Why I Teach (and Take) Woodworking Classes - Popular Woodworking Magazine

Why I Teach (and Take) Woodworking Classes

 In Chris Schwarz Blog, Chris Schwarz Woodworking Classes, Woodworking Blogs

During the last few years I’ve begun to teach classes at schools that I really like, such as the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Ind., and Kelly Mehler’s School of Woodworking in Berea, Ky. But the funny thing is that just because I’m now a teacher, I also really like to take woodworking classes.

In fact, if it weren’t for woodworking classes, I might not be the editor of this magazine.

In 1992, a close friend and I started building furniture in his basement. We were really, really serious about it, but we really, really stank at it. No matter how many books or magazines or TV shows we consumed, our cutting boards, side tables and umbrella stands looked like dogmeat.

Then my buddy, Chris Poore, twisted my arm to take a night class in woodworking at the University of Kentucky. Taught by Lynn Sweet in a big industrial building (probably a converted tobacco warehouse), the class was a completely intimidating idea. But Chris can be persuasive. He even talked his wife, Lee, into taking the class with us.

After one week, I knew that this was going to be my life’s work.

Classes are a fantastic way to learn. You can ask questions. You aren’t interrupted by life. You can focus on the task at hand and get immediate feedback. So I’ve continued to take classes, including a couple chairmaking classes, a class in advanced dovetails and a class in boat-building. In 2008, I really, really want to take a class at Mike Dunbar’s Windsor Institute.

If you’ve ever wanted to get a small taste of what a class is like, I highly recommend you check out a weekend seminar at a local woodworking store, or (at the least) take a gander at this slideshow Kelly Mehler posted on his site from our class last week. Good stuff.

– Christopher Schwarz

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Showing 5 comments
  • William Claspy

    I was in Berea with my kids last month and kept thinking I should have made a point to meet Brian Boggs and Kelly and some of the other folks down there. Next trip! Also should have arranged a stop at the Popular Woodworking shop/office while we were making our way through Cinci.

    But for goodness sake, get those cans of pop off the benches! 🙂

    Best wishes from upstate.

  • Chris Quinn

    I took a class with Mike Dunbar a year ago and it was just about perfection. After decades of teaching, Mike has refined the way he teaches the class so that anyone — woodworker or not — can make a Windsor chair in a week. It was the best woodworking money I ever spent.

  • Marc

    Hey Chris. You couldn’t be more right! There is nothing like a good hands-on class to increase knowledge of the craft, share ideas, and encourage general camaraderie amongst woodworkers. From my experience, you wind up learning nearly as much from your classmates as you do from the instructor. I too enjoy teaching woodworking. But I have to say honestly, my first love is learning. As a result, I have learned quite a bit from my own students.

    For anyone considering taking a woodworking, you absolutely should! And if possible, try to take one at an established school from an established teacher. Its a night and day difference from the quickie classes at the local stores (although these can be useful as well).

    Marc J. Spagnuolo
    Designer Craftsman

  • Mike Lingenfelter

    I think I have moved beyond the short classes I can find at the local woodworking store. My plan is to use my vacation next year and spend it at woodworking school. I’ve never been so excited! Now, picking the school. There are quite a few out there that have 1 and 2 week classes. I better make up my mind soon, I hear the classes fill up fast.


  • Steve Spear


    Kelly has a great school and is also
    a great instructor. I have taken a couple
    of his classes. Your seminar on sawing sounds
    very interesting. I hope it is scheduled on
    a weekend I can attend.


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