living as a furniture/cabinet maker. I'm curious if you have any professional aspirations?
01-02-2002, 07:56 AM
Two peices of advice on becoming a professional woodworker:
1) Be sure thats what you want. Very often, making your hobby into your career robs the hobby of a lot of the enjoyment. I've managed to avoid that because the professional side of my woodworking is currently in computer driven routers in high production shops. My hobby work is devoted more toward the home shop and finer type work with "normal" shop tools. There is a good separation there. But for most professional woodworkers, your day to day job will be very similar to your hobby shop time.
2) Contact all of the woodworking shops within reasonable driving time to your home and tell them you are looking for a job. Have some sort of portfolio ready to show them your skills. Here on the East Coast most shops are still short handed and certainly never have enough skilled employees. You should not have too many problems finding a job. That being said, the vast majority of shops are producing either a basic line of products, or are cabinet shops. Sometimes this means that the work is not too challenging and can be the same thing day in and day out.
Look especially for an shop that does architectural woodwork or possibly display type work. they often have the best variety of projects that you can try out different skills on.
Hope this helps,
01-02-2002, 04:24 PM
Since I am 60, my professional aspirations are a bit limited! While I have no desire to work for someone else as a woodworker, I would like to sell work from time to time for some mad money after I retire. So far I have sold lots of pens and other small turned objects and two tables. I did not make much on them, but that was not important at the time.
Good craftspersons are a dime a dozen here. I do have one special area of expertise that seems to have buyers: I have made some New Mexico style tables with tile tops that I designed and painted myself using old Indian pottery motifs. When we finished our tables at the school, the instructor showed us that at the rate we worked the tables would have to sell for thousands of dollars in order to make anything from them! I really like the table I made, but doubt it is worth $2000!
I hope to continue in my current job (I'm a systems analyst specializing in school records software) for at least five more years -- got to pay for home, workshop, tools, etc.!