Friday, January 29, 2010

Getting a little feedback on feedback...

The topic of constructive criticism has come up several times in discussions with other woodworkers over the past few months. I was thinking about tackling the subject in a more thorough manner, but I wanted to get an idea of how people in the woodworking community in general felt about it.

(Plus, I'm also working on writing shorter, more interactive, blogs and I thought a survey might be a good first step...)

Constructive criticism, as I see it, is defined as using your (limited or extensive) knowledge gleaned from life experience, structured learning, or books to offer advice to another as to how they can improve upon something they've done. When providing this service to another, I think the focus should be on the word, "constructive." Nobody wants to hear you say their work is crap, but they might be open to suggestions as to where they could apply themselves a bit more in the future.

So what are your thoughts on the subject? When you present a project to others, be it family or friends or other woodworkers, do you want to only hear the good? Are you completely satisfied with where your woodworking skills are and do not feel any desire to improve them? Or would you be interested in hearing what might be improved as long as it is balanced with some positive comments? Or are you completely comfortable with someone else offering advice on improving your work?

If you would go to the home page of my blog and take 10 seconds to fill out the brief survey, I would most assuredly appreciate it!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Guess who is coming to town!

Every year, the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild (SLWG) puts together a seminar for the month of March. It is generally a Saturday/Sunday event, with breakfast and lunch provided, attended by upwards of 30 or 40 people.

I've learned a lot over the past six or seven years, from the likes of Jeff Jewitt, Marc Adams, and even Frank Klausz! Presenters have discussed almost every aspect of woodworking, from power tools to hand tools, wood selection to "finishing the finish". We have had people talk to us about daily life in their shop and how they run their woodworking-related businesses. I have pages and pages of notes. Heck, I have notebooks of notes! I found during these seminars I can write and write and write and pretty much get down everything they discuss. And I've even gone back and referenced these notes for a particular finish or preparation technique.

Man am I tired of it!

What? Tired of learning about woodworking? No, I'm not tired of learning about woodworking - I'm tired of sitting on a cold, hard metal chair, doing nothing but taking notes for two days! I want to do some active learning! I want to put sharp edge to wood grain and hear the pleasing sound of a curl of wood being removed from a board. I want to learn with my hands!

One nice thing about being the SLWG Newsletter Editor is that I get to attend the super-secret planning meetings held the week before the monthly meeting! Ok, they really aren't that super-secret. In fact, they are open to any and all paid guild members. But I'm not sure I would make the time to attend them if I didn't have to!

So, being present last summer when the topic of the March 2010 seminar came up, I took the opportunity to express my dissatisfaction with sit-and-learn-seminars. I suggested we try to do a hands-on class, instead! And after a month or two of throwing ideas around, we decided on one guy and contacted him. So...

Santa Claus might have already flown back home, but, for 16 lucky woodworkers, Frank Klausz is still coming to town!

The class will take place on March 20th and 21st at the American Woodworking Academy in Festus, MO. Frank will take us through making a jewelry box with hand-cut dovetails (cut the Frank Klausz way), a hinged top, and a mortised lock. We will start off with a pre-cut and dimensioned pack of wood so we can focus on the dovetails and the construction techniques. As we won't have time to go over much else in class, sharp planes, saws, and chisels are a must, as is a comfortable level of tool use.

After two full days, we will (hopefully) leave the class with a high-quality solid mahogany jewelry box made entirely with hand tools as well as a greater understanding of our tools and how to apply them to wood. The class time is tentatively set for 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., but when I talked to Frank on the phone last week, he said, "nobody will leave on Saturday until everyone has lid and bottom glued to their dovetailed sides." So it could go a bit longer (not that I'll complain). Applying the finish to this box will be left up to us, as we won't have time for that, either.

Doesn't it sound like a great class? Well, if you live in the St. Louis area and would like to attend, you might be able to join us! As of the writing of this blog, we still have one or two openings left. The cost for the weekend is going to be about $350, due before the first day of class, and I think that includes the kit of wood Frank will provide. It also includes breakfast (donuts, bagels, and coffee) and lunch (sandwiches, chips, soda) on both days.

If you are interested, please contact me as soon as possible (through this blog or by using my contact information located on the St. Louis Woodworkers Guild website ( Open spots will become filled as soon as a $50 deposit is made with our guild treasurer. Once a deposit is made, I can provide a list of required tools.

How often do you get a chance to work side-by-side with a professional woodworker of Frank Klausz's caliber for such a great price? Not very often! So don't pass up this opportunity! I do not believe these open spots will last very long. In the event of multiple inquiries, I will start with emails received first and allow about 48 hours to get a deposit in before the next person gets a chance.

(Oh, the picture of me sporting the Lumberjocks shirt and standing next to Frank is from the first Frank Klausz seminar I attended in March of 2007.)