We’ve always wanted to teach longer courses as part of our curriculum. In January 2011 we did a very successful trial run of the three month Foundation Course. This course gave our budding woodworkers (three men and three women) a solid grounding in the array of hand tool skills they needed to develop as wood craftspeople. On the completion of this course, they had gained woodworking skills that will last them the rest of their lives.
This class is open to novice woodworkers and to more experienced woodworkers who would like to broaden (or simplify) their approach to woodworking. What do we mean by novice? We think it means you are a person who has decided to commit to learning new skills; to growing a passion for the craft of working with wood; and has a strong sense of the limitations of your own knowledge.
Our Philosophy Behind the Course
Traditionally woodworkers learnt their craft working as an apprentice in the Master Craftsman's shop doing the grunt work and learning by assimilation over many years. Our approach is a little different. We're making the assumption that you're smart; are developing or already have a passion for woodworking; and can devote three months to intensive learning.
The last couple of years have seen the publication of two books that have reinforced our belief that every woodworker should start by learning how to use hand tools properly. The first book - Jim Tolpin’s The New Traditional Woodworker is an in-depth introduction to working with hand tools (from toolset to skillset to mindset) and serves as the reference for the second week of our class. Jim teaches this part of the course and contributes to many other segments. The second book - Chris Schwarz’s The Anarchist’s Tool Chest - is a provocative reflection on the minimal set of hand tools needed to make almost anything out of wood. It is also a paean to the ingenuity of traditional craftsmen and for the preservation of the hand tool tradition.
This course will drill deep into the basics, giving you a firm foundation in understanding wood as a material, and then gives you introductory training in a wide range of techniques. This training will show you that many of the "advanced" techniques in woodworking are relatively straightforward, building on basic techniques you’ll have learnt in this class. We hope that this will be catalytic in encouraging you to further explore and develop those techniques after you graduate.
For the most of the course we'll be pretty heavily focused on developing your skills using hand tools. Each day will include a half-hour practice session. Developing your hand-eye coordination is a fundamental part of becoming a woodworker. Just like a musician you need to practice.
While the focus of the Foundation course is solidly on passing on traditional methods of woodworking coupled with a thorough experience of wood as a material, we do understand the need for students to learn to work with stationary woodworking machines for certain basic (and tedious when done by hand) stock preparation operations.
This course is not about building a perfect piece - it's about building the perfect attitude. The "Oooh - that's neat - I can see how can apply that to...." is the perfect reaction to a demonstration or presentation.
While it is important to us that you develop an understanding and appreciation for the standards that make woodworking great, we don’t want you to get bogged down in a drive for perfection.
When we were starting the School we had long discussions about how to position the School. I (Tim Lawson) argued for Excellence in Woodworking. Jim (Tolpin), with the older and wiser head, argued for "Pretty Good Woodworking" and that is where we have ended up. We teach and encourage pragmatism but we don't push you for perfection - that has to come from you.
The next course will run from Monday January 7, 2013 through Friday March 29, 2019 - twelve weeks. The class hours are 9:00 to 5:00 each day.
The Workshop is fully available to students Monday through Friday. After the first four weeks of the class we will make the workshop available at weekends to you.
The course will be split up into three blocks:
Fundamentals of Woodworking (Weeks 1-4):
The course starts with introduction and orientation day followed by a four day session on green woodworking.
We will have a log on hand and you will turn that log into furniture. You will cross cut, split and rive the log to make blanks for stool legs. Then you’ll work with drawknives and spokeshaves to shape the legs and stretchers. By the end of the first week(ish) you will have made a three legged stool. Check out these images from prior classes.
The topics and projects covered during the second week of the class are included in Jim’s The New Traditional Woodworker”. We’ll go through the basic skills to ensure that everybody is grounded in the basics of hand tool use and sharpening.
In weeks three and four we expand those skills as you build a tool tote. We cover layout and markup, lumber preparation, and basic hand joinery techniques.
Basics of Hand Tool Furniture Making (Weeks 5-8):
Our goal in this section is to further build your confidence with hand tools and to deepen your understanding of the basic principles of woodworking.
You’ll focus on the techniques for the design and construction of a small solid wood side table with a drawer. In the design process we’ll look hard at the traditional virtues of proportion and how small details can make the difference in final design.
We introduce you to more advanced forms of hand tool joinery and to the safe use of woodworking machines for lumber preparation. You will learn efficient and safe ways to use the table saw to rip stock to width; the jointer to true long edges and to flatten faces; and the surface planer to true boards to a specific thickness. We’ll look at the bandsaw as an alternative to the table saw for ripping boards and as an efficient way to cut large tenons or other large-scale joints.
We delve further into additional skills you’ll need in the shop: lumber selection, glue ups, clamping and an introduction to finishing. We'll also look at the traditional techniques for adding detail and interest to design - such as beading and chamfering to create shadow lines. We'll include a section on making tools to create these details.
Building Your Project(s) (Weeks 9-12)
For most of this section of the course you will work on a project or projects - building on the skills you’ll have learnt so far, requiring you to use some more advanced techniques and being rigorous about planning your work.
We encourage you to think about a project that you would like to build during the course but not to get too set on your initial idea - we hope that you will find inspiration during the class that will influence and, perhaps, re-shape your ideas. Students who travel by air to the class may choose to make a series of small projects in this part of the course - like wooden planes and jewelry boxes.
During this section of the course we’ll include demonstrations and lectures on other woodworking techniques - like resawing, steam bending, stack and bent lamination, relief carving, and more advanced finishing techniques.
In this section of the course we plan to draw on various local craftsmen to supplement the faculty. We’ll have some folks lined up before before the course starts and we’ll work with you (the students) to identify other woodworkers to drop in and teach sections of the class.
The School is fully equipped with sets of high quality hand tools for each workbench. You do not need to bring tools to this course.
We think it is important that you use good tools and have just the tools you need. There is such a great variety of tools available these days it is tempting to buy specialized tools. As background we offer two tool lists.
The first taken from Christopher Schwarz's "The Anarchist's Tool Chest" is a great list of tools but has no specific recommendations (manufacturer or models).
Our list of tools is a simpler subset with recommendations - we'll merge the two after the next Foundation Class (Fall 2012).
If you have tools on either of this lists please feel free to bring them along.
We recommend not buying tools prior to the class but suggest that you use the school's tools and let that experience guide your purchasing decisions. The sooner you use your own tools the quicker you'll gain mastery of them.
We prefer that you have some experience of woodworking before taking this class. If you have no woodworking experience - we’d like you to produce evidence of strong practical skills and problem solving ability (we can do this in a phone call). We're looking for the right attitude.
Tuition Fee: $6,700
Minimum of 6 students and a maximum of 10 students
We ask for a non-refundable $200 deposit at the time of registration. The balance must be paid prior to the start of class. We will contact you to collect the balance.
We recommend that you read the The New Traditional Woodworker before taking the class.
Are on a pay as you go basis. Wood is available from the School’s stock and from Edensaw. We expect that the materials cost for the course to be between $200 and $500. Most of that difference will depend on your selection of wood.
This course runs during the off-season in Port Townsend. Vacation rentals and house shares can be picked up in town. We're working on a plan to offer accommodation at Fort Worden during the course.
Transfer Credit for Our Graduates:
Goddard College accepts the satisfactiry completion of our Woodworking Foundation Course for 12 semester units of transfer credit. See the Goddard College site for further details on programs, degrees granted, and transfer credit details.
The Port Townsend School of Woodworking and Preservation Trades is licensed as a Private Vocational School by the Washington State Workforce Development Board. We offer the option for you to take this class and receive a school Certificate of Completion for the class.
If you choose this option, we more formally evaluate your achievements as you proceed through the class. Upon demonstration of required skills, and timely completion of required projects, you will receive a Certificate of Completion. A transcript of your achievements will be made available to you and kept in our permanent files.
As a vocational student your course fees are covered by a State hosted insurance that will refund your fee should the course be cancelled.
This option is only available to U.S. Citizens and Legal Residents.
There is an additional charge for the vocational option to cover the additional administrative overhead.
Our School fund-raises so that we can offer scholarships for the Foundation Course. Our ability to offer scholarship depends on us having funds available and requiring that students meet the conditions that donors attach to the funds.
Future Foundation Courses:
We ask for a deposit of $200 to ensure your place in the class. We enourage you register as early as possible - that really helps our planning and organization.
We're also offering a soft registration option - you can let us know which course(s) interest you and leave your contact information with us. We'll get back to you if it looks like a class is going to fill so that you can make your decision to register.
Soft Registration Form
If you'd like to ask questions - please feel free to contact us - (360) 344-4455 or by email.
||September 30 - December 20, 2013
||January 6 - March 28, 2014
||September 29 - December 19, 2014