Need Opinion on a Hand Tool Woodworking Course


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I’m looking for a book + DVD series to teach me beginning hand tool woodworking. I’m not really interested in the online hand tool courses. I saw a course called “Working Wood 1 & 2: The Artisan Course with Paul Sellers.” This is a book covering series 1 & 2, plus 7 DVD’s for series 1 & 2.

Has anyone reviewed this course or perhaps have already purchased it? If so, what is your opinion on the course? Is anyone aware of another hand tool course that is along the same lines as Paul’s series? I’m not sure if this is a course I would want to take without knowing more fully what’s in it based on someone’s hands on evaluation or at least having seen the book and viewed some of the DVD’s.

I’ve seen the video where Paul Sellers is pitching his course but that is insufficient for me to draw any conclusions from. I’ve also read a review on a blog by a woodworker who says he does make a "small" profit from the sales of this book / DVD series, but I would prefer to hear an evaluation from someone who does not have a financial interest in this woodworking course.

I would greatly appreciate any information that anyone may have.

Thank you.

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I'm not familiar with this course. However, I like to toss an idea out there...

If you're totally new at hand tools, see if there are any local woodworking schools who offer an in-person basics class. I don't mean open shop adult education, but schools focusing on fine furniture craftsmanship. The hand tool learning curve is greatly reduced when someone can show you how a properly adjusted and sharp tool feels when used properly. Once you've got that, benefitting from feedback from a live instructor, many DVD's and online courses will make a lot more sense.

Sometimes, you might have to drive some distance to find a class, and it can be difficult putting yourself out there, but it my opinion, classes early on are worth the time in gold.

Check with your local suppliers, like Woodcraft, in the back of Fine Woodworking and Popular Woodworking, or Google "woodworking school <your state>".

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I have not seen any of the course however he does have some videos on youtube, and a blog: http://paulsellers.com/paul-sellers-blog/

And from what I have seen and read it could be a good course (though not everyone agrees with the order of topics he covers)

A very recent review can be found here: http://www.closegrain.com/

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I have been looking at this collection as well. From what I've read, it seems to be a very good production. He has a woodworking school that he started not far from me in Texas and everyone says he's a great teacher. He also would like to see fundamental skills with hand tools be brought back to people that he feels has been lost in the power tool world. I will be purchasing this soon, so I can report back in a few weeks or so.

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I have been looking at this collection as well. From what I've read, it seems to be a very good production. He has a woodworking school that he started not far from me in Texas and everyone says he's a great teacher. He also would like to see fundamental skills with hand tools be brought back to people that he feels has been lost in the power tool world. I will be purchasing this soon, so I can report back in a few weeks or so.

Looking forward to hearing what you find out.

-Jim

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CessnaPilotBarry

The Northwest Woodworking Studio (Gary Rogowski) is only a few miles away from me. They do have a beginning woodworking course, however, it costs $500. I’m not saying it’s not worth it, but I can get the The Artisan Course with Paul Sellers for $175. I’ve seen it for $150 someplace. One seller was selling it for $98. Being on a fixed income, $500 is not in my budget.

I’ve looked at the Woodcraft local courses. There were 37 listed but none on an introduction to woodworking. If they ever do have an introductory course on building projects, I’m not sure it would be just with hand tools such as I’m looking for. I also looked up Highlands offerings and pretty much the same thing as Woodcraft. Rockler doesn’t seem to have any local classes.

Josh_N

Josh, I did see the introductory video before, but not enough information to make a decision on purchase. I’ve read the Close Grain blog article on the Paul Sellers course. I asked Steve Branham of Close Grain some questions I had about the course after reading his review. He replied and I think he pretty well answered my suspicions in his reply, in that I won’t be able to find a “comprehensive” introduction to woodworking in a single course offering such as Paul Sellers series. I’ve pasted my questions and his reply at the end of this reply.

rmac

Yes, I’ve seen this “course” and I’m tempted due to the low cost. It sounds like a reasonable place to start my hand tool woodworking efforts, but I’ll have to see if I can find someone’s “hands-on” experience in going through this course. Of course it’s audience was for college students starting in 1889, whereas Paul Sellers course is for a “modern” audience. I’m not so sure that would make a big difference, but I suspect it would make some difference.

I asked Steve Branham some questions about Paul’s Sellers course. The first copy / paste below are my questions. The second copy / paste is Steve’s reply.

By the way, if anyone wants to reply by quoting my comment, please delete all but the part(s) relevant to what you want to reply to. As you can see it would create a lot of scrolling to get through the entire quote. Thanks!

My questions:

“I too have wondered about this course. I want to start woodworking using hand tools only. However, after reading your review, I’m concerned about some things. 1) If building a workbench does not appear until just before the end of the course, then how does Paul explain securing wood to use planes, chisels and saws prior to that? 2) With wood costs in mind, I would want to learn how to mill un-milled lumber (even though I may not always purchase rough cut lumber), but it doesn’t sound like Paul addresses this. This would leave a very important skill set un-attended. One that I would have to invest in some other resource to teach me. 3) Sharpening is something I would want to learn before I even began using hand tools (primarily plane irons and chisels), yet it’s not covered until the end of the course, and that’s after building a work bench, assuming one were to even use Paul’s workbench plans. I’m not sure this course is right for me. What am I missing?”

Steve’s Reply to my questions:

"Yes, I think these are questions a lot of people have. First, I'd just reiterate that it's worth studying multiple different resources, because each instructor has his own things he wants to focus on, along with his own preferences for tools and methods. Even when one does cover an area you're interested in, you may not get the coverage you want, and at some point the time constraints of the medium force the instructor to make some hard choices.

For milling lumber, I would recommend either Chris Schwarz's "Handplane Basics" DVD or Jim Kingshott's "Bench Planes" DVD. Both are excellent, and dovetail nicely with Paul's course. Even there, you still have their preferences for tools and methods, and neither DVD covers the full set of tasks to go from raw lumber to dimensioned pieces (neither one addresses sawing). That's one reason why I cover both individual skills and overall stock preparation in my instruction (I'll get it posted eventually!).

Paul's course is flexible enough that you don't have to wait until the end to look at the workbench or sharpening DVDs. You can start right off with either one. Actually, I prefer to start people off with sharpening, because you can't get any work done if your tools aren't sharp, but many viewers will say, "Yeah, yeah, let's skip to the good stuff, I want to make something!" So Paul satisfies that urge, and refers you several times to the sharpening DVD if you need it.

You can watch the DVDs in any order without too much confusion. You could easily start out just watching the first 2 DVDs without doing anything in the shop, just to get familiar with his methods, then go to the bench DVD and build a bench. He uses a portable Workmate and kitchen table while building his. But the rest of the course does assume you have a decent bench to work with.”

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I ordered my collection today, so I can report back after I get them. One thing I learned is there will be a total of 30 DVD's in whole for Paul's collection. More will come out in the future covering more material. What the exact material will be, I don't know yet.

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I ordered my collection today, so I can report back after I get them. One thing I learned is there will be a total of 30 DVD's in whole for Paul's collection. More will come out in the future covering more material. What the exact material will be, I don't know yet.

Thank you for offering to report back. I’m sure that will help those of us who are looking into this kind of training material to make a decision one way, or the other.

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I just came across the Hand Tool School "online apprenticeship" via the forum and have signed up. I can heartily recommend it already as more than worth the price. I'm not sure how any DVD set can match the detail of Shannon's videos and his willingness to answer specific questions, up to and including a Skype video chat. And all of that for $100.

So I guess I'd want to know why you aren't interested in the online courses. Better content, better learning and better value as far as I'm concerned.

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  • 2 weeks later...

So I got my Paul Sellers artisan collection and have watched all but 1 of the DVD's. For me being newer to woodworking, I think this series is great as Paul shows the fundamental joinery that you need to know for future more in depth projects and. He also teaches a quick unconventional convex chisel sharpening method that actually works very well. I feel that the book and dvd's go hand in hand for there are some things that the book answers that may not be in the dvd or vice versa. He will also be coming out with more material in the future. Steve Branham's (spelling?) review on close grain says it all. Some may already be at a level with hand tools that the material may not be new, but may learn a new or different method. The presentation of these DVD's are great. I do think though, that Shannon Rogers online course is probably just as good as he covers the same material in a different manor. I think that he may even cover more for a lower price overall so it's just a matter of personal opinion. I don't think you could go wrong with either choice.

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@wcpa: Thanks for the information wcpa. I have no doubt that Shannon’s Hand Tool School (HTS) is a great course. Looks like $450 for all 4 semesters. I’m sure these are reasonable charges for what your getting. I’m also not sure what Shannon covers for $450 compared to what is covered in the Artisan Course. Please understand, I have not made a decision on anything yet. For all I know, at this point, I may go with Russ’ suggestion.

I prefer to work “off-line” so whatever I decide upon taking I want to be able to go back and replay and pause sections of the video on a DVD, sometimes well after I’ve gone through a particular lesson. I don’t know if Shannon provides DVDs of his lessons or not. I also do not know if Shannon has “published” a book to go with his lessons which is important to me. I may be one of the few that wants to learn this way.

So the main reason for my post here, is to get some feed back from someone who has taken the Artisan course and how it may or may not have benefitted their learning basic woodworking with hand tools.

@WimberleyWoodworker: Thank you for sharing your experience with Paul Sellers Artisan collection. I really appreciate the information. As I told “wcpa” I’m not committed to any particular course offering, but I have to keep the cost down for a first pass at learning hand tool usage. Even the cost of Paul Sellers course is pushing it. That’s why Russ’ suggestion (which I’ve looked at before) is a real possibility. There are other possibilities as well. Again, thanks.

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@wcpa: Thanks for the information wcpa. I have no doubt that Shannon’s Hand Tool School (HTS) is a great course. Looks like $450 for all 4 semesters. I’m sure these are reasonable charges for what your getting. I’m also not sure what Shannon covers for $450 compared to what is covered in the Artisan Course. Please understand, I have not made a decision on anything yet. For all I know, at this point, I may go with Russ’ suggestion.

I prefer to work “off-line” so whatever I decide upon taking I want to be able to go back and replay and pause sections of the video on a DVD, sometimes well after I’ve gone through a particular lesson. I don’t know if Shannon provides DVDs of his lessons or not. I also do not know if Shannon has “published” a book to go with his lessons which is important to me. I may be one of the few that wants to learn this way.

So the main reason for my post here, is to get some feed back from someone who has taken the Artisan course and how it may or may not have benefitted their learning basic woodworking with hand tools.

@WimberleyWoodworker: Thank you for sharing your experience with Paul Sellers Artisan collection. I really appreciate the information. As I told “wcpa” I’m not committed to any particular course offering, but I have to keep the cost down for a first pass at learning hand tool usage. Even the cost of Paul Sellers course is pushing it. That’s why Russ’ suggestion (which I’ve looked at before) is a real possibility. There are other possibilities as well. Again, thanks.

Another thing comes to mind from your post about investing money into this is the fact that more DVD's are to come out in the future if you decide to go with the DVD series. I don't know how you feel about that since there will be a future cost ahead to learn more if you choose. The present DVD's are a great starter, but you may want more learning once you've mastered those skills. Just something to think about. I am very happy with these DVD's, but understand when it comes to cost.

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Thanks Eric, that’s important information for me.

Now if I could just get Shannon to create a companion manual to go with his video lessons. Possibly with additional information that wouldn’t be typically in a video, such as tables, charts and diagrams, as well as explanations that are hard to stop and explain in a video. The sections in the manual would relate to the sequence of the lessons. It would also be good as a quick reference since I wouldn’t want to have to find something I wanted by bouncing around in a video not knowing exactly where it was I saw it. Of course, I realize a manual to accompany videos is not typical for online woodworking courses.

One thing I do know from Steve Branam’s blog (closegrain.com) is that Seller’s course does not cover milling rough sawn lumber. He teaches with prepared stock. Probably a good idea for a beginner such as myself, but eventually one would want to learn how to mill rough sawn lumber.

Here’s a quote from Steve’s blog from his answer to some questions I had in regards to his review on Peter Sellers woodworking course:

“…I'd just reiterate that it's worth studying multiple different resources, because each instructor has his own things he wants to focus on, along with his own preferences for tools and methods. Even when one does cover an area you're interested in, you may not get the coverage you want, and at some point the time constraints of the medium force the instructor to make some hard choices.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

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