Open Shop Student Profiles
I had absolutely no woodworking experience when I took my first class four years ago. After taking Fine Woodworking Level 1 & 2, I realized I can actually build high-quality furniture for my home. My first project after finishing Level 2 was to make matching bedside tables from a simple plan I bought on the internet. After the bedside tables, I took an inlay class, so my next project was a hanging wall shelf with some basic inlay. My current project is a coffee table from a design in Fine Woodworking magazine, and I’m working on a design of my own for a stereo cabinet that will match the coffee table.
The real value of Open Shop is the people. Instructor Brian Mulcahy is both deeply knowledgeable and a very creative thinker. When I was building my hanging wall shelf, he suggested I include a secret compartment; on my current coffee table project, he suggested a couple of small modifications to the plan that have made it a more interesting piece. It’s also great to have the other Open Shop folks around to share ideas and inspiration. There’s a real sense of community, and everyone is quick to pitch in for a complicated glue-up or other business where an extra pair of hands is useful.
I recommend Open Shop for anyone who wants to get right to work on a project instead of spending time and money acquiring major pieces of equipment. Why struggle to break down sheet goods with a circular saw when there’s a professional panel saw available? Access to the equipment is great, but it also comes with instruction and advice from people passionate about woodworking.
I took Open Shop because a collegial group formed from Woodworking II graduates with the goal to build rocking chairs (hence the appellation “The Rocking Chair Guys”). After completing those, we took on our own individual projects, which offer the opportunity to look over someone’s shoulder to ask “why” or “how” is something being done. And sometimes the instructor will draw the attention of the group to some technique or some problem that presents a learning experience.
I took Woodworking I and II, Veneering, Sharpening, and Turning I and II. I thought myself to be handy with hand tools and reasonably experienced with wood, and felt I did not need Woodworking I. I am very glad, however, that I started with Woodworking I. It proved that I was not nearly as handy with hand tools or power tools as I thought.
In addition to the rocking chair, I have made a veneered wall cabinet, a dozen or more bowls of various shapes and woods, an end table with cabriole legs, and a second small table with triangular top, triangular through tenons, and tapered triangular legs. I am currently working on a lectern with tapered shaft, angled table, and double through tenons in the base and in the table of the lectern. The latter three projects were and are needlessly complicated for the end purposes, but the beauty of Open Shop is the opportunity to learn new skills, choose new challenges, and get excellent advice and guidance. The purpose of Open Shop is not to make life more difficult, but to make woodworking more fun and it surely achieves that purpose.
Woodworking I and II are all one needs to move into individual projects as simple or complex as one chooses. As long as one has the basic skills with the hand and power tools employed in those two programs, Open Shop is the way to advanced woodworking to whatever degree one chooses in a friendly and supportive atmosphere. Newcomers should not be intimidated by what others are doing in Open Shop. It is not a competition. It’s a nice way to spend a few hours each week making saw dust, fine shavings, and something tangible to show to family and friends with the opportunity to say, “Yup, I did it myself.”
I started Open Shop after completing Level II because I wanted to continue acquiring additional skills.
I am currently working on a spinning wheel. Some of the skills and/or techniques required are a challenge, but instructor Brian Mulcahy is there to give direction and advise how to continue the project. I continue to gain confidence and experience.
Brian is constantly checking on your progress, and if you run into something unfamiliar, he is there to direct you and teach, but you still end up doing the cutting, turning, gluing, making templates, etc.
I’m an avid woodworker new to the area and was keen to find a workshop and people with similar interests. I tend to focus on furniture restoration and woodturning, but I do build projects from scratch as well.
The shop has top-notch equipment and the instructor is friendly and very knowledgable. Woodworking has been my hobby for many years, but I’m constantly learning and receiving valuable instruction from Brian. He helps me learn proper technique and corrects my bad habits so that I’m safe and accurate.
I highly recommend trying out Open Shop for everyone from beginners who’ve taken classes at The Workbench to seasoned woodworkers. It’s a great value.
We are no longer accepting new students for Open Shop, as we are winding down the program. Current students should use the Purchase Hours button to buy more hours.