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Despite my butchering of their language last year, the German tool company Dictum asked me to return this week to teach two classes at its new workshop in Niederalteich, a small village in Bavaria.

Since I last taught here in September, Dictum has moved its workshop to Niederaltaich Abbey, a Benedictine order whose roots extend back to the 8th century. Students can stay on the abbey grounds, which is where I am, and walk to the workshop every morning. There also is a nice restaurant and beer garden on the grounds.

I wonder when my passport and visa expires?

The only rough part about teaching in Germany is the jet lag. It’s a six-hour time difference, which is just enough to mess with my internal body clock. I flew from Cincinnati on Thursday and arrived in Munich Friday morning. After checking in I slept until about 9:30 p.m. local time and went to find some dinner.

The restaurant had just stopped serving food, so I had to settle for two weiss beers, which are like liquid wheaty goodness in a glass. Thanks to my empty stomach, the beer put me under for another eight hours. Jet lag vanquished.

Today I took a look at Dictum’s new workshop and sorted through the stock they had prepared for the two classes I’m teaching. On Monday I’m teaching a two-day workshop on sawing to 13 students. Usually when I teach this class we build a sawbench. But because this is land of the bowsaw I had to reconsider. So instead we’re building the English Layout Square using European cherry.

It is going to be a fun mash-up of cultures on Monday. There are students coming from all over Europe. Dictum sells mostly Japanese tools. And I’m trying to translate my sawing methods to work with English, European and Japanese tools.

Example: How do you describe “points per inch” in the metric system? Points per 21mm?

Starting Wednesday I’m teaching a five-day class on building a traditional tool chest – the first time I have ever taught this course. If I can get the bugs worked out of the class here in Germany, perhaps I can teach it in the United States.

My only apprehension at this point is the wood. The cabinetmakers who run this shop have already prepared the panels for the students. They used a local pine, which is good. But it looks to my eye a lot like light-yellow pine – there are serious color changes between the earlywood and latewood. If the wood’s density changes a lot between the annular rings, the students could be in for some tricky sawing.

After sorting out the wood and touring the workshop a bit I made one last visit to the shop’s lunchroom. In September I had become quite fond of the company’s coffee machine, which dispenses a wide variety of hot beverages. I don’t know if Germany would be the same without it.

And there in the corner it was – my old friend.

— Christopher Schwarz

Can’t Afford a Sawing Class in Germany?
• My sawing class is one of my most popular courses. It’s so popular that we filmed one of the classes and now sell it as a DVD: “Build a Sawbench with Christopher Schwarz.” It’s just like taking the class, but without all the smells.

• If you are interested in building a dovetailed tool chest, I recommend you watch Glen D. Huey’s “Cheating at Hand-cut Dovetails,” which has a lot of great tricks to speed you on your way.

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Showing 22 comments
  • chewie136

    I just found out a job opening with my company in a town about an hour down the road from Niederalteich. It looks like a nice area. What are your thoughts? Could you live there as a midwestern transplant?

  • BaileyNo5

    As damien has pointed out, 1 inch is 25.4mm or 2.54 centimeters. I would imagine centimeters would be an acceptable measurement rather than millimeters. So an 8 PPI saw would be 3.15 CPI or centimeters per inch. 10 PPI would be 3.94 CPI. You could round these to 3 CPI and 4 CPI. A true metric saw would likely have an even number of CPI, so the teeth would be spaced slightly different than one calibrated in PPI. But close enough for gubmint work.

    Also, in regard to jet lag, the US military used to publish a manual on how to deal with it. I think it is out of print (hey, isn’t that your specialty?), but if you PM me on the Woodnet board I’ll email you a copy. I’ve used it and it works quite well. It’s a bit like what Dave Keller suggested. You won’t like the “no alcohol” part tho.

  • David Keller

    Chris – Might be a bit too late to try this on this trip, but as a veteran of the coporate pond-hopping thing, I found the “travelers edge” to be very effective.

    The specifics of it are to scrupulously avoid caffiene for a week before your trip. If you’re addicted like I am, you can just pare it down to avoid-withdrawals levels. When you arrive in Europe from the US, it’s typical that you arrive in the early morning. Instead of heading to bed, drink coffee for breakfast, lunch and mid-afternoon and eat some food, but not much.

    Eat dinner like a king, and drink nothing caffeinated.

    You will sleep through the (European) night, and be very much non-jet lagged that first day.

    You can reverse the process for your return trip.

    Try it – it really works!

  • Jonathan Szczepanski

    Chris –

    I am jealous of your trip. Maybe some day I can attend. (My wife was a German major, so I don’t think it would be difficult to convince her).

    In the last photo, with the wood piles, are they clamped to stop them from warping? If so, does that actually work?


  • gsuing

    No left-handed benches. Lame.

  • Jonas Jensen

    I can hardly wait.
    I am going to the tool chest class along with my father.
    So Monday I’ll sign of the ship and drive home to change clothes and pack a different suitcase, then its a 1200 km drive and we’ll both be there.
    See you Wednesday morning.
    Is it OK to bring ones own tools?

  • Tumblewood

    I fell in love with Germany on one of my first trips home to visit my wife’s family in Unterbalbach Lauda. We went on a tour of glass blowing factories and when I saw a beer vending machine at the work place, I knew I was home. :o)

  • cams2705

    Chris … you must be really popular there for them to name a one of their drinks after you. Take a close look at the selection fourth from the top! LOL

    Cafe Creme schwarz!!!

  • mrogen


    I’m sure that everybody’s happy (and breathing a sigh of relief) that there is no hardware to be aged!



  • damien

    To my regret I am unable to come to the class even if it would have been a long ride. My guess is that for transport the glue up can wait until home.
    But 21 mm ? Now I am confused, is it not better to suppose a more standard 1.00 inch = 25,4 mm. I would stick to inches, like in “Pitch 14 TPI (1,8 mm)” and even use fractional notation to make it completely outlandish 🙂

  • gehentogo

    I can hardly wait. I signed up for both of your classes and am really looking forward to them. The only thing I haven’t figured out yet is how to get a new tool chest home in my hatchback. :o)


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