Are the Common Woodworking and Woodworking Masterclasses worth doing?

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Forum topic by SMP posted 11-27-2018 02:59 PM 2335 views 0 times favorited 22 replies Add to Favorites Watch
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4430 posts in 1065 days

11-27-2018 02:59 PM

I am an amateur woodworker. I have made several things with power tools and kreg jigs etc. BUt I am to the point now where I want to learn hand tool woodworking. I saw these 2 sites on Paul Sellers’ site, one is free and has the basics and the other costs a monthly subscription and gets into more advanced topics. I would like to start at the beginning and learn how to do all these things, even stuff I “know” I kind of learned from myself, trial and error, and reading magazines 20+ years ago. So it is probably better I learn the “right” way. Just curious if anyone has done all these and if they are worth it or if I could find the same stuff on youtube etc?

22 replies so far

View Bill_Steele's profile


771 posts in 2891 days

#1 posted 11-27-2018 03:37 PM

I’m interested in the responses to this post as well.

I think my woodworking experience is much like yours. I’m essentially self-taught through the use of magazines, YouTube, this site, etc. The only planes I have are a spoke-shave, block plane, and a smoothing plane. I rely primarily on power tools and use hand tools for finer detail work or specific tasks (e.g. block plane for flush trimming or removing blade marks). Like you, I feel that I may have developed bad habits and/or may not be using the optimal/right techniques.

I think I would enjoy one of those longer term (multiple month) woodworking schools—maybe when I retire.

View hkmiller's profile


247 posts in 1241 days

#2 posted 11-27-2018 03:37 PM

See if you can find a hands on class. Might get more from it.

-- always something

View SMP's profile


4430 posts in 1065 days

#3 posted 11-27-2018 04:33 PM

See if you can find a hands on class. Might get more from it.

- hkmiller

I would love to. One of the Community Colleges nearby has a well known woodworking program, but its an hour drive from me with no traffic, more like 1 1/2 hours after work. I don’t see that feasible with the kids’ schedules and activities. Maybe when the kids move out that might be an option. I have learned some basics already, mainly at the cost of wood and time. But I have no structure right now to my learning.

View Aj2's profile


3945 posts in 2958 days

#4 posted 11-27-2018 04:45 PM

I wouldn’t pay for online teaching. You get the same info for free learning is doing. It’s the same idea as taking tennis lessons. How well could one learn to play tennis from a video.
Compared with a in person instructor.
Where do you live I’m in So Cal. I try to help when I can.

-- Aj

View LesB's profile


3030 posts in 4603 days

#5 posted 11-27-2018 05:24 PM

In my opinion two specific class that are worth going to are using hand tools (esp. planes) and lathe turning. Both involve techniques that can be difficult and slow to master without hands on instruction.
Have I taken one…no I did it the hard way, but I have given one on one instructions to friends and they acknowledged that it really helped cut their learning curve.

-- Les B, Oregon

View Manitario's profile


2818 posts in 4043 days

#6 posted 11-27-2018 06:30 PM

I’ve never taken a class, but have spent a lot of time reading and watching Youtube videos. I feel reasonably comfortable and competent with my hand tool skills. Taking an in-person class early on in the process would have made the learning quicker but mostly, getting comfortable with handtools just involves a lot of practice. There is no one “right way” to do anything in woodworking. There is so much free information online and on Youtube, I wouldn’t pay for an online class, it won’t give you anything you can’t get for free.

-- Sometimes the creative process requires foul language. -- Charles Neil

View ajshobby's profile


103 posts in 3468 days

#7 posted 11-27-2018 06:32 PM

I joined Paul’s site when it first started and really enjoyed working through some of his projects. It helped a lot with the how’s and why’s when building furniture. I think these internet classes are great if you enjoy working with wood but dont always know what you want to build. I was a member for probably 2 years and did many of the projects over that time frame. It gave me the confidence to move onto other things that I wanted to do. His free site stuff is for those that are truly new to woodworking. The pay site gives you direction and some great information for a variety of projects start to finish. It was well worth it to me and i still join occasionally when a project he is doing is on my interest list.

AJ in Mpls

View DrDirt's profile


4615 posts in 4902 days

#8 posted 11-27-2018 08:51 PM

Go to one of the week long classes…. I am a big fan of Marc Adams, in Indiana.
But there are several others that have a similar format.

You will learn a ton from a week hands on, versus reading or watching video. (To me) videos are cool for adding a new skill, or “trick”, but hard to learn basics from, but YMMV.

Here is a tour from Marc posted by Popular woodworking. The woodwhisperer Taught this past summer there.

-- “The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

View bandit571's profile


29088 posts in 3843 days

#9 posted 11-27-2018 08:55 PM

One can even learn a thing or two…by following one of my “build threads”.....

-- A Planer? I'M the planer, this is what I use

View Andre's profile


4615 posts in 2966 days

#10 posted 11-27-2018 09:19 PM

I did a 10 week Krenov based course after many years of building/construction.
Perhaps it was the timing or some other factor but changed the way I look at
almost everything in life including my woodworking. Everyone learns differently,
but actually seeing some things performed correctly and with a degree of skill seems
the most effective for me?
Discovered this site shortly after and Bandit is 100% correct, but not just his threads
but many others as well will enlighten you if you learn to ignore some of the
Keyboard experts! :)
I attempt to make contact with other LJ’s whenever possible in my travels and locally,
another source of inexpensive education and always great to put a face and personality to
some of these incredibly talented members!

-- Lifting one end of the plank.

View DMiller's profile


546 posts in 1633 days

#11 posted 11-27-2018 11:01 PM

Just a thought, try to see if there are any woodworkers in your area with the expertise you are wishing to learn. I’m in a similar boat as you; a fellow LJ in my area has kindly helped educate me in woodworking as well as allow me to use some of his larger tools that I don’t have access to. Perhaps there may be a LJ in your area? Just a thought, hope it helps! -Dale

-- Dale Miller Modesto, CA "I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13. "Woodworking minus patience equals firewood."

View fly2low's profile


88 posts in 1257 days

#12 posted 11-28-2018 07:14 AM

I am a novice woodworker, and have been looking for a way to get grounded in basic techniques. Fortunately for me, I was able to get into the Port Townsend Basic wood working class starting in January. It is a 12 week course, and I am at a point in my life where I now have the time to do something like this. I am excited as heck
The other class I had considered was the Cosman one week intensive. Have heard good things about it

-- Rich Gig Harbor, WA

View MrRon's profile


6089 posts in 4403 days

#13 posted 11-28-2018 08:40 PM

Woodworking is the same as cooking. The more you do it, the better you get. You can always add new skills as you go. I wouldn’t abandon what I already know, but supplement with new ideas/tips/wisdom.

View fuigb's profile


596 posts in 4117 days

#14 posted 11-29-2018 03:40 AM

To each their own re: preferred learning methods. Personally, between work and family I have no time for clubs, classes, or anything scheduled so it is experimentation, books, and vids for me.

I enjoy the free offerings by Sellera, but in watching them I’m reminded of a common gripe that i’d hear from automative service techs that I used to interview at a former job. I worked for an agency that among other things evaluated factory training videos delivered to dealerships for remote training. What did the techs say? “Glad to have these, but what bullsh*t that the demonstrations never encounter real problems like we do.” You know, things like bolts that break, a face full of dust, etc. Just today I watched Sellers restore a beat-up old plane to shiny, perfect usefulness in no time. My ass: I’ve done that too and sometimes it takes days to accomplish what he did in half an hour. Guess I’m saying that the free vids are fine if you can overlook that they can be very unrealistic for the novice caveman sitting alone in Keokuk or Bedford.

-- - Crud. Go tell your mother that I need a Band-aid.

View Sylvain's profile


1308 posts in 3659 days

#15 posted 11-29-2018 10:34 PM

Looking once at a video will not suffice. You need practice.
Then look again at the same video.
You will notice things he had shown or explained but you didn’t catch the first time and which might explain you didn’t get the same result (not to speak of his 50 years of practice)
Try again.
look again.
It is also important to read Paul Sellers blog; there are some important information you will not necessarily found in the videos. Some of his blog post are more about his life philosophy but you never know before reading them completely if there is something which could better your practice.

Sometimes in his videos he will make a mistake and say “oops” then show how to correct or circumvent it.

The most important free videos to start with:
how to rehab a plane
how to prepare a chisel
how to sharpen plane irons, chisels (and saws).
how to set up a plane
how to chisel a mortise (the one behind a glass)
how to prepare stock
the two series about building a workbench (old one and new one) (sawing, planing, mortise and tenon, housing, (rabbet and groove in the new one)).

After making your workbench, you can start with
- making boxes (dovetails, rounding edges);
- making the clock (dodo/housing; groove; raised panel);
- making a drawer (half blind dovetail; housing with tenon and wedge);

In all those videos, he is showing how to get accurate results (listen for “knife-wall”) and advocates working with sensitivity (including listening to the sound). No “brute force” working needed.

Looking at Paul Sellers free videos will give you a very good base (no subscription for all the basis)
free subscription will give you access to some more skill building projects. You can pay per project for those which are not free or choose the paying subscription.

It is always good to look again at the basis videos from time to time; you might catch something which escaped you before.

Of course I would like to attend to his hands on training.

-- Sylvain, Brussels, Belgium, Europe - The more I learn, the more there is to learn

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