Rosewood Studio – the Final Review

 

After my 6 weeks of Rosewood Studio, I felt I should write one final wrap up post on what I thought of the experience.  My weekly posts gave you a feeling far what was taught, but it didn’t really give my opinions on anything, so here goes…

 

For those not wanting to read anymore, I loved it.  It was awesome.  There, now you can leave.  For those who want more details…

 

Let’s start with the instruction.  I thought Ron Barter (head instructor) was excellent.  He has an incredible knowledge about woodworking and was always keen to answer my questions, no matter how many I came up with (trust me, I had a lot).  Even when the questions strayed off topic, Ron was keen to help out with questions pertaining to other aspects of woodworking, design, and so on.  He still answers my questions by email weeks after having taken the course! I found he was very patient, and his methodical approach really helped to limit my mistakes.  I now try to tell myself to slow down when I am working at in my shop, as I find this helps reduce my errors.  I also loved how he could turn mistakes into opportunities, so if I made a mistake in a cut, he would help find a solution to save the piece instead of simply starting over again.  The old saying about learning from your mistakes comes to mind! My only critique was I found sometimes Ron gave too many instructions at once, and I would forget some of the steps.  This is likely me being forgetful, but after mentioning this to Ron he adapted his teaching and would send me with less instructions at a time.

 

Course work:  The coursework covered a wide variety of woodworking (see my previous posts for details).  It obviously didn’t teach me everything, but what do you expect in 6 weeks?  It was an excellent overview and gave me a firm footing in fine woodworking.  Did it make me an expert furniture maker? No, of course not, it was 6 weeks!  I only wish this course could be offered through a college where this 6 week course could be spread over a semester, with lots of free shop time in order to help practice these new skills over and over.  This isn’t really a critique as I signed up for 6 weeks, but if someone did offer a course like this I think it would be awesome.  Rosewood offers longer programs, but I couldn’t afford the time commitment.

 

Facilities: Incredible.  Two of each major machine, each student gets a tool kit full of Lie Nielsen and Veritas hand tools.  Top notch quality and well maintained.  The fact that Ron does testing for Veritas means that he had one of just about every tool they make (even some ones they don’t sell just yet!).  This really helped me to figure out what tools I would like to purchase to set up my own shop.

 

Admin: Mary Ann is the admin at Rosewood.  She was very friendly and professional and answered my numerous questions in advance of attending Rosewood.  She also seemed to genuinely think I was making nice stuff and doing a good job, which always makes you feel good at the end of the day.

 

So as you can tell, I loved the course and highly recommend it.  Who’s the course directed at you ask?  Well I think just about anyone really.  You get out of it what you put in.  I learnt a ton of basics and foundations to woodworking.  But others could hone their skills just as easily.  Some of the longer courses would certainly prepare you for a career in fine woodworking, although you’d likely need a few years of experience under your belt before making a successful go at it.

 

Hope this helps convince anyone who might have been on the fence about this great wood working school!

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Rosewood Studio – Week 1, Excellence with Handtools

I’ve registered myself in Rosewood Studio’s 6 week Craftsman program run out of their school in Perth, Ontario.  Each week I’ll be writing a review of what we did to give people a better idea of what the school is all about.  While researching a woodworking school to go to, I found the number of reviews or information in general to be very slim, so hopefully this will be of help to some.  So without further ado…

Week 1 – Excellence with Hand Tools

My woodworking knowledge consists of what my dad taught me (not necessarily the correct way), what I learnt in grade 7/8 shop class, and whatever I’ve picked up along the way through books and the internet.  I’m fairly handy and have made quite a bit of stuff out of wood, but I always felt as if there were better ways to do what I was doing, and that my current tool collection was likely lacking.  Most of my tools were either passed down from Grandfathers, or were on sale.  The Grandfather tools were neglected (by them not me), and the tools on sale were generally bought for all the wrong reasons.  One of the things I loved about this first week at Rosewood was the free student tool kit that everyone gets to use.  It’s filled with very high quality tools so you can get a feel for what a good tool is, and it also means that you can “try before you buy”.  In fact the school recommends not buying new tools before the course so that they can guide you in your decisions.

We spent the week learning about hand planes, chisels scrapers, and saws, how to use them, sharpen them, and tune them.  I was able to restore an old handplane I had got at a pawn shop, but could also see what a Lie Nielsen plane was really like (included in the toolkit).  It’s also nice that Ron Barter (instructor) regularly tests tools for Veritas, so he has just about one of everything they make on site for you to try out.

So after sharpening up our chisels and planes, we set to work on our first task: the perfect board.  We were each given a piece of poplar about 14″ long, 2″ thick, and 10″ wide.  The boards were warped, cupped, and twisted, and we had to make all 6 sides smooth, flat, and square.  Many people would think this an easy task, use a jointer, planer and table saw and this task shouldn’t take more than a few minutes, but with only a collection of handplanes and a square, this task took the better part of a day.

Next it was on to cutting dovetails.  Using a dovetail saw and chisels, we joined two 3″ wide pieces of poplar together.  You start with poplar as it’s cheap and since it’s on the softer side of hardwoods, it’s a bit easier to use when learning.  After lots of fidgeting I finished my first set and was told I had done an excellent job for my first try.  We were told to write our names and the date on them so we could look back years from now and see how we have progressed over the years.  While still basking in the success of my work, Ron went to the table saw and cut two new pieces for me to work on… That’s what you get for finishing first I guess…  By the end of the week I had done 4 dovetail joints, each one with more tails and smaller pins, adding to the challenge each time.

We finished the week off with the Rosewood Studio Wood Challenge.  Ron laid out 20 pieces of wood and had us try to figure out what each one was.  It was way harder than I had thought it would be and I unfortunately only got 7 correct (the winner named 11).  Next week is mastering machines, which after a week of handplaning, my arms will be happy for the rest…