Earlier this year I ran across a Youtube video by a woodworker named Rob Cosman. This particular video shows how he builds custom dovetail saws which are available for sale on his site. If you are interested, the video can be found here. I was intrigued by this video which led to watching a few more. As it turns out Rob is a woodworking instructor that holds workshops and teaches woodworking primarily using hand tools.
These courses are a week long (approx 60 hours). Unfortunately, this is not something I have time for and to be honest I am more of a power tool woodworker, or more accurately a “hybrid” woodworker anyway.
While I was checking out these workshops I noticed he had online versions available as follows:
Hand and Power Tool Workshop
- 3 half-hour episodes per week (Mon, Weds, Fri)
- Complete furniture making from start to finish
- Every step is detailed, very little editing
- Online forum to ask questions to Rob and community
Hand Tool Workshop
- 2 half-hour episodes per week (Tues & Thurs)
- Create furniture entirely from hand tools
- Rough to ready construction method
- Every detail explained in full high definition
- Online forum to ask questions to Rob and community
Also includes many BONUS videos and perks…
- Hand and Power Tool reviews
- Downloadable project plans
- Exclusive DVD Clips from Rob’s collection
- Discounts to Rob’s in person workshops
- Question and Answer videos
- Shop tour
- Member exclusive video clips such as sharpening and making your own tools.
You can subscribe to these workshops individually or do a combined membership to save some money. There are several options for payment which range from paying monthly as well as a package where you can pay up front annually. I signed up for both packages (hand tool and hand/power tool) and also paid the year in advance. Buy selecting this package (and paying the year) Rob gives some additional benefits to wounded veterans. The Wounded Warrior project is a whole different topic, more about that here.
I will say upfront this is an odd format. It lacks the polish you find in the heavily edited videos you find online. Before you pass judgement (as I started to do about 100 times while watching) let me explain that this odd format is a good thing. One of the things that is “odd” is the camera guy (which you rarely see) is always involved in the conversation. It’s not uncommon for him to ask Rob a question about why is doing something or even offer a suggestion because his vantage point behind the lens might be better.
Their method brings you into the shop and makes you feel like you know them personally. In the photo from left to right is Frick who is the technology guy and takes care of a lot of things including getting the videos online, Jake Cosman (Robs son), Dave who does a lot of the fabrication on the custom tools they sell on RobCosman.com and finally Rob. Everyone except for Rob has spent their time operating the camera but in recent months it appears that Jake has settled into that position along with a multitude of other duties.
They try to run the videos non stop (for a real in shop experience) but occasionally stop in an effort to cut out some redundancy. As an example, if planing the edge of a board Rob will make sure he shows you how to do all four sides and then try to do the other boards off camera. He often mentions if he runs into an issue they will start the camera back up and show us. This might include a problem with the plane or tricky wood grain.
This brings me to another oddity. During the build videos, its not uncommon for Rob to stop to sharpen a chisel, plane, drill bit or even build a needed accessory like a cross-cut sled. At first I found this annoying as I wanted to get back to the meat of the project. But as it turned out, I can’t say I regret any of Robs “sidetracks” as I either learned something from them or it reinforced something I thought to be true.
There are well over 1000 videos online. They had a 1000th episode video in 2015 so I am guessing the total is now around 1500 for members to view. The workshop(s) you signed up for will dictate which ones are available to you.
I only have minimal complaints with my paid subscription and they mostly revolve around the website technology. The forum hardly has any activity so asking a question has little value. The website in general is slow and hard to navigate. Just trying to figure out if the recent video has been posted is a chore as the menus are quirky. Not to mention you have to continually check to see if “Episode 15” has been posted and then wonder if Episode 15 was the one you watched a few days ago.
The Power/Handtool videos are supposed to available Monday, Wednesday and Friday and the Hand tool only videos are Tuesday and Thursday. As I am writing this review on a Friday, I have only seen the Monday and Tuesday videos. The rest are not online yet. They always seem to get caught up by the end of the week but it has not proven to be the regular programming I was expecting. This seems to be a common issue.
The proof is in the pudding!
This is the closest experience I have found to being in the workshop and getting instruction first hand. My skills have improved dramatically after signing up for these classes. This is not an exaggeration and my workshop time has become much more enjoyable as well. I appreciate the fact that when Rob makes a mistake he spends an adequate amount of time showing you how to avoid it next time and often how to fix it. These mistakes are usually edited out on other other online videos, so the most important part of the lessen is missing.
Is it for you? Rob offers a 30 day free trial so you can try it and see if its something you are interested in. You really have nothing to lose.
I know I mentioned it briefly above, but please check out the wounded warrior program for vets that Rob has spent a great amount of time working on. Once again, here is the link .