Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition


Poplar & Pearls

By Jennry Monfore,
Foundations of Woodworking Winter 2017

I've been contemplating my time at wood school a lot these days.  The weeks have flown by and we have less then a month left of class already!  I have learned many invaluable lessons over the course of the program.  Beyond hands on woodworking techniques, concepts, and design, I've explored depths of my own aptitude for a new craft that I never thought existed.  Witnessing my own learning process over the past months has been an eye opening experience and has given me insights into realms of myself previously unexplored.  
I remember the first day of class when we bucked up a huge log.  The first week, exhausted and barely able to hold my fiddle bow or grip a pencil as my body adjusted to the physical demands of a new full-time endeavor.  On Sunday at the end of the third week when I broke down crying on the phone with my mom, overwhelmed with frustration Sent from my iPhone

At the start of each project, I wondered how I'd ever manage to tackle and complete it.  I realized each piece was a conglomeration of little skills and techniques, and if I broke it down into attainable steps, I miraculously came out with the finished product I was aiming for!  I refined my approach to learning--figuring out it was best to take copious notes only after watching our instructors demo a new technique, trying the whole process myself, asking lots of questions, then writing the work flow down in words that made sense for my current (and future) self to understand.  Every day I could feel my brain expanding into uncharted territory, opening up pathways for new information to trickle down like water seeping over dry ground.  I noticed patterns about myself and how I related to this skillset--first: struggle, second: slowly but surely get it, third: take off and run with it.  I saw myself steadily improving each time I repeated a technique and employed it in projects as they increased in complexity.  I developed an unproductive tendency to get stuck on a single simple aspect of a work flow, unable to move past it, halting my progress and slowing me down considerably as I struggled to sort it out.  There was a time I wasted at least six hours trying to force screws into undersized holes when hanging my cabinet door--I learned the importance of proper pre-drilling and how to remove broken screws.  I trained myself to identify when I'd hit that wall and literally had to tell myself "move forward, Jenny," in order to progress.  It helped.  

My time at wood school has been one of the most valuable experiences of my life.  My intention in taking this course was to learn a wide variety of traditional hand tool and woodworking skills that would help me build my future homestead.  It has always been a rather surreal dream, wavering off in the distance but staying ever at bay due to my lacking the hard skills necessary make it all happen.  It doesn't seem so far off now.  Beyond the essential hands on skills I've acquired in this course, I'm coming away with a strengthened sense of confidence in my ability to approach daunting tasks, break them down into manageable pieces, get past the stumbling blocks that hold me up, and meet my end goals.  
Moving forward after this course, I'm excited to take the many valuable skills and personal lessons I've learned and turn them into the homestead life I envisioned.  

Thanks, wood school, for all you've taught me!