Fundamentals Everyone Can Learn From

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Review by ShannonRogers posted 07-20-2009 06:09 PM 3794 views 0 times favorited 4 comments Add to Favorites Watch
Fundamentals Everyone Can Learn From Fundamentals Everyone Can Learn From Fundamentals Everyone Can Learn From Click the pictures to enlarge them

I took a trip up to Chester County, PA this weekend to take a class with Chuck Bender’s school, The Acanthus Workshop. Chuck goes by the handle Acanthuscarver here on LJ. What a treat! I have been woodworking now for 7 years and hardly do I think of myself as an expert, but I admit to being a little dubious as to how much I would get out of a fundamentals I class. Because the focus was on hand tools, I was more optimistic because I am pretty new to the way of the Schwarz having “grown up” watching brad nailer Norm.

What can I say other than, get yourself up to Chuck’s shop and take a class with him. He is a walking encyclopedia of period furniture and has a classically trained background by a German cabinetmaker. He has a very no nonsense, do what works, philosophy and can do a pretty good Frank Klausz impression too.

The product of my 2 days class is a pretty fancy sanding block made from Ribbon Mahogany with a Tiger Maple diamond inlaid into the top, a Bassswood dowel, and several sets of dovetails. The cool part is that nothing was plugged in once over the weekend. Chuck went to great lengths to screw up this block of mahogany to make sure nothing was flat or square and my classmates and I had to bring it into harmonic squareness before we cut out the diamond and inlaid it into the back of the block.

The dowell started from another out of square block that we planed to a uniform 1” square block before chamfering it to death to make a dowel. This seemingly simple exercise teaches incredible plane control and hopefully will appear in an upcoming issue of Pop Wood where maybe yours truly might finally make it onto the pages of that holy publication. This may be the only way I get there as “3rd awestruck woodworker on the left” in the background of the photos up Chuck making shavings.

Finally we turned our sight on to dovetails. Through and half blind. After a couple of hours everyone in the class had cut at least 2 sets of each joint and were stumbling around with stupid grins on our faces at just how easy Chuck made it seem to cut this sought after joint.

In conclusion, I feel that I walked away with a strong grounding in plane and chisel tuning, usage, and control. Sawing usage and control and an ability to fine tune joints as well as correct little mistakes to make a beautiful result. (my diamond inlay didn’t fit right the first time but with a few tweaks it looks like it grew there)

Chuck doesn’t endorse any particular technique or tool, but he does speak as a furniture maker with many many years of experience and a body of work that leaves no doubt about his abilities. His students get a keen insight into what it takes to make masterpiece furniture and won’t leave thinking they need to buy a couple thousand dollars worth of tools. I think the true testament to this review should be that when I got home last night I put down a deposit for both Woodworking Fundamentals II and III because I don’t want to miss out on more of this education.

Thanks Chuck and Lorraine for the excellent cooking!


-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

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540 posts in 4556 days

4 comments so far

View Don K.'s profile

Don K.

1075 posts in 4095 days

#1 posted 07-20-2009 07:56 PM

Very nice…sounds like you had a blast and learned a ton. You are very lucky….I am a self taught woodworker who eats, sleeps, and makes a living doing woodworking. Yet I would LOVE to go to a few classes with a master furniture maker/woodworker…..I really wish there was a place within a descent driving distance to go to and just pick up a few new skills. Your never to old to learn a few new tricks

-- Don S.E. OK

View a1Jim's profile


118065 posts in 4345 days

#2 posted 07-20-2009 10:22 PM

Hey Shannon
Sounds like a blast. Chucks a nice guy in talking a few times here on LJs and a very top notch woodworking talent. I get envious all the east seems to have all the cool furniture museums, great schools like North Bennett,Phil Lowe’s. chuck bender, Tommy Mcdonald, Charles Neil, just to name a few. I’m glad some folks get to take advantage of all the eastern USA cool places and people.


View Karson's profile


35223 posts in 5169 days

#3 posted 07-21-2009 01:05 AM

Shannon: I’m glad that you got to Chuck’s class. I was there for part of the last day of the Glen Huey and Chuck class. A great set of guys.

I wasn’t there to take a class, just to give them a hard time.

Really a mini LumberJock tour.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Appomattox Virginia [email protected]

View ShannonRogers's profile


540 posts in 4556 days

#4 posted 07-21-2009 05:52 AM

Karson, Chuck mentioned that you and your son stopped by. He had high praise for your son’s work too

-- The Hand Tool School is Open for Business! Check out my blog and podcast "The Renaissance Woodworker" at

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