By Hand and By Eye
with Jim Tolpin and faculty



Basics of Woodworking Series Level: Level I / II/ III


"Design and Construction Strategies for Hand Tool Woodworkers"

"A small but growing number of woodworkers are embracing traditional tools and methods as an attractive alternative to machine-centric and industrial-based woodworking.

We are rediscovering the pleasures of working wood with hand tools and the joy of mastering skills from a craft tradition that reaches far back into antiquity. Its about time, too: the industrial revolution not only snuffed out hand skills and replaced them with automation but it also silenced a common design language that artisans had shared through an oral tradition for centuries.

This revolution, moved by the need to produce numerical cutlists for the efficient indexing of machines, moved the furniture design process away from the artisan's building trace (focused on objects that occupy space) and towards the graphic art language of engineers. Woodworkers saw not only hand work migrate away from their workbenches, but lost hold of the very act of design itself."

Excerpt from the jacket text of By Hand and Eye

This class is based on the research that Jim Tolpin undertook for his book, By Hand and Eyewith George Walker on the design and layout techniques used in the 17-18th centuries. These traditional techniques use basic, simple geometric techniques to create designs for well proportioned furniture. The notion of well-proportioned is ingrained in the human eye and is rooted in the different elements of the piece of furniture having whole number proportions (like 1:3 or 3:5).  These proportioned dimensions are easy to create using dividers and a sector, a simple tool which you'll make in class.

You can, in fact, create a whole design without needing to reduce the dimensions to feet and inches (or millimetres)! This can be liberating for the hand tool woodworker - it can help you escape the tyranny of the machine or getting overwhelmed by a drawing program on your computer.

Jim also looks at how your design and layout of joinery should be slaved to your tools. Making simple decisions during this stage can greatly simplify the process of dimensioning the stock and cutting the joinery.

Since using these techniques since November 2011 and we've been receiving a very strong and positive reaction.

Class Description

  • Foundations of Proportional Design
  • Working with Dividers and Sectors
  • Geometric construction of angles and regular forms
  • Drawing Ellipses
  • Creating Moulding Profiles
  • Designing a Side Table
  • Designing a Chest of Drawers
  • Sketching and rendering techniques
  • Applying proportional Design Techniques to your work

Tools / What to bring:

  • Clutch Pencil,  leads (we recommend HB or 2H) and sharpener
  • Drawing pad (14x17" or 18x24")
  • Good eraser


If you can bring any of the following drawing instruments . We're building up a supply of dividers and compasses so any extra you bring along for the class will help.

  • Two pairs of dividers (7-9" and 12-15")
  • Pair of compasses (8-12")
  • Drafting shield
  • 24" ruler (as a straight edge)
  • Folding ruler - we recommend the Robert Larson Folding Ruler - it works great as a sector

More about this class


There are no prerequisites for this class but we strongly recommend that you read  By Hand and Eye before taking the class. Then you can bring your copy along to get it signed by Jim (and maybe George).

Class Information and Registration

Class starts at 9:00am on the first day.

Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the School.

Please also read out registration policy.

Class size: 20
Cost: $260
Materials Charge: None

2014 Class:

George Walker will co-teach parts of this class in March 2014. This class will take place in Building 306 at Fort Worden.

March 22-23, 2014 By Hand and By Eye Register
Nov. 15 - 16, 2014 By Hand and By Eye Register
If you'd like to ask questions - please feel free to contact  us - (360) 344-4455 or by email.

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Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades Copyright © 2007-2014. All rights reserved.

200 Battery Way | Fort Worden | Port Townsend, WA 98368 | (360) 344-4455 | email

The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit. Any donations made to the School are tax-deductible to the extent provided by law.