Friday, July 21, 2017

I'm back from the Woodwright's School

I just had a nice visit to The Woodwright's School in Pittsboro, NC, and I wanted to share a little bit about my experience.
Roy Underhill discusses trade-offs in sharpening with the class 

The class I took was "Introduction to Hand Tool Woodworking" taught by Roy Underhill, which might seems strange for a person who has been working with hand tools and writing about for years. I had my reasons though, and I did learn a few things. Mostly, though, it was a fun and motivating way to spend a couple of days, knocking the rust of my skills, spending some time with like-minded folk, and having to keep up with the pace of a class. I chose this class in particular because of the teacher, and because it was a relatively small time/money commitment compared to other classes. It was the first time I've taken a woodworking class, and I'm really glad I did it.

Now that the conclusion is out of the way, here's a list of some highlights:

* Roy was his goofy and magnanimous self, like on TV but without rushing to get it all into one take. To hear him tell it, he wasted class time with self-serving anecdotes, but listening to his banter is in my humble opinion, a major benefit of this particular school.

* Hanging out with 10 other woodworkers was fun. Don't get me wrong, it was a pretty introverted crowd (as I have come to expect in this hobby) so I'm not talking about wild rollicking craziness, but it was nice to have some camaraderie, and to share information and stories. Hello Jean-Paul, Tiffani, Joel, and the rest of the class (should you happen to read this)!

* The wood we got to work with was choice. We built bench hooks starting from a green walnut log-which was a bit of a revelation. It split easily, but only when I wanted it to, and planing it felt amazingly smooth. The purple and yellow undertones were cool too. We made dovetailed boxes from [dried] poplar on day 2. Both were especially smooth and easy to work with, and beautiful. 
The bench I was using

* Ed and his shop full of nicely tuned old tools upstairs. They were available to try out during class, which was a really nice bonus. Just having access to a store like that is a good opportunity considering the tools are cheaper than new, but sharp and ready to there is a lot of variety. I didn't take massive advantage of this because I'm pretty well equipped at this point, but I did pick up a saw set.

* Did I mention I learned some stuff? Even though I've split logs, milled stock, and cut dovetails before, by giving myself over to someone else's methods, I learned a few things. I had never used hot hide glue before, and trying it out removed the intimidation factor. I also learned some subtle things about dovetailing that I think will make it go a lot faster in the future.

* Getting to use a real workbench! Mine is still in progress because I've had limited time for woodworking since mid 2015, and this felt like a luxury.

* Pittsboro was a charming little town with some great stuff to offer. The City Tap and Small St. B & B stand out in particular. The City Tap had a great selection of microbrews that weren't dominated by IPAs as is so often the case in my neck of the woods. And the Small St. B & B was just phenomenal. The room I slept in was a piece of art, the food was divine, and the couple that ran it made me feel completely at home. If you find yourself in Pittsboro, go try their hotcakes when they are serving breakfast, whether you are staying there or not! (because they're also a breakfast/brunch restaurant)

* The driving was an experience. It was 11+ hours each way for me. I'm not sure it was a highlight in every sense, but it was a very memorable part of the trip, and I would do it again.

* I brought home useful stuff that I made:
Useful stuff, safely home.