Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition


Profiles in Woodworking: Ali Malone


Ali Malone is one of our Foundations of Woodworking scholarship students in Fall 2015. Here’s what Ali had to say about what led her to PTSW, her experience so far, and thoughts for the future:

I came to this class with high hopes and very little experience. Originally from Vermont, I had been living in Tacoma for the past 6 years. I landed a job at a small custom furniture company learning to do their finish work and doing other odd jobs like cleaning and errands. After about 6 months there I realized I had a lot to learn and that I needed a good place to get a solid foundation. I needed to start at the beginning. I had previously taken the woman's woodworking introduction with Martha Collins here at the school and enjoyed it so much that I decided that the foundations course was probably just what I needed. It has been everything I have been hoping for and more!

I did learn some basic machine skills through my time at the furniture company, but learning how those processes are done by hand has been enormously helpful for me. Using hand tools you absolutely have to develop a relationship with each and every piece you are making. From the basic layout tools to smoothing the surface with a smoothing plane, during each step you are learning to work with your individual piece of wood. Machine work requires a standardization of the process and it is not as necessary to learn about the intricacies of the wood you are working with. As Jim Tolpin has repeatedly said to us, doing this work with machines you are merely an extension of the machine, while when done by hand the tools are an extension of you! It's true and makes such a huge difference.

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Working with the wood in such an intimate manner and learning from our incredibly knowledgeable instructors has been just the foundation I was looking for. I am excited to continue on my journey of discovery in the world of woodworking!