Last week I got a chance to attend my first formal woodworking class. And by "formal", I mean casual and relaxed. Also by "formal", I mean a class taught by a real master, Jeff Miller. To further my learning, I had decided that I would try to learn from as many teachers as possible, time and money allowing. With Jeff Miller just a few miles away, that makes the time and money part pretty bearable.
Over the last few years, I had read articles by Jeff Miller in the various woodworking magazines, but only recently figured out that he is located in Chicago, just a few miles away. I saw from his site that he offers furniture making workshops. While an internet connection and some woodworking magazine subscriptions lets a self-taught woodworker like me see or read about fifty ways to do anything, being able to be taught in person, from a master craftsman, is priceless. Even better, "priceless" meant $100 for a one day class.
So I jumped at the chance.
I signed up for the "Dovetail Workshop", a class on, surprise, cutting dovetails, using both hand tool methods, and a table saw jig/bandsaw method. And just to nerd out even more, I bought his recently released book, The Foundations of Better Woodworking, which was a great read that really helped me prepare for what Jeff might be teaching. It wasn't any sort of requirement, but I wanted to make sure I would get the most out of the experience. It turns out, the book is well worth it by itself.
The class itself was a blast. There were about five students in all, most of whom had been students of Jeff's before. We met in Jeff's shop, and each had a bench to work on. Jeff was clear, detailed, and a great teacher. In the 5 or so hours of the class, we had ample time to work on the various exercises he had us do, and receive critiques on our technique and progress. I was able to pepper him with questions which he graciously answered. I really got great value out of the experience, and can't wait to go back for more.