I 've enjoyed hundreds of dinners with this fellow as we both participated in and taught at the Woodworking Show tours for a number of years. I first met him on the telephone when he was writing a tool review for Fine Woodworking magazine back in 2004. I think we first met in person at one of the big tool shows (IWF or AWFS) and I've watched his career as an author and instructor flourish. I've heard he has become the most published author in the history of Fine Woodworking magazine.and believe that that's true, due to his prolific tool reviews and articles for the magazine.
I know him too, as an avid mandolin player/bluegrass enthusiast, (many a moment spent picking together), an expert in most things automotive and certainly one of the most informed people I've ever met on the subject of woodworking tools. Roland was the author of this popular book on bandsaws, though his expertise reaches much farther into the world of woodworking machines.
One of his best known titles, this Band Saw 'Bible' has helped thousands of woodworkers.
A Brief Biography Prepared for the Atlanta Woodworker's Association before his appearance there.
Roland Johnson is a passionate, self-confessed gearhead who’s drawn to iron. But that magnetic impulse isn’t just for power tools, he’s been known to cling to old hand tools as well. A professional woodworker for more than 40 years, Johnson left the pro world to work in his home shop, a semi-retired state that allows him to build whatever suits his mood. He’s been a contributing editor to Fine Woodworking magazine for 14 years now, often being the go-to guy for tool tests and evaluations. He is the author of Automotive Woodworking (Motorbooks 2001) and The Complete Illustrated Guide to Bandsaws (Taunton Press 2010). When not in his shop, you may find him mowing his grass, making his sports cars go faster, tending his vegetable garden, or at a bluegrass festival somewhere in the Midwest with his wife, JoAnn.
The Birth of a Woodworking School (by Roland Johnson)
In 2000 I started a woodworking club in St.Cloud, Minnesota: The Central Minnesota Woodworkers Association (thecmwa.com
). The club was an instant success with membership climbing to nearly 100 in our first year. We met monthly at my woodworking shop and featured an educational seminar at each meeting. Having a well-equipped 6300sq.ft shop created a great woodworking atmosphere as well as allowing us to do sawdust-flying seminars. The shop was a bit of a drive for a lot of the members so it was decided to find a venue closer to the majority of our membership. We met at a local high school wood shop for several years but the school decided that woodworking was too hazardous for an extracurricular event (which is what our club was labeled so we could use the facility) and we lost our home.
Through our sister club, the Mid-Minnesota Woodturners Association (a spin-off from our club), we found a new home with the Paramount Center for the Arts (paramountarts.org). The PAC occupies an incredibly beautiful opera house that was built in the 1920s, restored in the late 1990s, and is now home to not only the performing arts but also a strong visual arts program that is housed in the catacombs beneath the theatre. Our association started meeting there in 2012, and while it was nice to have a bit more permanent home we didn’t have space for more than a couple of workbenches and most of our seminars became lectures. Our membership dwindled.
We started working with the Paramount organization to find a work space where we could have a full fledged woodworking shop but just couldn’t seem to get enough momentum going to get the goal accomplished. In 2015 a new president for the PAC brought a new perspective to the organization and a chance for us to possibly occupy an under-utilized building the PAC controlled.
I made a proposal to the PAC president to combine forces and start a woodworking school that would offer the general public a chance to attend paid woodworking classes. After a couple years of back-and-forth we arrived at a solution that benefits both the PAC and the CMWA. We started a mild renovation project in April 2017 and through the summer built 10 workbenches, installed a bunch of woodworking equipment and created a 3400 sq.ft shop that is the apple of our eyes! We held our first paid seminar (sold out) in September and have had numerous paid seminars, all sold-out, since. Our goal is to have a one-day or two-day paid class bi-monthly with at least two week-long classes per year. Our week long classes will be taught by nationally recognized woodworkers.
On top of the school being successful right out of the gate our club is benefitting immensely. We have had some great hands-on seminars at our monthly meetings and the membership is growing again.
This is an exciting time for both the CMWA and the PAC, we have a wonderful facility that is bringing woodworking to our Central Minnesota home!
Roland's Micro Plunge Base Review From Fine Woodworking's Online Newsletter 2012
GREAT INNOVATION: CORDLESS PLUNGE ROUTER
I just spent a couple of hours thoroughly enjoying the new Micro Plunge Base from Micro Fence. I enjoy working with inlays, but have always struggled with finding an appropriate router for removing the background material. For years I used a Stanley dome-top router, small but not small enough; poor site lines, hard to find small bits and a clumsy depth setting mechanism would leave me frustrated. I started using a Dremel motor about a decade ago and although it was an improvement, the router base that Dremel sold was pretty flimsy with a clumsy depth adjustment. When Dremel started selling their plunge router-base I snapped one up and found that it was much better than the original base but still flimsy. I also tried the Proxxon micro-router and while that's a nice little machine, it still is just not quite the ticket.
Well, I now have the E-ticket: the Micro Plunge base. Richard Wedler (owner of Micro Fence) spent a couple of years developing this little plunge base and it seems it was time well spent. The tiny footprint (4-inch diameter base), great site-lines, absolute accuracy for setting depth, super smooth plunge, on-board light and the ability to use all of Micro Fence's accessories makes this a real nifty tool. Add the cordless Dremel 8220 and I've got the ultimate inlay router. The base has a plastic ring that threads onto the Dremel housing and is secured into the base by three set screws, the base can be rotated so the power and speed switches can be positioned wherever convenient, and it takes about a minute to install the motor so it doesn't require a dedicated Dremel motor. The base also has an adapter for using template guide bushings (P-C) and auto centering bearings are available for dead-on centered mortises. I'm pretty happy that I can rout really close to my scribe lines with great accuracy and no worries about losing sight of what I'm doing. Just exactly what I've been looking for!
Roland tests the Micro Plunge doing an inlay.
A close up of one of his projects.
A recently cleaned shop at his Minnesota compound.
The set-up for one of Roland's seminars at The Woodworking Shows...in Atlanta, GA, I believe.
Rich and Roland entertain themselves before a show.