Rosewood Studio - Canadian Woodworking Magazine

Learning the Craft: Fine Woodworking School

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Rosewood Studio



Curly maple and ebony tea cabinet by student Chris E.; Photo by Ray Pilon, Courtesy Rosewood Studio.

Rosewood Studio is a fine woodworking school, housed in a historic mill in the small town of Almonte, Ontario. Nestled on the banks of the Mississippi River, the school is just a 20 minute drive southwest from Ottawa. It boasts machine rooms with two of each of the more common power tools, such as table saws, band saws, and jointers. There are 14 European-style workbenches and a good selection of hand tools for students to use. The school's store sells specialty hand tools, domestic and exotic hardwoods, sheet goods, and shop supplies at market prices.

Ted Brown, program director and chief instructor at Rosewood Studio, founded the school in September, 2001. He says, "I want to teach people to slow down and build truly fine furniture without cutting corners for efficiencies." He also likes "to get students to build furniture which exemplifies the beauty of the wood." Instead of the mass-manufacturing approach to furniture building where "people draw on computers and then use any old wood," Brown likens his philosophy to reverse engineering where he encourages the student to "find the plank or piece of wood and see what we can make from this."

He explains, "if you have a curve in the form of the furniture you want to make, look for a piece of wood where the grain makes that same curve. By using the imagery in the grain of the wood to visually support the form of the furniture, the woodworker will achieve harmony in the piece." Brown buys rough cut wood from all over the world and says two of his favourite woods are "Swiss pear which is a pastel pink, fine-grained and very feminine wood, and French walnut, because it has a wide range of colours from cinnamon to deep chocolate brown."

Trained as a woodworker at Algonquin College in Ontario and at the world-renowned College of the Redwoods in California under master hand-builder James Krenov, Brown says that though he respects Krenov's knowledge, he has no wish to be a clone. "There's a term, 'Krenovian', out there to label people who have studied with Krenov," says Brown. So, while the Rosewood Studio is about recognizing and using Krenov's techniques, it's also about bringing in other ideas from respected woodworkers such as Garrett Hack from Vermont and Chris Pye from England, to teach their unique skills.


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Rosewood's approach is to give people an opportunity to learn fine woodworking in the form of short-term workshops. The people who take these courses can be broadly divided into two categories. One is the retiree group with the average person being a, "54-year-old man, who's always been interested in woodworking as a hobby, and now that he's approaching retirement, has the time to fulfill his interests." The other kind of student is generally in his or her thirties, looking for a second career, and are serious about making a living or partial living from building furniture. One such person is Andy Woods, of Calabogie, Ontario, who opened up his own shop to make custom furniture after taking courses at Rosewood. For the most part, students are new woodworkers, with limited or no experience. Brown recommends that people try one or two, week-long workshops, so he can assess their ability before they apply to the longer programs.

Brown's future goals for the school are "to continue to search out and bring in guest (woodworking) specialists, and to expand our inventory in the tool store."

He's proud that Rosewood tests all the tools they carry. "We bring in the best tools that we can find, evaluate them, and recommend or not recommend them to our customers. There's a lot of hype or false advertising out there about tools. We stock and sell only the tools we can stand behind."

More info: www.rosewoodstudio.com



SUSIE MAH
Susie Mah