If you look at the world map showing outreach in real-time of our teaching and training woodworkers you would see flags dropping by the second onto all the countries of the world as people wake up to hands-on hand tool woodworking on a global level. Ten years ago I had sixteen people in a hands-on class making half a dozen projects ranging from wooden spoons to wall shelves and Shaker candle boxes to end tables. A weeklong chair-making course to build a Craftsman-style rocking chair in six days blasted the doubts it could be done in that time and to a saleable quality into oblivion and another 16 people learned. Today, we have turned the tide and proved that my craft is safely in the hands of hundreds of thousands of woodworkers and that the knowledge won’t die but will get passed on as in times passed but differently. It’s Really Happening!
My work as a teacher, mentor and maker came from the unusual background of an actual maker-designer-teacher with a burden for craft conservation in the lives of those yet to follow. I wanted a kind of rebirth of craftsmanship in the hearts of those who would love to make but had full-time jobs from which they earned their livings. I threw myself into the work at a time when the internet was still getting on its feet from the baby-cot stages.
What college courses universally took years to do we did in a matter of days, no more than a month and that’s because we cut to the chase, got rid of the bumf and taught exactly what anyone and everyone really needed. So glad we provided the nuts and bolts of furniture making and craftwork for what it is. We are into zero excess, no worrisome bums on seats. When it came to skill-building there was really nothing to compare with what we put together but without my having taught in courses over a two-decade period we couldn’t have done what we do today. Today, I see thousands of woodworkers learning very adequately online at their own pace and who are prepared to invest in doing their homework. I might compare what we are doing very successfully with the UK’s Open University courses and for a fraction of the cost if not for free.
Mostly it’s about belief and honesty. My background as a working maker gave me a no-frills insight into the hearts of those who watched me as I worked in my workshop. I was making items like this and selling my work to customers who walked into the workshop. Texas was my home but customers came from all corners of the USA. Whereas customers bought, other visitors asked about classes. That is where the seed of teaching gestated. I saw that ingredient that lies in the majority of men. ‘Could I ever make a chair like that?‘ They had always wanted to be a maker of something that stood in front of them, something they could sit at, sit on, write at, open a door on and close it. I knew then that most people wanted to grow something, cook something and make something. It’s intrinsic to who we are as humans.
Of course, transitioning from the hands-on workshops through which I trained others and taught myself to teach to online working became the foundation for what we do today as a major resource in woodworking. The amount of work we get through in making and training the new generations of woodworking is quite remarkable. The amount of people learning from us means that we are providing an alternative way for people to become resilient makers working from home that parallels any degree course in furniture making and design of the highest quality for a fraction of the cost (in most cases for free). The combined output through woodworkingmasterclasses.com, sellershome.com and commonwoodworking.com mean that we reach millions of woodworkers throughout the year who are training via our courses. It takes a lot of self-discipline but the results are remarkable, astounding in fact.
To show an exhaustive range of the hundreds of pieces we have made to teach others how to work with their hands would take many pages. It would actually make a great coffee table book. I’ll park it there!