Rosewood Studio School of Fine Woodworking; Tools, Courses, Workshops and Instruction

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Blog by Bryan White - Southdale Supply


The Rosewood Studio - Day 1

Today was the first day of a 5 day workshop I'm attending entitled "Excellence with Hand Tools" at the Rosewood Studio in Perth Ontario. The course is instructed by Rosewood Studio owner Ron Barter and from my initial contact with the school the experience has been positive.

After brief introductions around the room, day 1 started off with a tour of the school, which is well equipment for a class size of eight people. Housed in an old car dealership, the school is well situation in the quaint town of Perth. The rest of the morning focused on bench plane orientation, showing examples of different type and sizes of bench planes and their various construction methods. Even basic plane restoration was covered just before lunch.

The afternoon switch gears into arguably the most important feature on any plane - a sharp blade! Most of the time was allocated to theory, ensuring students undersand what sharp is and the basic methods of achieving sharp. I'm confident that by mid afternoon everyone around the room was jonsing for a tool fix. Everywhere you look around the school there are tools... that we hadn't touched yet. Of course we wouldn't good home disappointed as it was time to put blade to stone for that sharp edge in preparation for day 2, where we'll make shavings.


The Rosewood Studio - Day 2

Day 2 of the "Excellence with Hand Tools" course started the way day 1 ended - sharpening. Once the plane blade was sharp, it was time to make some shavings. The end objective is making a 6 squared board (a board that is finished, straight, and square on all six sides) using only hand tools. The process is flattening one face, then making a parallel opposing face, squaring up one side, paralleling the opposite side, and lastly squaring the ends. Woodworking is a series of steps and each step in this process is proceeded by a lesson full of techniques, tips, and tricks. Even an experienced woodworker would learn something new. 

The purpose of the exercise is to practice your planing skills with a specific end goal. At the end of the day the only tangible results are a 4 squared board (still two sides to go!), sore shoulders, and a blister. However, it's the intangible knowledge and personal growth that results from the lessons and practice that are most important. I know that I corrected some bad habits and solved some technique problems today. 


The Rosewood Studio - Day 3

Having sharp hand tools is extremely important for achieving successful results, so day 3 of the "Excellence with Hand Tools" workshop started with sharpening a low angle block plane in preparation for squaring the last two sides of our six squared board. Squaring the end grain is the most difficult step since end grain is so challenging to cut, but as always a few lessons proceed the task which made process simple. There is something very satisfying about about making long wood shaving from end grain, and this morning was a very satisfying morning.

Late morning we switch gears to chisels. Starting with an overview of the various types of chisels, differences in design and construction, and their uses. After lunch the lesson turned to... you guessed it... sharpening! Specifically putting a hollow grind on a chisel and freehand honing. Both of these tasks were foreign to me and I was excited to learn them. There is something scary about taking a chisel to a grinder, but again, it's just series of steps that are well presented before any student puts metal to spinning stone. The day ended for me with three chisels hollow ground to a new angle and honed sharp.... and a head full of new knowledge!


The Rosewood Studio - Day 4

Wood was the topic of the morning and the lesson included type of boards, kiln drying, wood movement, and appropriate applications. Real world examples and applications were sprinkled throughout the lesson to add context. Although the lesson was long, a great level of detail was provided and was appreciated. The morning ended with our six squared board being cut in two pieces so we could prepare the edged for gluing it back together. It's yet another reminder that this whole exercise isn't to create something, but to apply and practice the skills we are learning. 

We don't actually glue the boards back together, instead one half is resawed to create stock for the final lesson of the day. And the final lesson is a good one since it's the start of the hand cut dovetails agenda. I've never cut dovetails by hand, but it's certainly on the bucket list. Like always the lesson walks through the steps to complete the task as well as the reasoning and logic behind the steps. Although time was running short, I still managed to layout the board and get some practice cuts in before heading back to the hotel. One of the great things about the school is the ability to use a variety of different tools. I was able to practice using four different dovetail saws before deciding on the one I felt most comfortable making my final cuts with. An experience that will be beneficial in a future buying experience. 

Just one more day to go!


The Rosewood Studio - Day 5

Rosewood Studio The final day of the "Excellence with Hand Tools" workshop at the Rosewood Studio started right where day 4 left off. All the practice cuts for the dovetails are done, the real cuts are made, and the waste is chopped away using the chisels we previously hollow ground. Each new skill taught in the workshop builds on the previous one, and this is evident as we use all the acquired skills to complete our final tasks. Once the tails of the dovetails are cut, a lesson in making the pins is presented, then back to the bench to apply the theory. I must say I was very satisfied with my first effort, consisting of two tails and three pins, I an increased the challenge on my second attempt. I was pleased that my second ones turned out even better than my first.

 For many woodworkers, hand cutting dovetails is a scary proposition. I know I have been apprehensive in the past, but if you follow the basic steps, it's really a straightforward process. The workshop ended with a lesson on card scrapers followed by a 'Name that Wood' contest. Once everyone said their goodbyes, I started my five hour drive home. Certainly adequate time to reflect on the past five days.

 And as I look back two things really stood out to me. Firstly the reminder that fine woodworking is a series of steps. Each one building on the previous. Complicated tasks are less overwhelming when you break them down to simple steps. Secondly, besides the thousand little tips and tricks learned throughout the week, the most important thing I left with was new confidence.

 Picture this. You pick up a bench plane for the first time in your life, run it across a board, and you make something that resembles shaving. You should asking yourself a million questions. Are these shaving right? To thick? To Thin? Is the surface smooth enough? Is it sharp enough? Is the plane setup correctly? If not, what should I adjust?  Am I doing this right? You can spend time and read a book, a blog, or a magazine (and I've done them all), but there is something about a seasoned veteran looking over your shoulder and telling what's right and wrong. Now when a plane isn't behaving the way I expect it to, I know what steps to take to troubleshoot the situation.

 It's worth noting that Rosewood Studio is teaching you 'a way' of doing things. Ron teaches a basic approach to each skill, explains why he chooses to do it that way, and stays away from additional complication. He's building a foundation for your woodworking skills to build on. I went there feeling like I had a partial foundation built, in hind sight it might have only been footings, and I left satisfied with the progress I had made. The bottom line taking this course was the single best investment I've made in my woodworking hobby and I would recommend taking this, or a similar course, to anyone who takes the craft seriously.



Posted 2012-01-12 | Last Modified 2016-03-03 07:53:25