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16 Mary Street
Des Plaines, IL, 60016

(847) 282-4934

Building a woodworking community through learning

With an emphasis in the use of hand tools, Midwest Woodworking School offers education in tried and tested woodworking techniques from past to the present. Your learning experience will empower you to achieve higher levels of woodworking. Whether you are a beginner, hobbyist, or looking to learn the skills required to make woodworking your career, Midwest Woodworking School will help you improve skill level and match your goal. All classes are taught by master craftsmen in their own field of woodworking with years of knowledge and experience.

Located in Des Plaines, Illinois, 10 minutes north of O’Hare Airport and 14 miles from Down Town Chicago. 

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Closing the School

David Coulthard

Thank you for your support and interest in Midwest Woodworking School.

Circumstances have dictated a new direction for me and the school. The rent at the current location became unsustainable and therefore we are closing the school for the foreseeable future until we can figure out a new direction and possible new location.

We will be keeping the website live and hope to post video workshops soon. When we have more information we will let you know. Again thank you for your support and please email us if you have any questions about woodworking and we will be happy to give you what guidance we can.

Good luck with your Woodworking.


We're not moving

Douglas Ward

There's been some talk lately (mostly by us) of possibly moving the school from our current location to a new one. That situation came upon us suddenly last month, and it forced us to scramble for a few weeks while considering new spaces to teach in. It delayed being able to post new classes, as well as stalling our advertising and promotional efforts for a while.

But thankfully, it was a false alarm -- we're not going anywhere for the time being. So we're back to holding classes, promoting and advertising, and hosting events in our current space at 16 Mary St, Des Plaines, IL.  We hope to see you here for a class or event soon!

Rockler Demo Days

Douglas Ward

As far as woodworking stores go, Chicago is in pretty good shape. We're lucky to have not one, but two Rockler Woodworking and Hardware stores now. One is in Schaumburg, IL, and it's been joined this year by one in south west Bolingbrook, IL. The Midwest Woodworking School is lucky they're both staffed by some great people. We recently reached out to them about helping us promote the school by letting us display our posers and flyers. But they went a step further, by inviting us to set up in the stores, and meet their customers face to face.

So, the past two Saturdays, once in Bolingbrook, and then in Schaumburg, we brought out our Moravian workbench (more on that in a future post), some furniture from our classes, some tools, and some projects to wok on out the stores. We set up the bench, and started doing some hand tool woodworking, making sawdust and shavings. Soon, we were answering questions about the tools, the processes, and then about the school and our classes.

What was surprising to us was, for a lot of the customers, it was their first real exposure to hand tool woodworking. Rockler sells plenty of hand tools: chisel, planes, saws, etc., but it seemed like many of the woodworker customers still haven't decided to tackle the hand tool learning curve. We're sure they see people doing it online, and in the woodworking magazines, but they haven't had the courage or encouragement to do it themselves. We heard them saying us things like "I have my grandfathers old hand plane, but I couldn't learn to tune it up..." and, (after watching us rip a board with a hand saw), "... wow, there's no way I could cut that straight!", and of course, "... I should really learn how to cut dovetails by hand..." with a sort of guilty sound in their voice.

That tells us we are in the right place -- there is a way to learn those things... sign up for a class! The interest is there, and thanks to the support of the local Rockler stores, we were able to help spread the word to some of their customers that there's a place to go to learn these things. We can't thank Rockler enough for being so supportive of our school, and for letting us do our thing there. We have plans to appear regularly at both the stores, doing demos and spreading the word. It was a great step forward in building a woodworking community.

Here are a few photos from the two events...

First Class, a Success

Douglas Ward

A proud student and his table, at the end of the Shaker Side Table class

Starting a school is a lot of work. When we opened the doors to the school a few weeks ago, we knew we were taking the first steps on a long journey. With our first class under our belts, we're thrilled to be headed in the right direction.

The five day Shaker Side Table class was a success. We learned as much from teaching as the students did from working their way through the table build. But most important, It was great to feel the reward of sharing our woodworking knowledge and experience with a student. We look forward to many more.

West Coast Artisans

David Coulthard

work by JP Frary

Small businesses have resurrected new life for the hangers at the now retired Naval Air Station in Alameda, California. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes of government cutbacks, there is a winery adjoining a restaurant with a stunning view looking across the bay at the skyline of San Francisco. One is an auction house, another a small engineering business, and many more, utilizing the buildings left vacant by the US Navy.

One building once used to rebuild aircraft engines is now the Alameda Point Studios, a communal workshop shared by woodworkers and artists to build their projects. With a large 8000 Sq Ft shop at the center, tenants rent a bench area to set up as they need but also have the use of heavy-duty machines as part of their rent.

There are off-shoot rooms formally used to test the engine rebuilds that are more private spaces for individual businesses. One of these quiet rooms occupied by Seth Janofsky, who has now gravitated to guitar building, although also still builds commissioned furniture pieces with his signature inlays. Seth was also a contributor to Fine Woodworking Magazine.

It seemed to me a perfect climate for woodworking, but that would be too simple with the bay of the ocean mere yards away. “It gets to about 52 degrees and constantly damp air in the winter time,” Nathan Klark told me as he wheeled his project into the drying room, which allow the projects to dry at a humidity controlled 70 degrees.

Nathan, along with his wife, are the owners of Sawn Custom Woodworking, where they design and build custom commissioned pieces that end up with clients around the San Francisco bay area and as far as New York. Check out their work at

JP Frary was busy finishing some table tops for one of the many wineries in Northern California, while also working on a new design for a chair with a design student that will be a “Modular Custom Chair”; in other words, the design would be modular, but the client can chose the wood, finish and upholstery. I can’t wait to see the finished pieces! JP is also a wood turner and turns unique pieces along with giving individual instruction to new turners while also managing the facility. JP’s work can be seen at

Originally from rural Virginia, James Mawyer was finishing up a custom kitchen island in white oak for one of his clients. He told me he attended the College of the Redwoods, a school founded by James Krenov. In fact, a few of the woodworkers at the Alameda Point Studios seem to have attended this West Coast School.

Nathan Klark

If you are ever out on the West Coast and have an afternoon to kill. Take a trip out to Alameda Point Studios and check out the Artists, woodworkers and luthiers who have helped bring back to life an old Navy engine shop. Their website is

-- David

The view from Alameda Point Studios across to San Francisco

James Mawyer putting the finishing touches to a White Oak kitchen island

Adrien Segal, artist and teacher working on a new project