In Chris Schwarz Blog, Chris Schwarz Woodworking Classes

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Everything I know that is worth a darn was taught to me by someone else who knew their stuff , planing, sawing and all my machine skills came from other woodworkers to whom I owe a huge debt. I try pass this knowledge on to our readers in the magazine, but sometimes it’s quite frustrating because of the limited space and the format , words and still photos. Showing someone face-to-face how to shoot an edge square is simple; telling them about it in words and pictures is a challenge.

That’s why I’m particularly pleased to tell you that I’ll be teaching a class May 8-12 at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking outside Indianapolis. In this five-day class we’ll be exploring how to blend hand and power tools to add accuracy and speed to many woodworking operations. These techniques work. The cabinet on the cover of the newest issue was built in less than 20 hours of shop time. And I was proud to sign the work as my own.

Despite the bravado of my sentences above, I’m a bit humbled by this teaching job. If you browse around the list of instructors that Marc Adams hand picks, you’ll see what I mean. Heck, there are about a dozen class at the school in 2006 that I want to enroll in. But I’m going to give this my all. I’ve put a lot of thought into a curriculum that ties together many of the threads and themes you’ve seen in Woodworking Magazine. For information about the details of the class, visit this page about the curriculum.

As a preview, here are objectives of the course. If you have any questions, you know that you can of course email or call me. I’ll be happy to chat with you about it.

Course Goals & Objectives
Wielded correctly, hand tools can make your work faster, your joints tighter and your sanding chores almost non-existent. The key is to select the right tool for the job, set it up correctly and use it properly. In this class you will learn to blend hand tool and machine operations in a way that fully exploits the strengths of every tool and machine. During the five days we are going to focus heavily on the bench plane system, mortise-and-tenon joints, drawboring, wedging, nailing and some curved work. To learn all of the principles of this system, you’ll build a traditional sawbench/mortising stool from longleaf pine that will , at the end of the class , unlock yet another frontier of woodworking for you to explore in your shop at home.

Woodworkers of all skill levels are welcome; the only prerequisite I ask is that you have very basic sharpening skills. In a nutshell, here is what we will be covering during our five days together:

– Understanding bench planes. How to set up a fore plane, jointer plane and smoothing plane properly. We’ll cover proper blade shapes, how to use the tools in the correct order, when to switch from one tool to the next and the proper strokes to develop flat stock. You’ll learn how to incorporate machine jointers and planers into our work with bench planes so that your stock is flatter than most machines can make it, and it does not require power sanding. We’ll also cover sharpening and using card scrapers and the politics of hand sanding.

– Advanced bench plane techniques. You’ll learn to flatten glued-up panels, plane frame-and-panel assembles in a smart manner (no need to learn to plane around corners), fine-fit cabinet components with your bench planes, make tapered cuts for door and drawer fitting, lengthen moulding, planing identical widths/thicknesses, edge-jointing and springing joints.

– Forgotten tools. You’ll make your own drawbore pins and wedge-cutting sled, which will unlock two of the hot-rodding tricks used by traditional woodworkers that virtually eliminate the need for a shop full of clamps and downtime waiting for glue to dry. Plus, these two techniques produce joints that are mechanically superior.

– Mortise-and-tenon joinery. We explore the most fundamental joint in woodworking and learn to blend hand and power tools to make these joints extremely fast, fit like a glove and stronger than necessary. We’ll explore five traditional methods for making mortises by hand and two that incorporate machinery.

– Sawing. With your sawbench complete, you’ll learn to properly use a Western saw, which will unlock the next phase of your journey.

Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 4 comments
  • Christopher Schwarz


    The mortising stool is interesting in that it has the legs extending above the work surface. This allows you to wedge the stock on the stool against the legs.

    And, of course, you can sit on your stock, too.


  • np

    Thanks for the info Chris. The mortising stool part is what got my attention. I’ll check out the book you mentioned.

    Thanks again,

  • Christopher Schwarz

    I’m sure there are drawings of traditional sawbenches on the internet somewhere, but it eludes me this morning. If you have a copy of "The Practical Woodworker" you’ll find a drawing of one there, right next to a mortising stool.

    They are, in essence, sawhorses designed for cabinet work. Their working surface is considerably wider than the traditional 2 x 4 sawhorse’s. In fact, for a lot of cabinet work you can get away with using only one (though two are quite handy for ripping and assembly chores).

    The sawbench for the class is a traditional design that I’ve tweaked to allow it to be used as a mortising stool as well and it incorporates a couple clamping functions as well. Think of it as a Workmate designed specifically for woodworking. I’m going to build a couple more to get warmed up for the class in the coming months and I’ll try to post some photos.


  • nap

    Any links to what a sawbench/mortising stool is? Sounds interesting.


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