Our Impractical Cabinetmaker Program provides quality craft education from one week to three years and focuses on the wood, tools and details of fine cabinetmaking as presented by James Krenov in The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking.
- Tools & Texts
Next Available Intakes:
May 27, 2013
August 26, 2013
November 25, 2013
February 24, 2014
This program provides students with the opportunity to develop an intimate relationship with our chosen material and the teachings of James Krenov. The program is registered with PCTIA and is accessible to all levels. Inside Passage School of Fine Cabinetmaking is located in the oceanside village of Roberts Creek on the beautiful Sunshine Coast of British Columbia.
“Wanting to be a craftsman, or a woodworker, there are, I believe limited choices. The emphasis these days is on novelty, efficiency with very little individual contribution; many schools follow this trend. There are relatively few schools, in fact very few schools that educate a person to become a complete craftsman in wood. One of the schools I’ve been following and observing is at Roberts Creek in Canada, it is called Inside Passage School. I know the people there, I like what they are doing and I like very much the way they are doing it. The emphasis is on hand skills, not primitive methods but efficient skills.Work that that can be traced to the maker, the hand, the eye and the heart. The staff is open and warm and generous and there is an opportunity there at Roberts Creek to develop the skills that support this approach. In fact the kind of work that I have for many years encouraged, the craftsman as an individual. I think that this will emerge gradually as the school for the complete craftsman. If I were starting my life today as a craftsman, and needed to learn what matters the most; my choice would be Inside Passage School.” — James Krenov
While classes run from 9am-4pm Monday through Friday, students have access to the creative and supportive environment of the school six days a week from 7am-11pm.
Impractical Studies, (10 weeks) $6750 includes:
Graphics & Edges
Plane Making & Irons
Coopering & Curved Planes
Dovetails & Tool Making
Joinery & Surfaces
Latches & Fittings
Drawer Making & Fitting
Frame & Panel
Mortise & Tenon
Veneers & Curves
Registrations for Impractical Studies may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration packageWhile our ten week Impractical Studies Program may be taken a week a time, students are encouraged to begin with Graphics & Edges and complete the remaining individual programs in the order that they have been presented.
Graphics & Edges, (6 days), $790, May 27–31/ August 26-30/ November 25-29
Through a series of lectures and hands on exercises, students will be guided through the tuning, sharpening, set up and use of block planes, spokeshaves, scrapers, knives, files and gouges. With our tools tuned, students will be guided through a graphics, millwork and shaping exercise. Students are given a piece of rough sawn white ash, and will be introduced to the art of composing with the grain. During which time they will learn to set up and safely use basic simple, well-maintained machines to resaw, mill and cut the material for their exercise. They will then use their finely tuned hand tools to shape and prepare all surfaces and edges of the leg with grain following the curve of the leg beautifully.Students will be introduced to the possibilities of working wood with simple yet well-tuned and effective hand tools as well as the set up and safe use of the machines commonly used in fine cabinetmaking. Students will be encouraged to develop a sensible balance between the use of hand and machine tools throughout the program.
Graphics & Edges Learning Objectives:
Sharpening, tuning, setup and use of handtools
Safe use and operation of Bandsaw, Jointer, Planer & Tablesaw
Basic Milling and straightening of grain
Selection of material for optimal grain graphics
Registrations for Graphics & Edges may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Plane Making & Irons, (6 days), $790, June 3–7/ September 2-6/ December 2-6
We then move onto the craft of making and using fine wooden hand planes. When properly tuned, these instruments are capable of performing a variety of tasks necessary in fine cabinetmaking.
While the possibilities of all wooden planes will be explored, the emphasis is placed in the making, tuning, and use of two of the three planes essential to all programs here at Inside Passage School of Fine Cabinetmaking. Students will make a smoothing plane and a jointer plane.
We begin by preparing the required hand tools used in this course, including the provided iron assemblies. A sensible balance of hand and machine tools will be practiced throughout the program. Students will continue building upon skills previously learned as part of the upward spiral of learning our craft. The two planes made in this program will be used in all proceeding programs at Inside Passage School of Fine Cabinetmaking.
As time allows, students will be shown how to fabricate custom iron and breaker assemblies that are otherwise unavailable commercially. Inserts and applied soles will also be explored, as a way of maintaining our fine planes.
Plane Making & Irons Learning Objectives:
Selection and preparation of the tools and material used in plane making
Safe use and operation of Bandsaw, Jointer, Planer, boring machine, drill press, shaper & tablesaw
Make, tuning and use of flat bottom wooden planes
Registrations for Plane Making & Irons may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Coopering & Curved Planes, (6 days), $790, June 10–14/ September 9-13/ December 9-13
Using each of the planes made previously in the program, we begin with the making of a coopered door. The door will be tapered and all surfaces and edges will be finished using our fine planes made and tuned in the previous program.
Students start by laying our and cutting the staves for their door. Each of the staves are beveled and edge jointed using their jointer plane made during the previous week. Clamping strategies will be discussed and practiced as the coopered door is assembled. At which time the convex surfaces of the door are shaped using their jointer and smoothing planes.
During the making of the coopered door, students will take time out to further explore the craft of making and using fine wooden hand planes and make the coopering plane which will be used to shape the concave surface of the door. Coopering planes require additional considerations and students will be taken through the shaping and tuning of these wonderful tools.
A sensible balance of hand and machine tools will be practiced throughout the program. Students will continue building upon skills previously learned as part of the upward spiral of learning our craft.
Coopering & Curved Planes Learning Objectives:
Edge Jointing & Shaping using wooden hand planes
Selection and preparation of the tools and material used in plane making
Safe use and operation of Bandsaw, Jointer, Planer, boring machine, drill press, shaper & tablesaw
Make, tuning and use of curved bottom wooden planes
Registrations for Coopering & Curved Planes may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Dovetails & Tool Making, $790, (6 days), June 17-21/ September 16-20/ December 16-20
Students will be introduced to the layout; cutting, chopping, and careful fitting of through dovetails used in fine cabinetmaking. Hand cut joinery offers an opportunity for the maker to develop a more intimate relationship with our craft. Dovetails are carefully shaped with a curve or flair as Jim describes in The Fine Art of Cabinetmaking.
With this in mind, we begin the preparation, modification and fabrication of hand tools required in this program. Each student will make a paring chisel and a carving knife to be used in the following week. Students will also make a small bevel gauge and a couple of sets of diagonal sticks to be used in the preceding programs at the school.
Dovetails & Tool Making Learning Objectives:
making, tuning, modification of handtools used in fine cabinetmaking
basic metallurgy including annealing, hardening and tempering of O1 steel.
safe use and operation of grinder, bandsaw, jointer, Planer, boring machine, drill press and tablesaw
layout, cutting, chopping of hand cut through dovetail joinery.
Registrations for Dovetails & Tool Making may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Joinery & Surfaces, $790, (6 days), June 24–28/ September 23-27/ December 23-27
Students will begin with the rough milling the stock for a small cabinet, which will house the door made earlier in the program. The cabinet will be made using dowel construction, commonly misconceived as a less than desirable method of joining wood. However, when done well and used in the appropriate application, doweling can be an ideal and effective means of joinery. A very straightforward and simple process will be demonstrated and practiced. Spline joinery will be used to fashion our drawer pocket which will house a drawer made in the Drawer Making & Fitting program. Rebates will be made to accommodate the back made during the Frame & Panel program.
We finish out the week completing the surface preparation, edge treatment and finishing of their cabinets using polish (or shellac) and wax.
Joinery & Surfaces Learning Objectives:
basic millwork for small wall cabinet
safe use and operation of bandsaw, jointer, planer, boring machine, drill press and tablesaw
making of dowel jigs
sharpening of drill bits used in dowel construction
routing slot for spline joinery
drill holes for consoles & leveler
surface preparation and edge treatment using planes, spoke shaves and knives
preparation and application of shellac
Registrations for Joinery & Surfaces may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Latches & Fittings, (6 days), $790, July 1–5/ September 30 – October 4/ December 30 – January 3
In this program, students will be offered a look at another important aspect of our craft, the making and installation of shop made specific hardware. The entire week will emphasize simple methods using simple tools previously made or modified and readily available materials.
Students will be introduced to the making and installation of knife hinges after which time each student will fabricate a set of hinges using brass bar stock and drill rod. The hinges will be installed into the top and bottom of their cabinets pre-assembly at which time they will complete final surface preparation, edge treatment and finishing of the top and bottom of their cabinets. Students will then make the wall hangers for their cabinets to be installed in their cabinets during the Frame & Panel program. We then explore the possibilities of making and installing ‘Krenovian’ latches, consoles and levellers. Student will carve and install each of this essential wooden hardware for their cabinet. Cabinets are then assembled in preparation for the Drawer Making & Fitting.
Latches & Fittings Learning Objectives:
Safe use and operation of grinder, bandsaw, drill press, shaper and tablesaw
fabrication of knife hinges and wall hangers from brass and drill rod
mortising by hand for hardware including latches and knife hinges
carving and fitting wooden hardware including, latches, consoles and levellers
clamping strategies used in cabinet assemblies for doweled and splined components
Registrations for Latches & Fittings may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Drawer Making & Fitting, (6 days), $790, July 8–12/ October 7-11/ January 6-10
In this program, students will make a drawer and fit it to the cabinet completed in the previous week. Students will prepare their stock for their drawer and refine the pocket for the drawer as required. Students will be guided through the process of making and fitting a drawer including both through and half lapped hand cut dovetail joinery. The drawers will include a carved finger pull using a knife made previously in the program.
The drawers will be assembled and then fit to their drawer pockets using a method known as ‘let go’, where the drawer tightens up a little towards the end of its run. Students will then make and fit a bottom for their drawer.
Drawer Making & Fitting Learning Objectives:
Safe use and operation of Bandsaw, jointer, planer, shaper and tablesaw
selection, preparation and fitting of drawer parts
layout, cutting, chopping and fitting of half lapped and through dovetail joinery
making and fitting drawers
making and fitting drawer bottoms
Registrations for Drawer Making & Fitting may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Frame & Panel, (6 days), $790, July 15–19/ October 14-18/ January 13-17
We then move onto the frame and panel, traditionally used in casework. Using open mortise and tenon and stub tenon joinery we will create a frame to house a fielded panel. The selection of grain orientation will be discussed for both aesthetic and structural purposes. With the frame joinery complete, the frame is used as a negative template to select the material for the panel. The panel dimension is determined using story sticks. A lip is shaped on the panel to fit a slot on the inside of the frame. At which time the panel is pinned. The surface preparation, edge treatment and finishing is then done prior to assembly. The frame and panel will then be carefully fit to the doweled cabinet made in the previous programs and wall hangers installed. Students will then fit and install the door made in Coopering and Joinery to their cabinet.
Frame & Panel Learning Objectives:
safe use and operation of bandsaw, jointer, planer, shaper and tablesaw
selection of material for frame and panel construction
open mortise and tenon joinery
stub tenon joinery
making and fitting of fielded panels
Fitting and assembly of back panels
installation of wall hangers
fitting of doors
Registrations for Frame & Panel may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Mortise & Tenon, (6 days), $790, July 22–26/ October 21-25/ January 20-24
Students will begin with the required millwork for the sawhorse exercise. Building upon grain graphics and material selection taught in Graphics & Edges, students will use negative templates to carefully select their material.
Students will be guide through a sensible and sensitive method and approach to cutting mortise and tenon joinery. Students will build upon skills introduced in Plane Making & Surfaces by using their fine wooden planes to complete all surfaces preparation and edge treatment. As with all programs taught at inside passage measuring devices are set aside in favor of story sticks which are used throughout the program.
Each student will complete the millwork, joinery surface preparation and assembly of a pair of ‘Krenovian’ sawhorses. The sawhorses will feature through and wedged mortise and tenon with pillowed tenons.
Mortise & Tenon Learning Objectives:
safe use and operation of bandsaw, jointer, planer, shaper and tablesaw
cutting and fitting of through and wedged mortise and tenon joinery
cutting and fitting of half lapped joinery
surface preparation and edge treatment using spokeshaves, chisels and planes
assembly strategies for making of sawhorses
Registrations for Mortise & Tenon may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
Veneers & Curves, (6 days), $790, July 29–August 2/ October 28-November 1/ January 27-31
In this course, students will be offered a look at the possibilities, which exist outside straight lines and solid wood.
Veneer offers possibilities to the maker that are otherwise unavailable in solid wood construction. Cutting our own veneers enables the maker to produce stable, sheered surfaces, while also conserving precious wood. Both Mechanical Press and vacuum press methods will be demonstrated.
Several years ago we began using lumber core exclusively for our substraights for veneer. There are several advantages. We are working with solid wood, which is easier on our cutting edges. We are able to flatten, shape and taper our cores using our planes, prior to cross banding with commercial thickness veneer providing us with flat and or shaped stable surfaces for our shop sawn veneer.
Each student will receive a blank of basswood which is laminated flattened, shaped and tapered to provide the core for our flat and curved veneered panels. While machines are used initially final preparation of the core is done using the three fine planes made earlier in the program. We then take commercial aspen veneer and cross band the core using the vacuum and mechanical veneer presses.
Students will be guided through the setup of bandsaws for sawing real veneer. That is veneer of sufficient thickness to use our planes in surfaces preparation and edge treatment yet thin enough to provide us with the stability that veneer construction demands. Students will remove the edge material from a blank of hard maple, at which time they will use the bandsaw to saw the veneers for their panels.
Integrated or baked in edges are then applied and flushed to the core. The sawn veneers are prepared using our fine planes and are then applied to the lumber core substraight with baked in edges. The veneers are then cleaned up using our planes and applied edges are applied. At this time all surfaces preparation and edge treatment is done.
As time allows students will have the opportunity to explore parquetry, and an exercise in tapered and bent laminations including form work.
Veneers & Curves Learning Objectives:
safe use and operation of bandsaw, jointer, planer, shaper and tablesaw, scroll saw, vacuum and mechanical veneer presses
making curved and tapered lumber core
making flat lumber core
sawing and preparation of edges and shop sawn veneer
surface preparation and edge treatment of curved and flat panels
tapered and bent laminations
Registrations for Veneers & Curves may be made by mail, phone or fax. registration package
All materials for exercises are provided by the school. Students receive a welcome package including handouts and all exercise materials required for the program on the first day of class.
Impractical Cabinetmaker Program – first year (23 weeks) $11900
please contact the school for more information 1.877.943.9663
Applications for this program requires completion of Impractical Studies, a consult with the resident craftsman & teacher and the completion of the application package.
Impractical Cabinetmaker Program – second year (36 weeks) $13900
please contact the school for more information 1.877.943.9663
Applications for this program requires completion of Impractical Cabinetmaker – first year, a consult with the resident craftsman & teacher and the completion of the application package.
Impractical Cabinetmaker Program – residency
please contact the school for more information 1.877.943.9663
Applications for this program requires completion of Impractical Cabinetmaker – second year, a consult with the resident craftsman & teacher and the completion of the application package.
- 1″ Hock plane iron assembly *
- 1.5″ Hock plane iron assembly *
- 1.25″ Hock radius plane iron assembly *
- Small sliding square
- Low angle block plane
- Small flat bottom spokeshave
- Dovetail saw
- Cabinet scraper
- Card scraper
- Burnisher *
- 6″ ruler
- Bevel gauge
- 12″ Combination square
- Small plane adjustment hammer
- Chisel hammer
- Water stones 1000 & 8000
- Flattening Plate for water stones
- 8″ oberg cut file *
- 8″ 1/2 Round 2nd cut file *
- 8″ whiz cut file *
- 8″ Mill bastard file *
- Needle files
- Safety glasses
- Hearing protectors
- Hock Low Angle Spoke Shave Iron *
- Hock Chair Scrape Iron *
- Small Manual Drill
- Small Auxiliary Bench Vice
- Straight Edge
- Carving Knife
- Carving Tools
* Complete students tool kits and required text are available for loan (please contact the school for availability)
CRAIG JOHNSON, ARTISAN 2007/CRAFTSMAN 2009/JOURNEYMAN 2012 – I always thought of myself as a woodworker, but spent most of my life not really knowing what was possible in this craft. The Artisan Program changed all that. Studying the fundamentals for six intense weeks at Inside Passage broadened my perspective. I learned a new way of working that opened my eyes to all kinds of possibilities. I had to go back for more! So, I enrolled in the Craftsman Program. It was a major commitment of time, energy and resources, but definitely worth it. Every day I was pushed to my limit, and then some, but that’s what helped me grow. The support of Robert and Yvonne, and of my fellow students created a welcoming atmosphere at the school that made it a great place to learn. Robert’s teaching, and the James-Krenov-way-of-working that is the foundation for this fine school, brought me to a place of confidence in, and enjoyment of, this craft that I don’t think I could have found anywhere else. Most recently, I had the opportunity to make a reproduction of Vidar’s chair in the Journeyman Program. This was just what I needed to push my skills to the next level. Chairs are challenging to make, and this chair was no exception. It presented studies in grain graphics, shaping and fitting of complex joinery that demanded my full attention. Robert, thank you for generously sharing your expertise and for helping me see what was possible. My work will always reflect the huge influence that you and the school have had on my woodworking career. In the beginning, I had high expectations of Inside Passage. Now, I’m happy to say they were all exceeded!
Shane Brown, Sydney Australia
I completed the artisan program in 2012. I have always been someone who was interested in woodworking but had never spent enough time practicing to get really good at cabinetmaking. I was also alone in my craft and wasn’t aware of what was required to get the kind of results I achieved at the course at Inside Passage. I have a busy job in Australia as the director of a charity helping children and young people in Sydney and after many years in the position decided to take an extended break to follow that passion. I searched online and found Inside Passage; I emailed Yvonne the schools administrator to find out more about the program. I was worried about whether I would qualify for the course. She assured me that I would be fine and that there were people at different skills level attending and I would be able to complete the work. She was right and I felt very confortable in the classroom.
Yvonne also sent me an accommodation list of people in Roberts Creek who are happy to rent a room, I contacted a local and stayed in a beautiful house at a very reasonable cost that was two minutes from the College. I am still in contact with some local people; two visited me in Australia recently.
Robert Van Norman the Resident Craftsman and Teacher made me feel valued and respected as a student and was always willing to help me fix mistakes Id made, “not that I made that many mistakes”.
The course changed my understanding of the craft and I learned so much about how to sharpen tools, appreciate timber and its qualities, use hand tools and machinery and produce a beautiful piece of furniture. It was intensive and very instructive with Robert demonstrating every step of the way. As I said other students were at different skills levels and we often worked in teams, this helped me to build confidence in the work.
Apart from the new skills I learned I also made new friends in the course and am in contact with some of my fellow students to this day. Robert and Yvonne made me welcome and I am deeply indebted to their kindness support and friendship. Roberts Creek is a beautiful place in the forest and on the sea. The experience did change my life and I know that I will return to the School one day for further study.
Now that I’m back in Sydney I have begun to build a number of pieces of furniture including a side table and two chairs. I am also designing a series of pencil cases in Jarrah a native Australian timber.
RAUL FAVELA, Chihuahua Mexico, Craftsman & Resident Craftsman Programs - Inside Passage, two words that make me feel so many things. I was fortunate in attending the two year program this school has to offer, the “school of life” I will always refer to it. This place is a place in which I learned to respect so many things, the process on working with wood, the hands that make it happen and the state of mind that is required to make work of this quality. I was intimidated when I first got there, I had little experience in working with wood, and the technique I brought to the school was nothing but a confused mind trying to make something happen. I never imagined that so many shapes and processes could be made in such a “simple – complex” way. Once started, I realized how fortunate I was in having Robert Van Norman as my teacher, a true honor for me sharing that space with him. Yvonne and Robert have put together a program in a way that I learned concepts and practical solutions that I couldn’t even think about. This program made me be conscious about my skill as a craftsman and as a human being. Roberts Creek is a place in which you will bring your game to the highest possible level, a place in which your mind will flow with the rhythm that nature offers, learning every day about yourself and about your work. Skill is hidden within our selves, and will remain in there if we are not able to recognize our strengths and weaknesses. Mr. James Krenov sends a strong message on each one of his books, messages that will teach each one of us differently. Robert is loyal to the way of teaching that Mr. Krenov will like to see happen in this school; more important to the simplicity of life once you discover yourself. Mr. Krenov wrote on one of his books, “ I don’t love working – it is working well that I love. Inside Passage taught me how to work more than well, it will be now time to make my dreams happen, I am prepared to do so.
MELISSA MOURE EVANS, CRAFTSMAN 2010/11 – When I first applied to the Inside Passage, my knowledge of James Krenov was quite limited. Yes, I had heard of him but had not yet read any of his books. I was unprepared as to how profound of an impact this program was going to have on me.
Already in the four months I have attended the program, I know my life has been affected and changed forever. The learning atmosphere is one that resonates with me. Not only are we divulged into this craft and the qualities of wood but it is also a wonderful journey into the self of every single one of us. This has honestly been one of the most challenging, rewarding, and personal growth journeys I have experienced.
PETER FLAXMAN, ARTISAN/RESIDENT ARTISAN 2010 – I can’t say enough good things about my experience at Inside Passage during the 12 weeks I spent at the school over the Summer of 2010. I’ve attended a few different woodworking schools, and finding a School that instills such thoroughness, integrity and commitment to excellence is very rare. You can tell that Robert really cares not only about the craft of fine furniture making, but also about being a great teacher.
I signed up for the Artisan Program, where I learned the fundamentals of fine furniture making using hand tools and machines, and then immediately followed that course with the six week Resident Artisan Program, where I was able to put my skills to use building a small cabinet.
I was amazed at how high a level of craftsmanship Robert was able to teach to all of us during the program. He never takes short cuts or lets students with less experience fall behind. He was very patient
and always willing to answer questions, even those that were asked repeatedly. I appreciated how he would put in extra time for individual attention when anything was challenging and also give extra small projects to people who were moving ahead quickly. When I was working on my cabinet during the second part of the program, Robert was great about giving me the flexibility to design my own piece, but was always available to help me work through problem spots.
The facilities and equipment at the school were excellent and I thought Robert and Yvonne fostered a nice, collegial atmosphere amongst all of the students. Spending the summer 300 yards from a beach with views of snow-capped mountains in the drop-dead gorgeous Pacific Northwest was a treat as well, although I found myself drawn to the woodshop most of the time.
Inside Passage is a really unique school and I consider myself lucky to have had the time to attend their program.
OWEN KONSKI, FORT MCMURRAY, ALBERTA – To summarize my experiences during the 6 week Artisan Program is daunting. The program was exceptionally comprehensive with an excellent balance of theory and hands-on with the emphasis on developing hand skills and an intimacy with wood. Robert has a gift of reading a student’s ability and nudging it forward in a positive and rewarding manner. I found the atmosphere to be very fresh and energizing and this I think is due to the influences of Robert, the craftsmen and support staff (Yvonne) of the school. The location of The Inside Passage is an experience of its own. The memories and skills I came home with are a gift of a lifetime. My 6 weeks passed by far too quickly!
BRENT CURREY, BAINBRIDGE ISLAND, WASHINGTON – I met Robert a few years ago when I took a two-week beginning woodworking class at a school in Ontario. I was greatly impressed with his skill and his teaching style and thoroughly enjoyed the course. When I was considering taking another course I learned that he had opened Inside Passage. Since I was very interested in taking another course from Robert, and since it is so close to where I live, I decided to take a one-week course from him in the summer of ’05. While there, I decided to take the nine-month course that fall. I wasn’t working at the time, and didn’t really have any other commitments, so it was an easy decision for me.
I have to say that my time there was an experience of a lifetime. People arrive there from many different situations and backgrounds, but I considered myself pretty fortunate, at age 51, to be able to just drop everything on short notice and take a 9-month woodworking course. There was a real excitement in the beginning, I think partly because we were the first class to go through the program. I’m sure every class has its own dynamic, but as a group we really seemed to come together from the beginning, and throughout the course we enjoyed a supportive, creative environment. Of course, Robert’s teaching style had a lot to do with fostering that environment. The result is that you learn a great deal from your fellow students, from their good ideas, their successes, and even their mistakes. This is implemented formally in the weekly “walkarounds” where each student talks about the progress of their project, but it also happens on a more informal basis because you are in such close contact with the others and naturally curious about their projects.
As far as the technical skills gained through the program, I feel it was a bargain. I suppose some people can teach themselves the skills, or possibly learn through an apprenticeship, but it was unlikely that I would have ever learned on my own what I took away from that course. It gave me a confidence that I lacked. I didn’t know much going into the course, but now I feel that I know how to approach all phases of a project, from concept to completion. We learned a great deal about design. Not just an aesthetic sense, but how to go from idea to sketches, to mockup, to final design, and how to evaluate the design and look for subtle changes that can affect the overall feeling of the piece. I also have a much better understanding of the overall process of furniture building. I now know how to use tools effectively, and how to modify them or make my own for special tasks. When I returned to my shop after completing the course, I noticed that it was almost as if my hands knew what to do without me having to think about it. Don’t get me wrong, I feel that I still have a lot to learn, but I know that this will come from experience. The course let me take a leap to a level of skill and confidence that would have taken me years to achieve.
Roberts Creek is in a beautiful area, and the town itself has a real charm and friendliness. The Pacific Northwest is like nowhere else, and I think people from the East are particularly amazed at its unique beauty.
As the course progresses, you will spend more time in the shop, including weekends and evenings. But the truth is, Roberts Creek doesn’t offer that many distractions, and the school is where your friends are. At times the course can be stressful, particularly when you are trying to meet a project deadline. But as I mentioned to another student while I was there, if we weren’t working this hard, we wouldn’t feel we were getting our money’s worth.
Robert and Yvonne are truly kind and generous people who have thrown all of themselves into this endeavor, and it really shows. Being part of that group gave me a real sense of community. In fact, I still visit occasionally to try to keep that connection and always come home feeling inspired and recharged.
JIM ASTORIAN, KRONBERGE, GERMANY – Driving back gave me lots of time to think about my time at Inside Passage and appreciate the experience. I really miss the time in the shop with all of you. I enjoyed the experience more than I can describe. Being there 6 consecutive weeks makes a tremendous difference in your emotional attachment to the people and to the type of work you are doing. Looking back at my time with you, I know that I made the right decision choosing Inside Passage and spending 6 weeks in Roberts Creek.
I am re-reading The Fine Art of Cabinet Making and appreciate its sentiments for the first time, especially the first 60 pages. Thanks to you, Robert, and to Jim for the inspiration to spend more time feeling, listening, smelling – just sensing wood. I have no idea if what I make will be any good, but it will be more in tune with the wood itself.
I know first-hand how tough it is to make a start-up operation work financially. I also understand the emotional and physical strain that it brings to the proprietors. I think the way you two work together is impressive. Keep that alive and Robert please stay healthy! In addition to providing kudos for both of you, however, I would like to support the school in some way that makes sense. I was thinking about helping you build out the gallery with student work. I would make available for the next 3 years an amount each year for acquiring student work. The pieces would stay in the gallery for 2 years after acquisition date and then would be mine to leave there or move. The gallery would win, in that it has more work to display. The students would have some income. I would acquire beautiful work at a fair price.
PAUL GORT, WHITEHORSE, YUKON – I really enjoyed my time at the school; it certainly exceeded my expectations. Robert is an excellent teacher and his passion for fine work is evident throughout the courses. Every time the students showed an interest in a topic outside the confines of the course Robert was eager to share additional knowledge and responded enthusiastically to any questions we had. Both Michael and Cody were also excellent teachers and craftsman.
The classes were small enough that even when they were full there was still plenty of opportunity for individual instruction. The shop and the bench room were well laid out and equipped and the tools available for purchase at the school were top quality and well priced. Robert was also very generous with his own tools, so that students could try out a variety tools before deciding to purchase.
One of the biggest benefits of the classes were the presence of the craftsman students in the shop, they were a wealth of knowledge and it was a pleasure to watch them work, to discuss techniques and to see which tools they used. Yvonne was also exceptionally organized and kept the courses running smoothly. Everyone at the school was very open and friendly creating a great environment for learning.
I look forward to taking more courses at the school. Thanks again for your hospitality while I was in ‘the Creek’.
DON BRETT, WHISTLER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Just a note to thank you for an excellent course. Clear instructions, well-paced and meticulous within a relaxed environment. You have a great facility in an outstanding location.
JAMIE LATURNUS, VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – I want to take this opportunity to thank you for a wonderful week in the Dovetails and Tool Making program (Inside Passage School of fine Woodworking). You have shown me how to take a hobby, which I have always enjoyed, to a new level, to something that is now so much more. Your teaching was informative and your words inspirational. Please pass on my gratitude to everyone who had a part in creating such an extraordinary place.
CODY BRADFORD, INVERMERE, BRITISH COLUMBIA – I had the opportunity to spend 12 weeks in the winter of 2003 at a course Robert was teaching. I can easily say the experience would have paled in comparison had Robert not been the head instructor. His overall woodworking knowledge and unfaltering commitment to craftsmanship was unprecedented and infectious to all his students throughout the three months. I was excited to hear he had the good fortune to open his own school and look forward to taking a course as soon as I have a chance. I’m confident that as well as a fantastic school, Inside Passage will foster a “community” of craftsmen.
KAREL AELTERMAN, GATINEAU, QUÉBEC – I have always been impressed by people who have been doing woodworking since they were kids. I thought that this was the only way to become a talented, successful cabinetmaker. I didn’t discover woodworking myself, however, until I moved to Canada in my early thirties. This paradigm kept me from developing a career as a furniture maker for quite some time. But the desire to become a cabinetmaker did not go away. As time went by, it was becoming more evident that enhancing the inherent beauty of wood was very fulfilling for me.
In 2003, I realized the time had come for me to face some of those old fears and circumstances led me to discover a course offered in Ontario where Robert Van Norman, as resident-instructor, was at that time the driving force behind a twelve-week intensive artisan cabinetmaking course.
Robert is able to translate his craftsmanship and passion into a thrilling experience for all students. He is an inspiring teacher and a warm person. He gave me confidence in my ability to accomplish fine work and helped me explore and discover my own personal sensitivity towards materials and form.
ANNA GREEN, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – I have taken several classes from Robert and in each one I have been thoroughly impressed with the caliber of his teaching and his craftsmanship. Robert is a patient and competent instructor with a talent for understanding what his students want to know when they ask a question. Robert inspires me to put forth my best effort in my projects and not to settle for “good enough”. I very much look forward to taking classes from him in the future.
TOM DULL, SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA – I can’t say enough good things about Robert Van Norman’s skill as a teacher. I never thought that I would have the patience or skill to hand-cut dovetails or hand plane surfaces and edges. As a matter of fact I would have considered myself a skeptic. I did know that there was something about woodwork done by Krenov students that just seemed “right”. This led me to a basic woodworking class taught by Robert. What a revelation! I still use all my machines, but then I can shut them off, open the doors, listen to music (or shavings) and really enjoy the wood.
Yes, I can make subtle edges and sweet surfaces. I can cut refined dovetails with a chisel. Robert’s skill with both wood and students of all abilities makes studying with him a true joy. He gives clear demonstrations, then gently cajoles his students into doing better work than they thought possible.
SCOTT PARKINSON, OTTAWA, ONTARIO – I consider myself extremely fortunate to have studied with Robert over 12 weeks in 2003. Robert was a patient and insightful instructor teaching both basic and advanced techniques, helping to tie them together with the necessary philosophy, approach and attitude that inspire a desire for perfection. His own knowledge, personal skill and dedication were invaluable as a teacher and mentor. Robert went above and beyond to make the course an amazing personal experience. For anyone interested in fine woodworking, I highly recommend the chance to study with Robert and his team. You can enter with few skills but a wish to learn, and leave with a solid working foundation and ignited passion.
KARIN MATCHETT, NEW HAVEN, CONNECTICUT – I spent two weeks in Robert Van Norman’s class‚ in Ontario 2003, and I am thrilled now to start making treks from Minnesota to the west coast. Robert’s depth of knowledge about furniture-building will benefit any woodworker who approaches tools and wood with curiosity and love. But what Robert can do with furniture and wood is only half of it. He is a natural teacher: attentive, patient, generous, and smiling. Robert treats his students with great respect. My questions were welcome every step of the way, even when they sounded suspiciously like the questions of the day before and the day before that. Robert meets his students exactly where they are and simultaneously pushes them forward. I would travel to Tierra del Fuego for the program offered at Inside Passage; I’m grateful it’s only to Roberts Creek! (Although South America would be nice, too.)