Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Build a Small Trestle Table

5-day class on making a small trestle table with John McCormack, an accomplished furniture maker, woodworker and instructor.


Build a Small Trestle Table



John McCormack joined the Port Townsend School of Woodworking in January 2019 to share his expertise and teaching skills in a variety of woodworking areas.

He is a graduate of the Cabinet and Furniture Making Program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston and holds an MFA in Furniture Design from the Rhode Island School of Design.

Explore the many forms a trestle table can take. Join us and build a small trestle table during this five-day class. Using your own design (within practical limits) build a table that can support a live edged slab or a simple plank top.

Class Description

A trestle table can take many forms. It can be a simple base for a small slab coffee table, such as we’ll make in class. The same structure can vary and support a top of varying sizes, complexities and shapes. We will make an appropriately small project, but students will learn a library of structures and techniques that will allow them to return home and thoughtfully make tables of greater scale and complexity. Students will learn how to adapt the basic structural form of a trestle to build a table of their own design (within practical limits: i.e.: a simple coffee table).

With this simple table, students will work within the scale and joinery system provided, to design and customize it to make a table for their use within the parameters dictated by the length of the course and the guidance of the instructor. John has provided a drawing of the trestle table that you can download or print.

Processes and techniques to be learned:

  • Milling technique for furniture: development of reference surfaces by machine.

  • Joinery layout using L-sticks (dedicated hook ruler story sticks).

  • Properly proportioned (joinery without compromise, cut by machine)

  • Students will learn to cut mortises with a jigged plunge router (a la Tage Frid), the hollow chisel mortiser and with an Italian slot mortiser.

  • Learn to design joinery appropriate to your construction. Use of hand tools to make your mortises into proper traditional joints (squared end slot mortises, tapered mortises to accept wedged through tenons etc.). Use of the tablesaw to yield quick accurate tenons.

  • Sub-assembly glue-ups. How to get your work together without panic, and have the result be square, clean of glue and planar.

  • Accurate full glue ups of sub-assemblies and of panels from individual boards.

  • Surface treatment of machined surfaces with hand tools.

  • Rapid effective finishing of interior household furniture which will be subjected to constant use.


We are equipped with the tools you'll need for the class. However, if you want to bring along your own tools and work with them, we encourage you to do so. John has included this Tool List for your reference.

    Face, hearing, and respiratory protection

    We suggest that you bring a face shield, hearing protection and a comfortable dust mask. You can buy a face shield from Woodcraft for around $23. You can also buy face shields at Edensaw or Admiral Ship Supply, both in Port Townsend. Check our FAQ for more details.


Students should have good hand tool and machine skills ( be comfortable with the safe use of a bandsaw, chopsaw, jointer, planer, drill press,tablesaw and router).

Class Information and Registration

Class runs from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday in Building #315, Map.
Please read our What to Expect page for general information about the school.
Please also read our Registration Policy.

Class size: 10
Cost: $850
Materials Charge: $125

When you click on the Register link you will be able to register for the class or, if the class is full, sign up for the wait list.