I recently had the opportunity to attend the Jory Brigham Design Workshop in Paso Robles, California. If you aren’t familiar with Jory Brigham’s furniture you definitely need to check out his website. His pieces are unique and creative and he uses a variety of skills and techniques in his work. His style may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but when you see Jory’s work you know it’s Jory’s work and I was immediately drawn to it the first time I came across it a couple years ago. When I started my @stuffsethmakes Instagram account, I think Jory was one of the first people I started following. Fast forward a bit and SpikeTV launches a furniture building reality show called Framework and as I watched the first episode I realized, “hey, I think I follow that guy Jory on Instagram“. You can see the Framework series trailer here:
After the first couple episodes, it was pretty clear Jory would be the one to beat and of course (spoiler alert) he went on to win the whole thing. Fast forward a little bit more and Jory makes the announcement that he’ll be offering a furniture building course at his new workshop in Paso Robles, CA. The course promises to offer a hands-on furniture building experience, using some of Jory’s favorite tools and techniques to build a piece of furniture designed by Jory Brigham himself, specifically for the course. Since we’re in Paso Robles frequently to visit family, this sounded like something I needed to do but with a $1500 price tag I couldn’t do it right away. So I waited as a few courses came and went, and I watched in envy as other Instagram users would post the occasional pic of their time at the Jory Brigham Design Workshop.
Finally I decided to bite the bullet and consider the $1500 an investment towards what could potentially be my future career. I’m currently a very full time wedding photographer with my amazing wife, and while it’s been very good to us, it’s not something I see us doing forever and over the last few years I’ve found that creating something with my own two hands to be very rewarding and I enjoy doing it very much. I still have a long way to go before this can ever be a full time career but hey, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Fast forward again and it’s finally time to head up to Paso Robles for two and a half very full days of learning and building. For the most part, the wood we’d be using (black walnut) had already been cut into manageable sizes for us to work with, so we weren’t milling down totally rough lumber. The milling of the rough lumber is something most of us in the class were probably skilled enough to do, but it was a good time saver to have it already prepped. Jory uses a lot of MDF templates for his pieces and after a brief run down on template making and usage, we were off and running and the legs of our end tables quickly started taking shape.
I’ve had a little bit of practice with MDF templates prior to taking this course, but they were only on some small sized projects. Using templates for larger pieces of furniture like this is incredibly effective and makes cutting identical pieces a breeze. Between the template, a router and the bandsaw I had my table legs cut out in no time flat and the next step was routing the inner and outer edges of the legs. I chose to do a 45-degree chamfer on the outside edges and a simple roundover on the inside edges, and I really liked how it looked. We used the Festool Domino to join the 3 table legs. If you’re any sort of woodworker at all, you know about the Festool Domino but if you’re like me, you may not have had the opportunity to use one. They’re all the rage and now having used one, I can see why. They’re easy to use and make assembling your work a pretty quick and accurate process. This is definitely a tool that is going high on my wish list, and someday when I save up a million dollars I’m going to buy one!
The next step was cutting down our black walnut panels to make the main box/cabinet. Once again, I had the opportunity to use a tool that’s been on my radar and that would be the Sawstop table saw. Sawstop is another big popular name in woodworking, and of course it’s another tool that comes with a hefty price tag. Since I seriously need (but can’t afford) a table saw upgrade, I was eager to run some wood through the Sawstop. I loved it, and I could feel the sturdiness of this saw. I could tell by turning the wheels to raise and lower the blade and simply moving the fence back and forth that this thing is heavy duty and would handle whatever we threw at it. A few miter cuts later and I was ready to assemble my box, with the help of the Festool Domino of course. Once assembled, my miters were tight and the grain in the wood flowed seamlessly in one direction around the whole box. Very nice! We finished off the box with a rear panel and once again I chose to chamfer the rear edges to compliment the chamfers I routed on the legs earlier. This thing was coming together nicely!
The drawer box was simple and came together nice and square with some rabbet joints. Nothing new, but Jory has this down to a science and we were able to make our cuts quickly and the drawer box assembly was a snap. Assembling the drawer boxes included routing out a couple notches for the Blum undermount soft-close drawer glides. I’d never used these before but they were a pretty easy installation and I wouldn’t mind using them again on a future project.
Mounting the main box to the legs was the next step and again, a pretty simple task that used a little template Jory made. When mounting the legs you can mount them so there’s one leg in front and two in the rear or vice versa. I chose the latter (I think we might have all done it this way) and went with the two in front and one in the rear. I imagined doing it this way would give it more stability if there was stuff in the drawer and the drawer were fully open but after getting the piece home and playing with it a bit, I felt like maybe I should have chosen to do the one leg in front and two in the rear. I noticed that if I pulled the drawer open kind of quickly, the whole unit could tip forward, so maybe having the weight of two legs in the rear might have been better after all. I also have it sitting on carpet for the time being, so that might be part of the problem too. Anyway, not a big deal. Moving on!
Once the legs were attached and we had given everything a good sanding with the Festool Rotex Sander (as well as a lot of hand sanding) it was time to apply some finish. I’ve become more familiar with using a good coat of Danish oil and maybe a clear coat or two, but since Festool is such a prominent name is Jory’s shop, we were introduced to Festool’s SurFix oil. This stuff is interesting. It has the look and consistency of mayonnaise and you just wipe it on and rub it into the wood. Then it gets buffed out with the green pads and you’re pretty much all set. Then it was on to the real hero of this piece, and that’s the cove cut drawer faces.
Cove cutting is nothing new, and you can certainly find plenty of articles and how-to videos online. In fact, Jory has a great video out there and you can see that video here:
Cove cutting is typically used to create custom moulding but you can certainly use the technique on all kinds of projects, and in this case we’re using it to make the drawer faces. Once again, our drawer face blanks were already milled up for us but one down side of the course is that we did not actually get to cut the coves ourselves. I’m sure it’s a safety and liability thing and all that, but I think all of us taking the course (at least in this particular class) were experienced enough at using a table saw to where we could handle the cove cutting. Plus, we all signed waivers so it was a bit of a bummer that we didn’t get the experience of cutting the coves ourselves. But Jory made quick work of a couple starter cuts and then we thought about how we wanted the other cove cuts to look and he proceeded to cut them for us. You can really get creative here, but for the sake of getting it done and not messing up my drawer face, I chose to keep my design fairly simple. I’ve got some projects lined up at home that I’ll try cove cutting with, and I’m really looking forward to experimenting with the various heights and angles to achieve some unique and interesting shapes. But anyway, once Jory cut my coves I had a chance to use a Kutzall Shaping Disc to add a little more detail to the handle area of my drawer face. I’ve seen these used a lot lately and have been wanting to try one. They are awesome and with a little practice you can really do some cool stuff. Just like with my cove patterns I kept my usage pretty simple and subtle but again, I’m definitely looking forward to using the Kutzall wheel more in the coming year…and keeping my knuckles clear of the wheel. Don’t ask me how I know, haha! After all this cutting and carving I had a lot of sanding to do and once that was done I gave it an application of the Festool SurFix oil. You can see Jory using the Kutzall wheels in his video here:
Now came what proved to be the trickiest part (for me anyway) and that was the task of attaching the drawer face to the drawer. It sounds easy enough but for some reason I was having a hard time getting the drawer face to stay where I wanted it. We used double sided tape to stick the face where we wanted it (my gaps all around were evenly spaced) but every time I pulled the drawer out to mount the face with screws, it shifted ever so slightly and then wouldn’t close properly. 4 attempts later and it’s at an okay spot. I think I’ll still tweak it a bit in my own workshop at home but I’m wondering if the Blum drawer slides have anything to do with it. They seem to have a significant amount of side to side wiggle so I’ll give it a closer look and hopefully I’ll get it dialed in.
On the third day, I ended up with a piece of furniture I’m pretty proud of and even though I can’t take credit for the main design of the end table, I can take credit for building it. As I mentioned before, the techniques used in the course aren’t necessarily new or groundbreaking but the opportunity to try some of them was new to me. It was great to see these techniques in action as opposed to just watching somebody do them in a YouTube video or blog article. It was also great to use some of the high end tools and machinery that I can’t afford right now. A lot of people have already been asking me about the course and complimenting the piece I came home with. Of course, the main question that I’ve been getting is…..
Was It Worth The Price?
I guess my answer to this question would have to be…..”it depends“. If you’re still new to woodworking and aren’t really familiar with woodworking machinery like table saws, band saws, routers, etc, this course might be a bit over your head and you’ll probably want to get some more experience first. If you’re over making crafts out of pallet wood and you want to take the quality of your work to the next level, maybe it would be worth looking into. If you’ve got a good gig doing craft markets, making a bunch of affordable Pinterest-style projects, then you probably don’t need this course. But if you’re looking to take your furniture building more seriously…maybe breathe new life into your current furniture building career, or using this course as a stepping stone on your way to a future furniture building career, then this course is right up your alley. That’s what it was for me. While I can certainly appreciate the pallet wood scene, and use rustic wood in a project every now and then, my goal is to find my own unique style and build high quality pieces I can be very proud of. Like I said before, reaching this goal isn’t going to happen overnight. This is going to take some time, a lot of practice, a lot of trial and error and most likely a lot of money. But it’s something I can see myself doing for a very long time and I look forward to the journey. When my wife and I started our photography business a decade ago, one of the first things we did was take a course to learn some techniques with our wireless flash. That was one of the best things we did and I believe I’m going to feel the same way about taking the Jory Brigham Design Workshop.
The following YouTube clip is just a simple slideshow of the photos and video clips I took with my phone during the workshop, and includes a couple clips of the cove cutting technique and also an extra concrete spraying demonstration Jory did while we waited for some glue to dry 🙂
The following photos are my “finished product” photos I shot once I got home. Hopefully the photos are worthy of the end table 🙂
I had the opportunity to use a lot of great quality tools and you can use the following links (click on an image) to jump out to Amazon to see more info on each tool:
I hope you found this blog entry to be helpful, especially if you’re considering taking the course. If you do decide to take the course, I think you’ll have a great experience. I sure did. It’s been about a week since the course and I’m already trying out some of the things I learned and I can’t wait to use them on some projects this coming year.
Feel free to comment here on the blog. If you have any direct questions please email me using my contact page. Thanks for stopping by, see you in the shop!