Become a mentor

Over most of my woodworking career, I have split my time between working with wood and writing about working with wood.

Most of my writing has been targeted at the DIY market. There have always been a large number of people who take satisfaction from making something for their homes: a coffee table, cabinets or even their own houses. Many of these people are complete novices and both need and appreciate professional guidance.

One thing I have noticed is that interest in DIY becomes much more active during times of economic hardship. The one exception was during the 1980’s when there was a resurgence of interest in woodworking and people had plenty of discretionary money. A lot of the people I knew during that period had better equipment in their garage shops than I had in my professional shop. But typically people become interested in providing for themselves when it becomes difficult to pay someone else to do it for them.

My brother-in-law recently took a class somewhere in San Francisco to learn how to make kitchen cabinets and he is currently in the process of doing so in his garage. That got me thinking again about the opportunities that exist for those who possess the needed knowledge and skills to assist others in making things for themselves.

2011 was about the worst economic year in memory for just about everyone. 2012 may not be much better. This might be a great time to start looking at ideas like teaching people how to build their own furniture or cabinets. People might be happy to pay a skilled craftsman to function in the role of mentor and that could provide enough income to keep our own doors open.



  • John Brooks says:


    I have been a teacher at The WoodenBoat School for 18 years and last year we started offering workshops in our own shop on building particular boats. We have met with very good success in both. My classes continue to fill quickly and the workshops have been well attended and the participants find them not only fulfilling but also make new friends that they maintain once they get home through e-mail and chat groups. The groups are particularly helpful as each person runs into challenges as they build their own boats.

    Great suggestion. Keep up the great work.

    Happy New Year

    John Brooks

  • albert says:

    SO if one were to consider becomng a mentor of sorts or a private how to do it hire. How and where would one go about advertising or finding the folks in need?

  • I am a recently retired woods shop / building trades teacher. The last of a dying breed. School shops are closing left and right. Universities no longer offer a Tech Ed degree, and thus there are no new teachers to replace retirements. What a shame. I gave 29 years and loved every minute. The loss of vocational ed. Is already being seen, have you hired an English speaking contraction worker lately?

  • BigStick says:

    Love yr article. I have a huge shop that is just idle. I had several operations in 3 years. The equipment there need some one to teach those that would have a interest and be willing to pay for time and material. Sponsors like wood craft would find this in there best interest. Your idea is to build a guild of novices and just watch it grow. Made in America is the next frontier so make it your self is even better yet.
    I am in Northeastern pa and my doors are open for suggestions.

  • Sorry, “construction”. Bad eyes!

  • Gene Kelly says:

    Teaching is something that I have considered. However, the liability insurance for a beginner would be astonomical. I realize that waivers could be created and signed releasing me from all harm yadda yadda, but I also realize, having close ties with personal injury attorneys that most of the waivers can be gotten around. I really would like to mentor someone with a genuine interest, but I am afraid to.

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