Notes on a Mark Duginske class

Mark Duginske is the author of several books on woodworking, mostly about the bandsaw. He says that his bandsaw book is the biggest seller on the market. From that you might conclude that he's a bit of an egotist, but I found out over the weekend that that's far from accurate. In fact, he's pretty modest.
Mark's classes are held at Prairie River Woodworking (prairieriverwoodworking.com) near Merrill in north central Wisconsin, about 12 miles north of Wausau. They're summer and early fall classes, because those minus 50 wind chills keep out the riffraff in the winter. The building itself is split between a sales room and a 1000-square foot shop.
I took two days of hands-on classes this past weekend, the first on sharpening and the second on hand tools. There were just four students, so we got lots of personal attention.
My first surprise was seeing that nearly all of his equipment is standard lower-end Delta or Jet, except for the Mini-Max 24" bandsaw and 12" planer-jointer. The south side of the shop is devoted to four new 8-foot workbenches on Shop Fox frames for the students. Mark is a Shop Fox franchisee and most of the stuff on his sales floor is SF. He compares it to Grizzly, but with better motors.
Surprise number two was in finding that his shop is as much a mess as mine--maybe worse because he has so many more hand tools. That's surprise number three--the author of several equipment-oriented books is a neander; Mark has 250 hand planes in his personal collection.
The sharpening class was built around a jig system by Fast Trak that attaches to any grinder stand. My Marples and Two Cherries chisels and Hock plane blades were scary sharp--I thought. Then I found out that they were good, but that the jig combined with a some scary touchup made them just that much better, and in much less time than with my old method. Mark will discount the jig system, which lists at $100, to class members. There is NO pressure to buy--none at all. So of course we bought.
The second day was given to demos and hands-on use of hand tools, including planes, scrapers, saws of all types, spoke shaves, etc. Most of you wreckers know most of this stuff, but it was good to get the experience from a pro who is also a good teacher. We had plenty of time for hands-on and Mark sat down for several bull sessions in which he asked for our opinions of the class. His shop is evolving and we agreed that it could use some floor mats and that each student could be given a set of tools for the duration.
These classes cost $45 per day (others are more) and I can't imagine that Mark is getting rich on them. He was in the shop for at least 20 hours over the weekend, turned on the lights and power, provided supplies including a new high-tech finishing film by 3M that's very kewl, and even bought pizza the second day. The battery in my camper went flat and he let me charge it in his break room. There was more, but I'm not sure he does everything for every class.
In short, he's a really good guy and a very patient instructor. At 60 he's still enthusiastic about woodworking and genuinely interested in his students. The brochure is available online--check it out. I'm planning to go back for a build-it class next year.
Bob Schmall
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Dear Bob:
Glad you had a good time at Mark's. He is a wonderful instructor and a very nice person. I got to know Mark years ago when I worked at the Cutting Edge in San Diego and selling Inca.
We have been trying to get Mark down here to teach for us, but we have not been able to get the dates ironed out. Maybe next year. Happy to hear that you had a satisfying experience.
Mike from American Sycamore
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