When Thomas Lie-Nielsen was growing his toolmaking business in the 1990s, he designed an addition to his factory in Warren, Maine, that would be the perfect foundry to cast his tools.
The 50′ x 50′ building would have a high ceiling and be right off the production floor and his second-floor office.
Time passed. Things changed.
Thomas built the place for his foundry, but he never put a foundry there. Instead, after years of working on the space in fits and starts it opened as a place to take hand-tool classes and attend seminars.
Last year, Lie-Nielsen held a few workshops in the space. This year, the company offered eight weekend classes – and hopes to expand its offerings soon. This weekend, I taught a two-day course in the space on building an English Layout Square, and I was struck by how nice it was to teach there. Here’s why:
1. Light. There is so much natural light through the windows in three directions that every bench on the floor is flooded with window light – even on an overcast day.
2. Floor. The floor is plywood. That might not sound like a big deal – unless you have spent a week standing on a concrete floor. It is a big deal. Thomas says he is considering adding a hardwood floor, but is still thinking on it.
3. Benches. Every students get a huge Lie-Nielsen bench. Nice.
4. Tools. Three walls of the school are lined with all the tools that the company makes. They are sharp and ready to go. You just walk up, pick up the No. 51 and go to work. Cool.
5. Instructors. Despite the fact that they invited me, they have some great instructors. Garrett Hack, Jeff Miller, Steve Latta, Phil Lowe, Chris Becksvoort and (in September) David Charlesworth.
What I like about the space is that it has a real old-school feel. No machines. No concrete. Several doughnuts. Large windows overlooking the Maine landscape. I got a little lost while working in the shop. Time flew by for me.
Also, students received a 10-percent discount on tools they purchased from Lie-Nielsen while attending a class. For some customers, that discount might actually pay for the class.
The third thing I noticed was that many of the students brought friends and spouses along on their trips. While the students toiled under my never-ceasing whip, their travel companions went mountain biking, shopping, swimming, hiking or on a puffin cruise.
So if you are going to be in Maine during the coming year, be sure to check out the company’s page that lists its workshops here.
— Christopher Schwarz
Want to build the English Layout Square from my class in Maine? It is featured in the December 2010 issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine, which you can buy in our store.