Build a Traditional Workbench Series of Seminars

The seminar course on building a European work bench offered by Passion for Wood’s Hendrik Varju was an incredible learning experience for me. As someone who was a novice woodworker, I found that my abilities and understanding jumped by leaps and bounds through this course. I made the transition from “hoping for the best” when working on projects, to having a much clearer comprehension of the techniques and principles underlying quality woodworking. I am much more confident in taking on more complex projects, and I have a great bench to work on at the same time!

Hendrik is a truly outstanding instructor. He is patient, responsive, pragmatic and knowledgeable. He takes a genuine interest in ensuring the success of his students. When I was first considering taking the seminar, I wondered whether I should just purchase a prefab bench and put my energy into other projects. I now have a much better quality bench than is available from high-end woodworking stores, and it is customized to my (6’4”) frame. More importantly, I developed a skill set and knowledge base that you just don’t get when you bolt together kits made by someone else.

In short, I recommend this course enthusiastically to anyone interested in becoming a better woodworker through building an heirloom for your workshop.

— John H. (Elora, Ontario, Canada)

Hendrik, what I learned from building [the workbench] has taken my skill level and confidence from deck construction to building at a level where I can successfully design and build cabinets and furniture. The joinery techniques learned in this course gave my skill level a huge boost. Further, the hundreds of hours of enjoyment that I have had from my bench, through building everything from boxes for my daughters’ jewellery to grandfather clocks and a sideboard cabinet have been worth every hour I put into completing my bench. Hendrik’s instruction and support is thorough and complete. I would recommend this seminar for anyone who is serious about woodworking.

— Fred W. (Caledon, Ontario, Canada)

Hendrik, I wanted to let you know how much I appreciated taking your course on building a workbench. I am a novice woodworker and I was looking for a course that would help me develop my skills. This course was the perfect answer for me. Through the course, we built a beautiful workbench that will be a treasure. Equally important, the course taught me the skills needed to be able to tackle projects on my own. The course is an excellent way to build fundamental woodworking skills and at the same time, to be able to learn from your years of experience on how to do things better. The course was fun, the pace was challenging but good, and being able to learn in your shop was a great classroom setting. I would certainly recommend the course to others.

— Gary H. (Stouffville, Ontario, Canada)

Well Hendrik, the day has finally arrived. The last coat of finish was applied on the base the other day and now the bench is complete.

I cannot thank you enough for your expert guidance through this wonderful workbench building project. You gave me the confidence I needed to complete something I would not have tackled on my own. Your classroom sessions were a wonderful backdrop to the excellent course notes you provided. I knew what to do pretty much every step of the way. And for those rare occasions where I may have been stumped, you were always there to help via email, phone, etc.

This is the first project that has made me feel truly proud…a real showpiece. The skills you taught me in this course have given me the confidence required to tackle much more complex projects that I could not have without you, bravo Hendrik!

I wish you all the best.

— Tim K. (Waterloo, Ontario, Canada)

The workbench seminar series is an outstanding opportunity that should not be missed. For years I had wanted to build my own traditional workbench, but had been putting it off due to the complexity of the work and the time commitment involved. The workbench seminar series was the perfect answer to such a complex build.

Hendrik explained the whole build process from high level overview to down into the finer details making the whole process much smoother and simpler. Hendrik’s teaching style was a perfect mix of theory, explanation, and demonstration. The step-by-step guided approach also made the build time shorter, since there was less time trying to figure out how things are done, and the proper order to do them. Six seminars with approximately 6 weeks between each was an ideal format that balanced information retention with a manageable workload. Each seminar always covered what could comfortably be done in the next 6 weeks.

With Hendrik’s guidance and demonstrations in mind I was able to tackle even the most complex tasks with a confidence I would not otherwise have had. This led to a dramatic increase in my skill level with all kinds of tools and techniques. My biggest problem was actually using the bench, as it looked far too good to be put in a workshop!

— Don L. (Markham, Ontario, Canada)

It has been 7 months since starting the workbench seminar series. I almost have my workbench completed. I not only have a workbench to show for my time but I have so much more. I have improved my milling of lumber skills, learned techniques for better and more accurate use of my machines, refined my mortise-and-tenon skills and learned the value of hand planning, just to name a few.

Hendrik has a gift of teaching how to make a complicated project very doable for everyone in the class from the already experienced to the beginner. His attention to detail is unsurpassed. His notes are readable, accurate and complete. No detail goes un-noticed from e-mails giving instructions on how to find his shop to e-mails preparing you before each session. He gives great advice on safety and always makes sure everyone’s questions are answered.

If any area is beyond your ability or you are falling behind there is always private or potentially group sessions that can easily be taken in the 6 weeks that separate each of the 6 classes to get you caught up.

You cannot get more useful woodworking skills anywhere for the cost. For the amount of time Hendrik must take preparing for each session and the extra work buying and distributing all needed supplies for the whole class he is almost volunteering his time. If you want to work hard, learn lots, meet some good guys, have a bit of fun and have a great workbench to boot this is the seminar series for you. You will not be disappointed.

— Wayne H. (West Montrose, Ontario, Canada)

The workbench series is a beginner or novice woodworkers dream. To build your own workbench, the most used tool in any workshop, is definitely an accomplishment. Hendrik makes this dream a reality, as his step by step instruction makes even the hardest tasks simple. The time allowed between sessions is just right. Enough time to complete the needed tasks, and not be rushed to try and keep up.

Everything from lumber selection to proper tools, hardware and finishing is covered. The group environment is also great. Not only do you get all the advice from Hendrik, but you also hear tips and advice from the others. Having completed my bench, the quality of my work has greatly improved. I still find myself standing in front of it, asking how I ever got by without it.

— Tim L. (Norwood, Ontario, Canada)

A quality, sturdy and functional workbench is the most fundamental of woodworking tools. Virtually every project will rely heavily on it. Yet building one for yourself can be a daunting task to all but the most experienced woodworker. Why not let Hendrik guide you through the entire process? His knowledge and experience in the field of fine woodworking are unsurpassed. Along the way he will share all that you will require to complete your bench. Everything he will teach you can be applied to almost any future fine woodworking project you decide to tackle. I highly recommend this series, especially for the broad range of knowledge Hendrik will impart; and at the end you have an heirloom quality piece of fine shop furniture.

— Kevin S. (Scarborough, Ontario, Canada)

The six months it took to complete the course and the workbench seemed to fly by. Hendrik’s instruction and detailed step by step handouts helped complete the bench with minimal problems. His passion for craftsmanship was instilled in us all and I know I ended up with more of a piece of furniture than a workbench. The skills that we learned throughout the course will help us in our future woodworking projects. His passion for wood came through in his teaching approach. This course was well worth the money, time, and effort. Thank you Hendrik.

— Murray W. (Thamesford, Ontario, Canada)

Hello, Hendrik. I wanted to send you this note about the Workbench Seminar [Series] we just completed. I have wanted to build my own traditional workbench for years but my fear of the complexity of the workbench always prevented me. The quality of your seminars took all my fears away and I can’t tell you what a great sense of accomplishment I have as a result. It will be a great example of the quality of my work and something I can pass on to my son.

Thank you.

— David E. (Burlington, Ontario, Canada)

Everyone knows that a sound, well designed and constructed workbench can raise your level of craftsmanship. So why don’t we all have one? Because designing and building a workbench is a daunting task, even for the advanced woodworker.

This series really shines on three fronts; first, Hendrik guides you through the entire process with his usual acumen and attention to detail, second, you are presented a specific set of demonstrated and documented tasks to perform within a given timeframe, allowing you to schedule and gauge your progress, third, you are given the impetus to keep going through both Hendrik’s expert guidance and the camaraderie of your fellow seminarians.

Have no illusions, this is a challenging project but also quite doable with Hendrik’s guidance. If you want a bench, this is the way to both get it and get it right.

— Ken W. (Brantford, Ontario, Canada)

My limited woodworking experience did not deter me from participating in a series of seminars to build a complicated traditional workbench. What appeared overwhelming at first glance, became more than do-able under Hendrik Varju’s excellent guidance.

The collective purchase of materials, and thorough step-by-step construction schedule directed by Hendrik, offered a very enjoyable and satisfying journey to complete my own workbench.

Throughout the construction phase I learned numerous new woodworking techniques and these have formed a solid basis for my continued interest in improving my woodworking skills.

Hats off to Hendrik for his efforts and guidance throughout this project.
A “win, win” all the way.

— Berend D. (Markdale, Ontario, Canada)

Every serious woodworker should have a proper workbench. And there’s nothing like being able to say you built it yourself. Thanks to Hendrik’s seminars, I now have the bench and the bragging rights!

The seminars, running over a period of six months, were an extensive course in woodworking. We covered everything from wood selection and reading the grain, to milling and gluing, right through to finishing. Hendrik kept our group of thirteen people moving ahead with his expertise, enthusiasm, sense of humour and an apparently endless supply of coffee and doughnuts. Group members also helped and learned from each other.

If you get the opportunity to take these seminars, go for it. Just be prepared to work hard and learn a lot.

— John B. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

As a beginner woodworker the challenge of building a workbench as my first major project was a somewhat daunting prospect that was made significantly easier due to Hendrik’s instruction. Hendrik has the ability to communicate both the theoretical and the practical aspects of any woodworking project in a concise and understandable fashion.

Additionally, Hendrik took the time to explain things that a more advanced woodworker would know and this made a great difference in my learning curve. The skills I learned in the workbench series of seminars will carry to all future projects. This was truly a worthwhile experience.

— Joseph I. (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)

I thoroughly enjoyed the workbench seminar series. Although I have stalled about half way to completion due to work and other obligations, I learned a tremendous amount both in woodworking knowledge and skill. Hendrik is an excellent instructor, not only a master of his craft, but able to clearly convey knowledge and skills to a group all the while keeping their interest level high. The workbench is a complex and indeed intimidating project, but Hendrik makes every detail understandable.

— Charles M. (Neustadt, Ontario, Canada)

The caliber of content and attention to detail experienced in Hendrik’s woodworking seminars are second to none. There is a genuine concern for teaching with a very hands-on approach. You should have no reservations about visiting Acton, Ontario to learn new methodology or fine tune your existing skills. Thank-you very kindly for your time, commitment to the teaching process, and your passion for wood.

— Andrew N. (St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada)