The primary goals of Woodworking 101 are to expose children to working with their hands, instill in them a respect for the trades, and give them skills they can use for the rest of their lives. Secondary goals are to create safe and effective work habits, instill an appreciation for tools, and give basic instruction in the principles, techniques, and history of woodworking.
“aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one.” - I Thessalonians 4:11-12 ESV
While certainly not a scriptural mandate to work with one's hands, this verse illustrates a mindset that reflects the class atmosphere: living quietly, doing good work, and cultivating an attitude of self-sufficiency. The following, from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin also illustrates the core values of the course:
“If you teach a poor young man to shave himself, and keep his razor in order, you may contribute more to the happiness of his life than in giving him a thousand guineas. This sum may be soon spent, the regret only remaining of having foolishly consumed it; but in the other case, he escapes the frequent vexation of waiting for barbers, and of their sometimes dirty fingers, offensive breaths, and dull razors; he shaves when most convenient to him, and enjoys daily the pleasure of its being done with a good instrument.”
Beginning with 2 boards and a dowel, class participants build a simple tool box. Each class balances hands-on tool use with instruction on the properties of wood. Tool instruction includes: reading a tape measure, accurate marking, saws and their use, hand planes and their use, drilling tools and techniques, gluing strategies, sanding, and finishing. Tree anatomy, wood as a resource, and wood use in furniture construction are also covered. As time allows, demonstrations are done that may include chainsaw use and safety, wood turning, and tips for efficient project management. Classes are limited to 4 students.
Classes are taught in my shop which is outfitted with a wide range of hand and power tools. Children under the age of 16 work exclusively with hand tools but are given demonstrations of safe operation of power tools. All tasks are first demonstrated and then closely supervised.
Woodworking is inherently dangerous. Creating a safe environment and teaching habits that will make students safer woodworkers is a principal concern. Chances are very good that minor cuts will happen and the occasional finger will likely be hammered. First aid is part of the course of study. All parents enrolling students will be required to sign a waiver. A copy of the waiver is available for your review before committing to the class. Children who cannot exercise self control are at much greater risk of injuring themselves and others and may be asked to postpone completion of the course until they are older.
I'm happy to work with parents to determine ideal scheduling. The curriculum is covered in either six or four classes ranging from an hour to an hour and a half each. Class times are scheduled at the time most convenient for those currently interested in attending. The cost for the course is $360 for 6-weekly clases. Missed classes can be made up at the instructor's convenience either before or after a regularly scheduled class. The curriculum is designed such that each class builds on the previous week's skills. While it is possible to miss a class and continue, it hampers the ability of the student to build skills in a methodical fashion. It is highly recommended that all attempts be made to attend each class at its scheduled time.
Professional-grade tools are provided for class use. Wood and materials costs are included in the tuition fee. Links can be made available to any parent who wishes to purchase the items included in the 101 tool kit.
I've worked with wood most of my life. My initial instruction came from my father and days in the shop with dad remain treasured memories. As I progressed, my learning came through books and a steady diet of trial and error. The system worked, but results were slow and the risk of personal injury increased exponentially! Progress was slowed by an incomplete understanding of the basics. In short, I spent a lot of time and energy, made a lot of sawdust, but never felt like I was achieving the results I desired - or was capable of.
In 2007, after 20 years of working wood, I met a wood turner who offered one-on-one instruction. His teaching gave me a strong foundation on which to build a deeper insight into specific techniques. He has become a resource for my ongoing education and a good friend. This single experience profoundly changed my approach to working with wood. Previously scattered attempts became focused exercises in the pursuit of quality, proficiency, and safety.
I eagerly enrolled in other classes and soon found myself called to share what I was learning with others, specifically children. These skills, which were once taught regularly, have all but disappeared. Woodworking is not only a creative outlet; it builds math skills, coordination, and perseverance. These are things I hope to share with younger generations.