Learning Vacations: Woodworking One-on-One

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Learning vacations are trendy. Furniture maker Robert “Bob” Ortiz recently debuted “Chestertown Vacation Workshops,” his version of a hands-on getaway with a goal. Unlike most how-to-do-it holiday training, Bob eschews group classes, instead working with just one student at a time for the entire five- to six-day session. A student chooses a piece of furniture to create from Ortiz’s line, typically a coffee, side, or end table.

Ortiz takes the client through all the stages of crafting the piece, starting with a visit to a logger in Pennsylvania to learn how to select the wood.

Learning Vacations: Woodworking

At his Chestertown, MD workshop, Ortiz shows the client how to dress, sand, cut, and glue the pieces together. “My furniture is fun to make,” says Ortiz. “ It involves machinery and hand tools so there’s enough variety. When I do a workshop, my time is devoted to just that one person. I am selling the experience of making a piece.”

Furniture maker Robert Ortiz

Gordon Benson (above), a retired physician who splits his time between Philadelphia and Church Hill, MD, on the Eastern Shore, built an entry table under Ortiz’s supervision.

“It was a unique opportunity to work with an expert woodworker in a one-on-one relationship. It was a real pleasure to complete the project,” says Benson.


Workshop participants also receive a copy of Ortiz’s book “Creating a Fine Art Entry Table (Schiffer Publishing). Ortiz says his workshops are not just for those with a background in woodworking. A current client is a woman jeweler who wasn’t allowed to take shop in high school, but always wanted to learn those skills.

I met Bob at the 2002 Philadelphia Furniture and Furnishings Show, the year he won Best New Artist in Wood award. A Washington Post reviewer said, “…the elegantly spare pieces in Robert Ortiz’s “Sofia” line are so lightly poised they seem to have just taken a breath.” Over the years, I have purchased several pieces from Bob, including a dining room table. It turned out so lovely that when my then college-age daughter, otherwise thoughtful, first saw the piece she said, “I want that when you’re dead.”

It’s possible that you could craft a piece that would elicit the same response from your family.

Chestertown, MD, is an historic Eastern Shore town located on the Chester River. You can enjoy a sunset cruise on the river or a sail on the Chesapeake Bay from nearby Rock Hall. Among the accommodations in Chestertown is the Brampton Inn, a former 1860 plantation house. Contact Bob Ortiz, Chestertown Vacation Workshops, Robert Ortiz Studios.