The Passion for Wood Difference

Over the past year or so I’ve had many new students who signed up for longer courses running from one to three weeks. Many of them had a similar story about how they had previously taken courses at larger woodworking schools where there were between 8 and 15 students being taught by one instructor. When I asked them how they liked the course, they all said “I really enjoyed the time I spent with the other students, working on our projects but especially going out for lunch and dinner during the course.” In other words, the social aspect was very much enjoyed, which makes sense given that woodworking can be a rather lonely hobby if one works alone most of the time. However, when I asked them: “How did you enjoy the learning experience and what did you build?”, I also received a very common response. The most common response was, “I didn’t learn as much as I had hoped and I didn’t get my project done.”. My initial instinct was to think that perhaps this particular student didn’t work as hard as they should have, so I then asked, “How many students in the course did complete the project?” The answer was, “Almost nobody got it done, except one person who had already taken courses there a huge number of times and was obviously a much more advanced hobbyist.”

I am continuously floored to hear how many people take courses at woodworking schools where the project is not completed. They promise you’ll complete a certain project in 5 days and the student returns home with the project only half done, feeling rather deflated. I asked a recent student of mine who confided in me about this situation, “So how did it make you feel that you didn’t get the project done?” To which she responded, “Not very good because I have a bunch of project parts at home now that are not done and I don’t have a workshop to finish it either.” She then asked me “How many of your students have gone home with their projects not done?” And I responded, truthfully, “It has never happened”.

Why has it never happened? Because I have always been realistic with my students about how long fine woodworking takes. So if I say, “This project will be completed in 6 days” I mean it and I will make it happen. If someone chooses to take a course just 1/2 day at a time instead of 6 days in a row, I’ll warn them in advance: “Taking the course that way means it will likely take 13 to 14 half-days instead of 6 full days because there is a loss of momentum when a longer course is broken up into smaller pieces, so that means the total price will be higher.” However, students still take courses in that way due to convenience in working their course around their work schedules, or to spread the cost out over a longer period of time. Still, it’s super important that the student is given full information on how long certain projects or skills are going to take to learn, on average.

It would be easy to say “Build this amazing bed in just 5 days!” in order to entice a student to sign up for a course. And then when they don’t even get it half-done, just say “Well, some students take longer to learn”. But that is putting the blame on the student and making them feel like a failure. There is no better way to make a student feel unworthy than to promise them something and then make it seem like their own incompetence is the reason they didn’t achieve that goal. But it is wrong. If you’ve taken a woodworking course elsewhere and 90% of the students did not get the project done then it is not your fault. You were sold an unrealistic goal. If you were told that you would make two wooden hand planes in a course and you didn’t even complete one, the reason is the same.

Here at the “Passion for Wood” woodworking school, my prices are higher because the format is “one student – one instructor”. But it’s not just about the price, but the overall value. A shorter course that truly teaches you skills you’ll retain is far more valuable than a course three times longer that ends up wasting your time. So choose wisely. And if you’re going to take a course that is project-based, it is imperative that you get the project done in the promised time frame so that you go home with something to be proud of and inspire you. Going home with an unfinished project still in pieces is no way to build your confidence in woodworking.


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