At 9:05 Monday morning I hear a voice telling us “You’re behind schedule!” Class started at 9:00.
The voice was that of our instructor, Chuck Bender. The us was the first three students of 360 Woodworking’s hands-on classes. The what is building a Pennsylvania spice box. The where was at the 360 Woodworking complex in West Chester township, Ohio. The why was… because we could? It seemed like a good idea at the time?
The point Mr. Bender was trying to make was that as many times as he had taught the class at his Acanthus Workshop in Pennsylvania, no one had ever finished the box. His hope was that by the end of the week we would have the carcass finished, dividers installed, door and hardware installed and maybe one drawer assembled. The only hard deadline was that at 5:00 PM Friday, we go home.
For those of you who do not have the distinct privilege of knowing Chuck Bender, let me give you some background. Chuck has been building furniture since he was 12, so he claims. For ten years he worked at Irion Company Furniture Makers leaving as head of their chair and casework production. Since 1991, he has earned the reputation as a builder of the highest quality18th century reproduction furniture. In 2007, he started the Acanthus Workshop to become a woodworking mentor, instructor and author (content producer?).
in 2013, he moved west to become the senior editor at a popular woodworking magazine. In 2014, Chuck, Bob Lang and Glen Huey formed 360 WoodWorking – a new concept in woodworking education.
We students were there to see what it all meant. It was a good class. It was actually a great class. This class allowed me to work the way I work in my shop. I enjoy the hand-tool focused classes I have taken but breaking down and dimensioning lumber goes much more quickly with tools that plug in. As another woodworking sage pointed out, it is good to have hand tool knowledge so that you are not forced to use power tools, but you can. Options are good.
We (students) could pretty much work at our own speed. We would start the day at roughly the same place, diverge during the day and somehow end the day at roughly the same place. Chuck wasn’t hovering but letting each find their own path. He was there to bring us back if we went to far afield and most importantly, drive us to lunch.
Chuck breaks things down into manageable segments while keeping in mind the big picture. He does a good job of explaining while not being afraid of letting our eyes glaze over occasionally. it is good to make us think and figure out a few things for ourselves.
Did I mention Glen Huey was there too serving as shop and teaching assistant, social media documentarian and lunch consultant. We couldn’t have eaten without him.
This class was also the first chance I had to try out my new (second) Moxon vise. This is a new design by local wood machinist Mike Payst and built in a Triangle Woodworkers Assoc. weekend workshop.
So, Chuck Bender, great woodworking instructor or greatest woodworking instructor?* Well, he is at least pretty good. I need to take more classes to say definitively. Your results may vary.
*With apologies to Stephen Colbert. If you don’t know what I mean, don’t sweat it.