For additional insight into the successes of our graduates, click on the "Show Content" link below to read more about their professional wood finishing careers.
The Woodfinishing Technology Program
Amaral, Joe - (California) :
"I always loved woodworking and finishing. One day I was reading a wood magazine and low and behold a detailed article about a Wood Finishing school in Minnesota that was teaching everything about wood finishing and it was nine months long. I clipped the article and put it in my desk drawer where it stayed for 7 years, until one day a turn of events in my life started me on “the incredible journey” that hasn’t stopped.
In 1998 I made “the call” to the director of the program, Mitch Kohanek to ask and listen very carefully to what the Wood Finishing Program was all about. I knew there was no other school like this in the country. It was that call that changed my life. We moved from California to Minnesota for the next nine months. Dakota County Technical College has an excellent support system in place, which enabled us to find housing, part time work and attend school full time.
In the Wood Finishing Program I found the information and guidance, combined with hands on learning and fused together with a unique and special camaraderie. Mitch Kohanek told me he would match my energy and I that he did. The program laid an excellent foundation to confidently and skillfully work in any area of the wood-finishing field. After graduation from the program I returned to California and attended College of the Redwoods Fine Wood Working Program under the direction of James Krenov. The finishing skills that I had learned studying under Mitch were applied and beautifully complimented the furniture I built studying under James Krenov. Upon completion I relocated to Chicago and worked as Furniture Conservator Technician for the Deller Conservation Group. I returned to California and started my own business called Wood Finish Services. I specialize in high end finishing, surface decoration, and restoration of furniture, wooden objects and architectural interiors. www.woodfinishservices.com
Nine years later and I still find myself returning as often as possible to the Wood Finishing Classroom attending workshops, and when I walk thru the classroom door it’s like it was the first day of that “incredible journey”. It's always good to see my mentor and friend Mitch Kohanek.
Attending the Wood Finishing Program was the best educational move I ever made. It has allowed me to appreciate and enjoy the art and craft of woodfinishing and I've met some incredible people along the way."
Behrens, Jerry - (MN) :
"It would not be an exaggeration if I said my decision to attend Dakota County Technical College literally changed my life.
I had a dead end job in a small town in western MN. A friend of mine had told me about the program, which piqued my curiosity. I enquired what the program entailed and it seemed very interesting. Long story short I put in notice at my place of employment and moved to the metro area and starting attending the Wood finishing program. That was back in1987 and it has proved to be one of the best decisions that I have ever made.
I was very impressed at the scope and depth of what was taught in the program. I soon learned there where many different avenues one could follow in choosing a career. During school I started my own refinishing business on the side, which kept me very busy.
After graduation, I was employed as a touch-up artist for a well-known local furniture store. I worked there for 2 years. Throughout that time, my employers were repeatedly amazed on what “miracles” were performed on scratched and dented furniture to bring it back to life. Although I enjoyed the satisfaction of seeing damaged furniture being made new again, I was eager to try a different avenue.
Mohawk Finishing products was a leader in manufacturing and supplying the wood finishing industry for all their touch-up and finishing needs. They were hiring a salesperson to represent and sell their products, so I applied and was hired. My experience in the field coupled with my education at DCTC made it a great fit.
My first full year I received the “Rookie of the Year” award as well as the MVP (Most Valuable Peddler) as well as 3 other sales awards. I also taught workshops around the country instructing students in the proper use of our products. I continued selling for Mohawk for 6 years. In that time I won numerous awards and when I resigned I was the only rep to be named to the President’s Club (top 5 in the company) 3 times. There is no doubt in my mind that the instruction I received at DCTC was largely responsible for my success. During this time I shot a “How To” video about touch-up and repair for a cable show called the Home Pro. It was great experience and a stepping stone for future video endeavors.
After 6 years, I was offered a Vice-Presidents position by a customer of mine that I had been calling on as part of my Mohawk territory. Although my wife and I had to re-locate, we felt that this would be a great opportunity. It was a very tough decision to leave Mohawk.
The position I accepted was with a national franchise chain with franchises in 39 states. They specialized in among other things, cabinet restoration. I was responsible for training all new franchises in the art of cabinet repair, cabinet refacing, and sales techniques. I also traveled around the U.S. putting on workshops to further their education in touch-up and repair. During my tenor, I wrote a monthly technical update column for their national newsletter. I also wrote and hosted 2 videos on cabinet and floor restoration.
After 8 years away we decide to move back to the metro area. I was offered another rep position, representing several different kitchen cabinet manufacturers. Although it was a bit scary trying a different field, it has proved so far to be very successful. I still get to use my 18 years of knowledge by instructing workshops across the country for the cabinet manufacturers, teaching them the art of touch-up and repair.
So as you can see it has been quite a ride and it all started with the Wood-finishing program at DCTC."
Boettcher, Ken - (MN) :
"I graduated from the DCTC Wood Finishing program in 1982.It's hard to believe that I have been in my chosen profession for 25 years.It's also hard to believe that I have known Mitch Kohanek for 25 years.As I look back on my career one thing that has always been a constant is Mitch's dedication and commitment to the wood finishing industry.
My career started as a touch-up/prep person for an imported furniture store,on to a high-end refinishing shop,to a precision match sampling company and then on to my current employer of 16 years E Street Makers.Where we manufacture high-end custom furniture and millwork.My titles have changed and my duties have varied and again the one constant is the DCTC Wood Finishing program.I use the program as a recruiting platform and as a sounding board for various questions that arise.
Over the years I have found that hiring someone that has taken the finishing course not only provides an employee that has chosen wood finishing as a profession but also someone that comes in with a basic understanding of the industry.They are easier to train,easier to hand-off special projects to and easier to communicate with.I believe that in the right situation that a DCTC Wood Finishing recruit possesses the knowledge to run a finishing department at graduation.
I look forward to a continued relationship with Mitch and the DCTC program.Mitch has been a great friend as well as a mentor.
I would like to thank Mitch and DCTC for providing me with an education and support that has enabled me to in turn provide for my family for that past 25 years.
A heart felt THANK YOU!"
Lanucha, Joe - (Colorado) :
My journey started in 2003. I was a hobby wood worker. Every time I built a piece and put stain on it I got less than desirable results and when I sprayed the top coat this was even more of a problem and certainly unpredictable. So I took a family vacation in the summer of 2003 to take Mitch’s “Finishing New Wood” and “Advanced Wood Finishing” summer workshop to see if there was an easier way to do wood finishing versus guessing, trying a myriad of products that you hope work and the countless hours of trial and error.
Well, after two weeks I was convinced that I barely scratched the surface of the knowledge and experience that was available to those who chose this wood-finishing path and compete in a market that to this day is so mis-understood. I was a full time engineer in the semi-conductor industry that crashed in the 2000 “.Com Bust”. My engineering career; though I was making very good money, was killing me. I was unhappy, had a multitude of unexplainable health problems (stress), and lived in constant fear of loosing my job.
Mitch became a trusted confidant long before he was my instructor. Through his steady guidance, tireless support, detailed email responses to never ending questions and lengthily phone conversations I left my engineering career of 17 years to follow a dream. I enrolled in the Wood Finishing Program at DCTC in the fall of 2005. I moved my wife and two young children from Colorado to Minnesota, spent our lifetime savings, to take a chance on a dream and ultimately change my life forever!
This program was outstanding! The curriculum, facilities, balance of lecture and hands on training, variety of materials, spray equipment and tools of the trade; accompanied by Mitch’s un wavering commitment to his passion, experience and unprecedented support of his students was truly a recipe for success. His enthusiasm and unmatched energy for his program and the sharing of knowledge and lessons learned are paramount and second to none. As a result of this fine program and my commitment I graduated in the top of my class. Armed with a degree, knowledge and hands on experience I was as ready to compete in the market place.
I started my new career in a millwork shop as a solo production finisher. I had my first job out of the booth the first week. I quickly discovered that my passion was finishing and that the wood working for me was secondary. As a result of my education I was able to manipulate the finishing chemistry, create finish schedules and samples, spray topcoats and maintain spray equipment at their peak performance.
From there I worked for a “new technology” spray gun equipment manufacturer as a regional sales rep. This was one of the most expensive spray guns on the market and was sold as a material savings tool. I found that I sold more spray guns because I solved finishing problems and optimized spray gun set-ups; again as a result of my education and training at DCTC.
Presently, I went through a series of circumstances that led me to start Signature Wood Services, LLC http://signature-wood.com in April 2008. The business continues to grow and thrive. I believe the key to our success is, yes again my education from DCTC. It is a wonderful experience to be able to offer a variety of services to our clients. I think the best part is the chemistry manipulation, as well as being versed in all types of products, methodologies, applications, approaches and techniques. This broad scope of knowledge gives our business the flexibility, creativity, and ultimately the passion to try new things and develop innovative ways of working with our clients and solving the most challenging wood finishing problems. It is even better when we don’t have to give up any of our profits to a franchise that provides a couple of weeks of training, a huge financial investment, and your in business a month later, business model. I have seen many of these business’ struggle to make a living or fail simply because of the lack of knowledge. The Wood Finishing Program takes the guesswork out of our craft; there are no tricks or secrets. I find there are few competitors in my market place that fully understand the complexities of the art we create. Thank you, Mitch Kohanek; this truly would not of been possible with out your dedication and your willingness to blaze a new path in this industry we call “Wood Finishing”, armed with knowledge and passion to make a difference! P= A x T (k).
Lime, David W. - (Wyoming, MN) :
"My involvement in the degree program in 1999-2000 has benefited me in numerous ways. I chose to seek a degree in wood finishing as an avenue to launch into a new career upon retiring from research and teaching at the College of Natural Resources, Department of Forest Resources at the University of Minnesota in St. Paul. While I had some experience in furniture repair and restoration before coming to the program, I felt gaining additional expertise would help qualify me for a more professional business endeavor in my quest to retire to something in late 2000.
Under your leadership the program thrives with hands-on, applied learning. As one who taught at the university level for over 35 years, I applaud your teaching style because it provides students with immediate feedback and knowledge of the significance to various activities. Your insistence on us keeping detailed records of our learning activities has been an invaluable resource in dealing with the array of wood finishing problems which I have had to address since graduating. Without those notes, the published literature you exposed us to, and access to a myriad of networking opportunities with former students, product suppliers, and others, I would have struggled much more than I would have without them! (That’s not to say I’ve not struggled; I have! Access to those resources has eased the pain on numerous occasions.)
Completing the wood finishing degree program has provided me with a source of much pleasure and accomplishment since retiring in 2000. I call my business Limelight Furniture Restoration and Repair, and I focus on antique furniture as much as possible. And, I’ve had as much work as I’ve wanted to fit into other retirement activities. The biggest accomplishment and benefit of applying the knowledge and skills collected from the wood finishing program is in problem solving and seeing wood pieces (at least most of them) transformed into useful, more structurally sound, and visually appealing objects.
As the only educational institution in the U.S. offering a holistic learning opportunity in wood finishing, those interested in excellence are fortunate indeed to have a respected program of such quality available!"
Morse, Kathy - (Burnsville, MN) :
"I took the Wood Finishing Course, because I always had a desire to continue my education. I tood the Wood Finishing Course during the school year 1998-1999. My original goal was to learn how to repair chairs.
During my studies I thoroughly enjoyed all the aspects of the program, from color theory to upholstery. The instructor, Mitch Kohanek was very knowledgable and patient with the students. I learned a lot.
I now work at Schneiderman's Furniture at the Distribution Center, which is located in Burnsville, Minnesota. I have been employed there for almost four years. I work in the area of prep, which consists of cleaning and doing repairs on purchased furniture scheduled for delivery. I work as the Team Lead, in charge of a small group of very talented craftsman.
I thoroughly love my job. I enjoy that I am able to have a job that allows me to use what I learned at DCTC.
I would recommend the Wood Finishing Course at DCTC. I have learned a skill that has prepared me for a career. I feel that learning the different aspects of wood/furniture is a skill that will always be in demand. I am able to do projects at home, some for pleasure and some for a side job. I would heartedly recommend the Wood Finishing program at DCTC. Mitch Kohanek is an outstanding teacher with a wealth of knowledge to share."
Neal, John - (Kenyon, MN) :
"I can still remember the first day of the rest of my life…
About 5 years ago, the company I work for allowed me to take the position of Finisher. One of the requirements of the job was to get training in the Dakota County Technical College’s Wood Finishing program. Like all weekend warriors, I thought I already knew pretty much everything there was to know about finishing wood. Then I sat in on the first class.
I quickly became aware, that warm, fall day, of just how little I knew. And over the coming days – weeks – months – (and now) years I’m continually reminded of how much Mitch does know. The very best part of this scenario is that while most finishing experts seem to horde their information, Mitch’s goal is to not only share his information – but to get you excited about it.
There were a few times that Mitch used a phrase that I plagiarize on a regular basis. He would say that his work is to teach “the Art and Science of Wood Finishing”. - but you can tell that with Mitch it’s more than just work, it’s a passion – a way of life. You can see it in the way his eyes catch fire while he’s explaining a finishing concept to someone with a desire to learn, and the way those same eyes get misty while watching videos of his old friend and mentor, the late George Frank.
Let me touch on the subject of “the Art and Science of Wood Finishing” for just a moment, and then I’ll get off my soapbox. Mitch was the first person I’ve ever heard use that phrase, and in doing so he nailed the topic squarely between the eyes. There is a definite science involved in wood finishing. A misguided mixture of various chemicals and processes can reliably cause a painful and costly puddle of mud. Mitch broke all the “black magic” of finishing down by teaching the basic chemistries of the various finishes, and how they work and interact. He took wood to a microscopic level, long enough to understand how finishes react to it. We learned about solvents and co-solvents, dyes and stains, viscosities, sheens and mil thicknesses. The real beauty of Mitch’s course, however, is that as he implants the technical knowledge, and then he uses this foundation to build an understanding of the art of wood finishing. Take a look at some of the finishing, refinishing, repair, and conservation work that comes from his students and you’ll understand what I mean.
That first day in Mitch’s Wood Finishing class was a turning point in my life. I’ve got a job now that I love, that’s both challenging and rewarding every day of the year, and I’ve got a bright and promising future with only those limits I choose to set upon myself. "
…Thanks, Mitch – you’re pretty much The Man.
Patch, Dick - (Roanoke, VA) :
"Two years after graduating from your Wood Finishing course I moved to Roanoke VA. I opened my own shop after interviewing 5 local shops and only found 1 that appeared to have the expertise and quality work that you taught us."
"I’m in my second year and have more work than I can handle. I have hired a full time employee and want to send him to your course in the future. The cost to me would be recouped through his increased productivity and quality of work."
"Because of your course I enjoy an excellent reputation locally; I delight in my craft everyday, and have been asked to teach Wood Finishing at the local Woodcraft store. This type of career satisfaction is rare. You and your course impact your student’s lives in marvelous ways that you can’t imagine. Thank you, Mitch." www.astonishrestoration.com
Resnikoff, Hal - (Phoenix, AZ) :
"I was a fifty year resident of Minnesota and in 1995 was left with a dilemma as to what I should do with the rest of my working life. I had been a National Sales Manager for Xerox Corporation and got caught in a downsizing that left me without a job. Having been in Corporate America for many years I was given an opportunity to change my life. Whatever I was going to do would affect me for the rest of my working career and this was going to be a life altering decision. With the help of my wife and largest supporter, I had the opportunity to receive training I only dreamed of. In a trade that would not only make me happy but also give me a chance to open my own business rather than work for someone else again.
I looked into many franchise opportunities in the furniture repair industry but reached a decision they only wanted my money and would give me a very minimal amount of training. I felt if I were going to pursue this avocation then I should be the best I can fro my customers an mer. I found the program at DCTC and pursued it by contacting Mitch Kohanek. I went to the school and observed what was going on in the classroom. He openly invited me to come in as many time as I wanted so I cold make a good decision. After my first visit I knew this was the place for me. I made the decision to enroll in the fall class and do the best I could for the nine months of schooling. I am happy to say I graduated with almost a 4.0 GPA and the learning experience was extraordinary.
Mitch Kohanek is the reason I am so professional at what I do today. Surely, every day I learn a new and better way to do something but the basics were given to me in that classroom and the bench work we all performed. I could not have moved forward without the training I received at DCTC. There were certainly many people in that class with varying abilities and skills. I came in with probably as little as anyone but left with more than most.
Mitch has the ability to teach everyone at their level, one of his biggest assets. He can take a difficult project and make it simple so you learn the most you can. With that type of teacher how can you not be successful?
Shortly after graduation my wife’s job took us to Little Rock, AR and I set up my business working out of my oversized garage. Not knowing how long we were going to be there I did not want to get involved in a lease on a building. It was a great learning experience and my business grew. Two years later we were transferred to Phoenix AZ and I immediately rented a small shop. In the last eight years I have grown to one of the largest in the area, have two full time employees and have moved four times to larger spaces. I have asked for applicants from the program to joining my company because I would rather have one of them than ten others I would have to train. These graduates are well trained and can hit the ground running. That makes them a valuable almost immediately.
I have had newspaper articles written about my business and me over the last several years. None of this would have happened if it had not been for me attending the DCTC class and getting that degree. I owe a lot to Mitch and the Wood Finishing Technology program. I cannot stress enough how this experience changed my life and the lives of many more."
The Village Woodsmith
"When I began in the wood finishing program at DCTC, I remember looking at the list of tools that would be required and having absolutely no idea what some of them were. A dead-blow hammer? It sounded like something you might use to slay troublesome giants. A sliding T bevel? I couldn't even begin to imagine what such a thing would look like. A cabinet scraper? You mean that rectangular piece of metal was actually a tool?
Well, now I have two dead-blow hammers (in different weights), two sliding T bevels (in different sizes) and I've sharpened four edges of my differently shaped cabinet scrapers because they are so damn handy. Suffice it to say that in the first two weeks alone of Mitch's course, when all we seemed to be doing was endlessly, repetitiously and painfully learning the how-to's of sharpening, I learned more than I'd ever gleaned from all those magazine articles and book chapters on the same subjects.
And that was just the introduction. Over the course of nine months, Mitch taught us enough aspects of enough areas of wood finishing that everyone in the class was able to see where she or he might excel, whether it was leather repair, producing an off-the-gun finish or in touching up a marred table top with such finesse that finding the repair would require a magnifying glass.
Since graduating, I have worked on pieces including a writing desk with tambour doors from the turn of the 19th century (that is, built between 1790 and 1810), on innumerable chairs including several (one pictured below) that had to be virtually reconstructed from scratch, on a drop-leaf table that was made from air-dried walnut a century ago and, when shellacked and rubbed out, was heart-meltingly beautiful. For a homely old box that turned out to have originally been a writing box, I provided a complete refurbishing, constructing new writing surfaces (using only hand tools) based on what probably was originally there, according to my research and using clues found in the box itself--such as textile imprints in the remaining shellac-- and made it usable once again for its original purpose (even though, obviously, no one uses quills and inkwells anymore, so all those little cubbyholes will have to find modern corollaries). Then, last month, my partner and I formally established a furniture restoration and cabinet-making business and opened a bank account. All of this I was able to do because Mitch taught me so broadly, so thoroughly and, from the first day to the last, instilled confidence, inspired competence, set the standards high and made sure that all of his students would have the skills necessary to be successful.
In fact, if there were just one reason to attend DCTC's wood finishing program, it would be that Mitch is an outstanding professor. There is really far, far too much in the area of wood finishing to cram into nine short months, but Mitch manages somehow, masterfully, to cover subjects as diverse as the specific gravity of wood species, blind stitching upholstery, the chemistry of making color, the mechanical rationale for a finely turned burr and the excitement of developing an almost unimaginable variety of finishes.
In the end, all the students in my class wished, I think, that we could have had even more time to read from Mitch's incredible collection of books in the library, to learn from the professionals and program graduates who are a regular part of the teaching roster, to experiment with more of the tools and machinery and chemicals and samples that Mitch has assembled.
Without Mitch's wood-finishing program at DCTC, I wouldn't now have the competence and confidence to manage my own wood-finishing business. But I do, and I think of and thank Mitch every day for it.."
Rhinerson, Eric - (Harmony, MN) :
"After graduating form St. Cloud State, I had begun a successful career in the Banking Software business. I was rising quickly through the corporate ranks and my future was bright. I was making more than anyone else my age that I knew, had job security, phenomenal benefits and plenty of room to keep growing. Yet something was missing. I needed to do my own thing. I couldn’t recognize it at the time, but I had the entrepreneurial flame growing inside of me.
All along I had been pursuing a hobby, refinishing furniture. I was constantly reading, learning new techniques, searching the internet and trying to absorb and put into practice as much as I could. Yet, the more I learned, the more I discovered that I didn’t know. The gaps in my knowledge were becoming more and more obvious. I kept wishing that there was a place that I could go and learn what I needed and discover what I didn’t even know I didn’t know.
One night I sat down and searched the internet to try and find a place that I could go and gain some knowledge. To my amazement, there was only one place in the country that I could get the formal training that I wanted. Luckily it was only 90 miles away. Unfortunately, all of the classes were during the day, when I needed to be at work; yet something told me that I needed to be there. I was fortunate enough to have a flexible work schedule, one that allowed me to take one class, one morning per week. And so my relationship with the DCTC Wood Finishing program began.
Every Thursday morning for one semester, I left home at 5:15am and drove to DCTC to take a single class, Upholstery and Caning. After two classes, I knew I had found my well of knowledge. Within six months, I had left my job and embarked on a new career adventure. In that same time frame, my wife had completed her schooling and was offered a job that she wanted to pursue. So, we packed up and moved to southern MN, even farther from DCTC.
I spent the next nine months driving 120 miles each way, five days per week. Many people told me that I was nuts. How wrong they were. They didn’t know what a goldmine that I had discovered!
Four months after graduation, my fledgling business had outgrown my two car garage. I purchased an old run-down building on Main Street, remodeled it and have never looked back.
I currently have two part-time employees and a clientele across five states. We are now the finishing experts in our area, both for new wood finishing as well as for refinishing and furniture restoration.
I have no doubt in my mind that I could have started this business and made it a moderate success WITHOUT my time at DCTC. With twenty years of experience and trial and error my business may have grown to where it is now. So what is the difference? Simple. It has only been five years. In the mean time I have turned down three legitimate, well paying job offers.
Wood finishing is both an art and a science. In order to be truly successful, one must have an understanding of both. From the elegant simplicity of a proper brush stroke to the use and understanding of the technology behind the newest chemical and equipment standards, Mitch Kohanek and the DCTC Wood Finishing program cover it all.
During my time at DCTC, I learned the How, and more importantly, the Why behind what I do every day. Whatever your situation, wherever your location. The DCTC Wood Finishing program is the best possible investment you can make in yourself and your future. I thought I was going to learn a trade, but I discovered a career. In summary, I can only say one thing to Mitch. Thank you!."
Schneider, Mel - (MN) :
"I am a 2006 graduate of the DCTC Wood Finishing Course. I initially learned about the Wood Finishing Course in 2003 while surfing the internet looking for wood finishing classes to add to woodworking classes that I had been taking. At the time my job did not allow me to take off the 9 months needed for the program, but I still considered doing so. However, after taking a two-day finishing class from Mitch at the Mark Adams School of Woodworking, in June of 2005 it convinced me that this program was exactly what I needed. I was able to successfully change my work schedule and get accepted into his Wood Finishing Program.
The technical skills I learned at this Program have advanced my wood finishing knowledge far beyond anything I could have hoped to do on my own or through short weekly classes. Mitch’s dedication to the program was obvious from the beginning, his teaching style was truly magnificent (I cannot think of any of my former University Instructors who could have single-handily conducted a 9-month program and kept the interests of the students so strongly). Mitch’s years of experience and contacts in the Wood Finishing industry were very effective in providing the class with “real world” experiences and practical applications.
Since graduating from the Wood Finishing Program, I have continued my use of the skills learned at the College in completing personal projects for myself, family and friends. For one particular piece, rather than blindly stripping the piece of furniture (as I would have done prior to taking the program), I was able to carefully remove the upper layers of old finish, keeping the patina of the aged walnut and then adding fine layers of shellac to the surface. The project looked great and is used daily by my family. I consider the knowledge I gained to be priceless.
I believe there is a continuing market for other students like myself who are looking for a new career and are nearing retirement (I’m 57 years old), looking for new skills to enrich their personal lives and interests.
This great Wood Finishing Program provides people like me with access to information and skills that are simply not available anywhere else."
Smith, David - (MN) :
"I am a 1994 graduate from the Wood Finishing Technology Program. I truly have been astounded by the variety of projects that I have been asked to do. I immediately started my own business upon leaving school, and nearly everything I learned in school, I have been offering as a service. Through the years, I found that onsite location work brought me the most satisfaction, and the challenge I was looking for.
My onsite repairs have varied from basic spot repair, to complete refinishing and restoration of furniture, as well as large exotic wood panels in high-end office buildings. I have been regarded as “a finisher who does finishing by the acre”. I wrote an article in the Professional Refinishing Magazine about one of these adventures called “Long Halls Longer Haul”. It describes a one of a kind tree that was cut into veneer, which in turn was made into the paneling and furniture for the entire floor, in one very impressive office building. The coating failed, the veneer could not be replaced, and with a crew of graduates from the Wood Finishing Program we spent two years removing and replacing the coating and color on those panels and furniture. Everything I had ever learned was being tested. I have since performed several of these types of operations, as well as being flown around the country to problem solve and repair failed coatings on location.
My knowledge and understanding gained from Mitch Kohanek about wood, surface preparation, dyes, stains, fillers, glazes, color matching, spot repair, coatings, the equipment to apply those coatings, chemistry, conservation and more importantly how to problem solve, gave me the confidence to tackle those jobs as if I were in the safe confines of my finishing shop.
As the owner of an onsite Wood Finishing Company, I choose to go no other place than the National Wood Finishing Institute to look for potential employees, and qualified sub-contractors.
Over the years I have had the pleasure of working with over 20 highly skilled wood finishing artisans, all of them graduates of the Wood Finishing program. Because of their talents and skills our company has been able to tackle some unbelievable projects across the country.
Knowing that I have access to such a talented group of people, I am willing to take on ever more challenging projects, as I know the graduates will be up to the challenge.
Thank you Mitch Kohanek for putting out such a fantastic group of artisans every year, for the past 29 years!!"
Davills Wood Finishing
Squires, Matt - (Rocky Hill, CT) :
"My first experience with Mitch and the program began in the summer of 1996 when I attended a one week class on finishing new wood. I talked extensively with Mitch about his class and everything involved with it. It was on my way home at the end of the week that I decided to take the full nine months of study. I moved from Ohio to Minnesota in order to attend school. I had to find a place to live, and somewhere to work while attending school. There was no way to know that the relocating and job finding were going to be the easy part.
I attended DCTC during the 1996-1997 school year. Since then I have worked with other past students in the Twin Cities Minnesota area doing touchup and refinishing. I was offered a finishing position in Massachusetts at a very high end furniture making shop. After a few years there I was offered a head finisher position at a shop in North Carolina. Soon afterward I moved back to Mass. and went to work running the finishing department in a large millwork shop. I then decided to take a position at a local music store doing preperation and polyester repair on their pianos.
Currently I am the “wood coatings and finishing specialist” for the Raybern Company located in Rocky Hill, Connecticut. I travel all over New England visiting shops, doing demos, and providing technical support to some of the very shops I worked in.
It was my training and education at DCTC that has allowed me to be confident in my travels and to also keep myself in demand. As long as people want wood “brown and shinny”, there will be a demand for trained and knowledgeable finishers. As long as there is a demand for trained and knowledgeable finishers there needs to be a place to get that training. That place is Dakota County Technical College.
Mitch has truly been a mentor, friend, inspiration, and everything that a teacher should be. We have set up a network help connect shops with qualified finishers here in the north east. I have several shops that need finishers and unfortunately not enough skilled people to fill them. Mitch has helped me to fill some of them."
Tjaden, Bob - ( Minneapolis, MN) :
After attending class, Mitch suggested that I might be interested in a program of Furniture Conservation which was a Master's Degree level program held at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. He introduced me to Don Williams who was the head of the program and after many trips to Washington over a span of years, I completed the course work.
Attending this program, including a year's intership with The National Parks conservation Center in Harper's Ferry, W.V. gave me additonal training beyond what I had learned at the Wood Finishing Program.
Mitch's program was thorough. His dedication to every student's success in the finishing field is unparralled. His knowledge of all types of finishes and finishing systems and his ability to teach this material is at the highest level. Mitch has not only been a instructor to me, but also a mentor and supporter.
I currently work as a conservator mainly of high end clocks and furniture. I have been acknowledged in the book Beautiful Vienna Regulators of the 19th Century, and also have a description and photo of myself on the website www.viennaregulators.net
The Wood Finishing Program can encompass a wide range of opportunities. The world of finishing is extremey broad. Careers, whether as a finisher, craftsman, builder, refinisher, touch-up artist, can begin (or be enriched) by attending this program which has been so important in my career."
Vogel, Dwayne - (Baltimore) :
"I have been employed at Bullocks Furniture Restoration company in the Washington D.C. area for 11 years. The company’s president and owner, Joe Hastings, upon meeting Mitch Kohanek at a trade show, hired and sent me to the program.
Today, I am overseeing the entire wood division of the company as operations manager. Helping to establish and extend the achievements of the company’s already good reputation in the industry, I worked as an apprentice, crew foreman, field supervisor, account manager, and other positions with miscellaneous responsibilities.
I have thoroughly enjoyed meeting and working with many people in the industry. Our company has hired and used several other graduates of the program full time, as well as hiring them to head up large restoration projects nationwide, as well as in our area. We have embarked on some of the most interesting challenges and eye opening opportunities that have enticed me greatly, which keep me looking forward to what tomorrow may bring."