Woodworking courses and schools that offer hands-on workshops with master craftsmen provide the best way of getting to know exactly what are the absolute essentials that dovetail the traditions of the past with the best of today’s woodworking. Short courses add flexibility for those with busy schedules and enable them to build substantive skill without taking large blocks of time out from work. My students go from making their first dovetailed box to making a rocking chair like the one shown in solid oak in just 12 days. Within that 12 days they also make the table and shelf unit shown below, so you can see how much they accomplish. After that, they should be able to build chairs and dining tables, beds, coffee tables, bookshelves and much more. Pretty impressive by anyone’s standard.
Of course it’s much more than projects. At the end of the course they can competently sharpen their planes, chisels, spokeshaves and scrapers. They know saws and what to expect from them and they also know how to sharpen and set them.
I think that woodworking enthusiasts now realise that they can short circuit their training agenda by spending one or two long weekends every few months at the bench of master craftsmen like myself working on such key areas as tool sharpening, methods of work and tool techniques. Project layout involves a working knowledge of the wood itself and concepts of design, so where better to discuss and learn such issues than with those making pieces in the everyday of life?
I would say the best woodcraft courses allow time to gain working knowledge through practice while at the same time have enough positive thrust to ensure real growth. At the bench, a student gleans from the masters in the same way I did as a boy apprentice 45 years ago. This type of training makes the trade secrets of old a thing of the past, yet they have the same apprenticing value to help woodworkers of any background achieve their goals to become artisans in their own right.
Always check the credentials of those offering workshops to see if their experience matches their claim as teaching artisans. there are several good options to choose from, but choose a course that meets with your criteria for mastering skill.