Mistake-free Woodworking

One of the best ways to learn woodworking is to get out in the shop and build. The more you work at it the better, but you know that along the way you’ll make a few mistakes. It’s my opinion that those mistakes are OK because you learn how things went wrong and hopefully you will not make the same mistake again. You also learn how to correct problems. The only trouble with this journey through woodworking is that it takes time – time most of us don’t have.

A second way to get better at woodworking is to learn from others’ mistakes. That’s probably why you’re reading this blog, why you subscribe to magazines and why forums are so popular today. Another way to learn from others’ mistakes is to take a class. If you want to speed up your woodworking learning phase, the quickest way – and a way to have fun and finish with a piece of furniture to take home – is to attend a class. During most any class I teach, I find myself using the phrase, “I know this because I’ve done it before.” Hopefully, that’s one less mistake you have to make and learn for yourself.

At the risk of a bit of self promotion, and to let you know when and where you can gain from my mistakes (I have plenty to pass along), here’s the list of my teaching dates, schools and projects. Sign up today and plan to bring a notebook. Maybe a tape recorder would be better.

First up, I’m at Acanthus Workshop in East Coventry, Pa., from June 6th through June 10th (click here to read the listing). The project is a Sugar Chest. The sugar chest I did in Popular Woodworking Magazine in the June 2007 issue (#162) was very popular. The question I answered about that piece the most was about the turned legs. If you don’t have a lathe, that’s a difficult part of the build. The chest we’re building at Acanthus has tapered legs. There isn’t any lathe work, but that’s a good thing because it allows more time to work on the hand-cut, half-blind dovetails and the simple inlay used on the chest front. Of course during the week-long class, you not only get to learn from my mistakes, you also learn from Acanthus owner Chuck Bender. He sits in on every class at the school.

During July, the 25th through the 29th to be exact, I return to Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Ind. The project for the week is the Dressing Table or Lowboy which was the cover project for the June 2010  issue of Popular Woodworking Magazine. As I wrote in the article, this dressing table has the most simple interior that I’ve ever seen in a fine antique piece. Take a look at the exterior, however, and you would never guess the inside is nailed together – don’t worry about using nails as this piece has been around for 250 years. During the class you’ll learn how to carve a trifid-foot cabriole leg, discover how quick pattern routing produces intricate designs, and learn everything you need to make the perfect 18th- and early 19th-Century drawer. Get on this class quickly. I know there are already woodworkers set to attend. (Go right to the class link if you click here)

The first week of August is a time that I look forward to. For the first time, I’ll be teaching a class at the Connecticut School of Woodworking. (Click here to view the listing, then scroll down to the date.) The project for the six-day class is a tool cabinet – my cabinet is built to hold the huge number of carving chisels that I inherited from my Dad. The cool part of this tool cabinet is the flip-down front door. The door is divided into three panels that are string-bound ovals (my choice is birds-eye) set on a bed of deeply colored mahogany veneer. And as if the building the cabinet and veneering the front isn’t enough, we’ll make sand-shaded fans then inlay them into the end panels. At this time, this project is built in Google SketchUp only, but as I work through the piece, I’ll snap photos and have everything ready to go come August. You should sign up now to make sure you’re there.

To wrap up the year for me, I’ll return to Acanthus a second time to teach a fantastic Shaker project from my first book. During the eight-day class that runs Sunday the 9th to Sunday the 16th, we’ll build a Shaker Sewing Desk (See the class listing here). This is without a doubt the most interesting piece of furniture that I’ve built. The post and frame construction allows drawers to slide in from the front and side – the interior looks like a jigsaw puzzle gone bad. In addition, the back of the desk is also finished with flat panels so this desk can sit with the back to the wall, with and end to the wall or even sit in the middle of the room. After this class, You’ll know mortise-and-tenon joints and dovetails on a first-name basis. Acanthus Workshop has six benches open for the class, so don’t hesitate to call.

— Glen D. Huey

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