Perhaps it represents the wood industry's generous culture of sharing. Or maybe it was a collective self-defense as yours truly, yet another green arrival, appeared on the woodworking scene a couple years ago.

But I have to say how much I have appreciated the welcome I've gotten by woodworkers, industry suppliers, educators, even my fellow writers at some of the famous newsstand wood crafting publications.

Duane Griffith, director of education at Stiles Machinery, was quick to invite me to the company's Grand Rapids, MI education center for "PP030 Overview of Secondary Wood Industry," affectionately known as "Wood 101." In retrospect, it was an invaluable grounding in terminology and basic industry theory and structure. Thanks, very much, Duane, for getting me started!

Now I am enrolled in Chicago WoodSmyth's entry-level woodworking class. In 10 weeks of classes, three hours on Tuesday evening, we are taught the basics of tools and wood, and build three projects: a bookcase (dados, braces, cutting), a tool box (dovetailing), and an end table (miters and veneer).

My classmates and I completed that first project last night - a bookcase with adjustable shelves bolted into the dadoed groove of four vertical posts. Unfinished, imperfect, but a great learning experience - with 54 solid wood pieces almost all actually cut by me on a Delta radial arm saw.

Our teacher, Neal Scher, who owns WoodSmyth's and has training in industrial education, builds furniture and cabinets by day, and teaches shop class at nights and on weekends. Balancing the students' passion and attentiveness with time constraints of professionals with other demands on their time, Scher established a program years ago where the tedium of repititive wood building tasks is metered out in palatable doses for the students.

We had an entire class devoted to safety. Scher believes that's critical and his success in avoiding serious injury after years of classes supports him. Students wear safety glasses - required - and can't touch equipment without permission. But once permission is granted, it's all hands on deck and a lot of fun.

Among the students are an investment advisor, a radio programmer, a nonprofit exec, a medical professional, and a woodworking magazine editor :). 

Students learn to measure, and use shortcuts with pattern blocks to speed placement of brackets, drill holes, and cuts. We learn to be methodical, mindful, attentive and careful. We are taught to return the tools whence they came and sweep up the dust and debris as we go along.

Each class a series of process steps is established, and students go at it.

I'll recap our next project when it's done. Just promise not to laugh.

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