Guild of Oregon Woodworkers

7634 SW 34th Avenue Portland, OR 97219

Woodworking at the Next Level

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Rev. 12Dec2017

Woodworking at the Next Level is a series of 20 classes over two years.  It is a logical next step for those who have basic woodworking skills.  While there is a focus early in the series on hand tools, students will also gain experience and knowledge of machine tools and an appreciation for the synergy between hand tools and machine work.  The series will emphasize safe woodworking technique, reinforced, and rewarded, by hands-on projects such as making tools, guides and fixtures useful for your own workshop and furniture components and finished pieces.  It will integrate fundamental concepts of design and the interplay of wood, craftsmanship, utility and aesthetics.  Classes are limited in size to ensure ample opportunity for individual coaching.  The classes are designed to build on one another and most have specific prerequisites.

Generally, the individual classes are on Saturdays once a month during the school year.  See the schedule for specific dates and times. Lunch is included in the tuition for the all day classes.

More detail is available at the following links:

Questions about class prerequisites or class content should be directed to the instructors: Jeffrey Zens or Dennis Rodrigues.  Questions about enrollment, class fees, scheduling and logistics may be directed to the class coordinators Leslie Kantor and Gary Weeber.   

Why take your Woodworking to the Next Level

At some point in our woodworking life, each of us aspires to higher standards for our woodworking.  Woodworking schools offer a variety of classes and there are long, expensive and intensive programs that offer to take the woodworker to the “Mastery” level.  Until now, what has been missing from all of these is a road map that lays out an organized, logical and reasonable route to reach the goal of high quality work.  Woodworking at the Next Level provides that map.

Woodworking at the Next Level is a 20 session series of monthly classes over nearly two years. The series is organized and sequenced in similar fashion to an apprenticeship.  Lessons begin with really basic stuff:  understanding wood, learning to properly sharpen edge tools, understanding traditional woodworking joinery.  We use machines where they make sense, and then turn to hand tools for the fine fit and finish you don’t get from a machine.  Skills are demonstrated and practiced in class with instruction and coaching from instructors.  In between classes, students put these lessons into practice.  Several classes have “homework assignments” to be completed by the next class.  Some of these are shop-related items (bench hooks, shooting boards, winding sticks, and so on) that prove useful in subsequent classes, and at your workbench long after you've completed the Next Level series.

Many, but not all of the classes have prerequisites. There are two ways class prerequisites can be satisfied:  first, by taking the classes specified; second, by challenging the class, that is by demonstrating to the instructor that you have the required skills to be successful in the class.  We have found that keeping students progressing together at about the same level of skill development is the best way to complete lessons within the time allotted for each class.  We don’t feel it's fair to hold up a class of students ready to learn hand plane skills in order for one or two students can catch up on the sharpening skills covered in the previous class.

In order to maintain the continuity of instruction and the financial viability of the series, students participating in the Next Level series may not challenge more than 2 classes in the entire series.  An administrative fee of 50% of the tuition cost will be charged for challenging a class.  

At every opportunity, design concepts are incorporated into these lessons. Design is the most often-overlooked and under-taught woodworking skill; we feel strongly that more attention needs to be directed here.  Some classes later in the series will have projects assigned where both design and execution are critiqued by classmates and instructors.  The critiques are always respectful and constructive.  You’ll find they’re extremely useful tools for improving a woodworker’s design eye.

What does Woodworking at the Next Level require of you as a student?  More than anything else, you will need an internal drive to produce the best work you can.  A healthy dose of stubbornness is useful, for those days when the technique you’re practicing is elusive.  Woodworking at The Next Level requires time, patience and effort.  The instructors are available by phone or email between classes to offer advice and tips of techniques. You will also need tools, but you won’t need to deplete your retirement savings or your children’s college funds.  You will need a place to work, whether in your own shop or the Guild shop.  You’ll need to attend the classes, learn as much as you can during class time, and then go to the shop and practice.

What will you get out of this series?  As much as you put into it.  We love woodworking and we want to share our professional woodworking knowledge and experience with you.  We’re committed to spending time and energy on these classes, working with people with a similar commitment.  These may be students who simply want to improve their woodworking skills for the personal satisfaction it brings, or those who want to feel more comfortable and confident in enrolling in mastery classes and workshops, or those headed toward a professional career and who want a solid foundation in woodworking before going on to a more intensive woodworking school.

We’re looking forward to working with you in the wood shop!

Jeff Zens and Dennis Rodrigues 

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