So here are a few tips that will make your class time more productive and enjoyable.
1. Keep track of your reference surfaces
To do good work you need to have a square face and edge. When you’ve decided what those surfaces are, put a mark on them. Some people use a triangle. Some use a series of lines. Some people use labels. You can use whatever you want (draw smiley faces if it makes you happy) as long as it helps you keep track of your reference surfaces. Michael Fortune recently recommended using a method he discovered in Fine Woodworking in 1977. You can look at it here.
2. Label Parts
I know it’s obvious, but have you ever heard the one about the doctor who amputated the wrong leg because of a lack of labels? When you’re working at home you may only have four legs to deal with but when you’re in a class of 16 people there would be 64 legs floating around. Labeling parts is a good habit to get into and will ensure that parts you picked go home with you.
3. Double check the set up against your layout
The machine setup in a class is done by a member of the staff. If you’re the first person in line, chances are good that your piece will be perfect. But if you’re the eighth person in line and the fourth person moved something or banged things around, the original setup may not be the same. If you have laid out your parts, it’s easy to double check a setup before you ruin your project. Even better the rest of the class will thank you. But what if the setup doesn’t match your layout lines? Get the attention of the instructor or staff and have them check things.
4. Develop a methodology and stick with it.
Unless, of course, the instructor is using a different one. Seriously, it is really good practice to develop a way to mark parts that is easy for you to remember and eliminates confusion. If you are consistent you can come back to an unfinished project later and still know what is going on. But when you are in class the instructor may specify a particular way of marking parts because it allows them to, at a glance, keep everyone on track.
The best part about marking, labeling, and laying out is that it eliminates confusion. If all your parts are in order you don’t have to second guess yourself while you’re trying to imagine how the pieces should fit. You’ll spend less time reworking parts and experience less frustration. And when you’re in class that means more time to hit the ice cream machine.