I just finished up teaching seven days of classes at the Florida School of Woodwork in Tampa, Fla., an urban school in a rapidly gentrifying area of the city that has an excellent facility and an enthusiastic, knowledgeable and hard-working owner, Kate Swann.
The Florida School of Woodwork is officially about two years old, though Kate ran her professional furniture-making business there for many years along with Carl Johnson.
I’ve always thought that Florida – with 21 million residents – didn’t have its fair share of woodworking schools. Lost Art Press has thousands of customers in the state, and the blog receives significant traffic from the Sunshine State. We also get a lot of questions from beginning woodworkers in Florida who ask: Where should I go for instruction and community?
Now they have an answer.
The school is located in a renovated motor-winding plant just north of downtown Tampa and near the new and bustling Armature Works and blocks and blocks of renovated Craftsman bungalows.
The front bench room and machine room is illuminated by enormous storefront windows. Each student works at a Benchcrafted workbench and with a wall-mounted kit of hand tools. The machines are well-maintained and safe (SawStops). There’s a nice break room, an overflow machine room at the back and a covered area to eat your lunch back by the local meadery. Oh and the floor of the shop is a sprung wooden floor – it’s great for your back and knees.
And there’s Kate. Affable and hand-working, Kate spent the seven days making sure the students had everything they needed, built jigs for my class, greeted the curious who stopped by and kept each day running smoothly.
Also impressive is the programming. The classes run the gamut, from a one-day class where you turn your first cup to multi-week advanced seminars with Michael Fortune. Project classes span a wide variety of styles, from period pieces to Arts & Crafts, Mid-century Modern to pieces with a serious artistic bent.
About half of my 10 students were from Florida, with the rest from states as far as Iowa and Texas. Many out-of-staters brought their families – February in Florida is about as nice as it gets. Also interesting – many of the students were repeat customers, which is remarkable for a young school.
I’ll be returning to the Florida School of Woodwork to teach in 2022 (my 2021 is already overbooked). But don’t wait for me. Check out the complete list of upcoming classes here. Florida finally has the woodworking school it has long deserved.
— Christopher Schwarz