Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Design/Build Open Studio

4 week intensive course.


Design/Build furniture Studio

4 week workshop for hand tool furniture makers


Our Philosophy behind the course

If you have built a piece of furniture before, you know that the journey from start to finish isn’t always as straight and clear as one might hope. Our objective in designing this class was to provide the space, tools and expert coaching/instruction for hand tool woodworkers to design and build a piece of artisan furniture. By breaking down each step in the process from concept, to design, to build, to finish, we encourage your success through each step and help you find the answers to fundamental questions along the way, such as:

Why are many classic designs practical and pleasing?
Which design decisions need to be made early and which can be made as the project progresses?
What kinds of wood should you use and why?
How can you recover from a mistake?
How do you make efficient use of hand tools and power tools?
How do you build a piece of furniture that can outlast your lifetime?

This is your opportunity to work one on one with a mentor through the entire process to create a project that inspires you. Our instructors will work with you to delineate a project that will be challenging while keeping within the parameters of what is possible for you to complete in four weeks. Jim Tolpin will start the class with a guided design segment. The scope of projects will vary based on your woodworking background and experience. As always, the emphasis is on learning to do high quality work and while building and expanding on your skill set. 

We emphasize quality, attention to detail, considering impact and longevity, and working to high standards for lasting work.  Our instructors are experienced craftspeople who recognize the value of passing on their skill set to the next generation of woodworkers.  We strive to invite you into our community by connecting you with others who have a passion for craftsmanship.

Work by Mark Bixby and Tirzah Juskalian, 2016


We've designed this course as a follow-up to Foundations of Woodworking Course. This month long class allows the hand tool woodworker the time and space to create a larger more complex piece of furniture in our bench room and workshop. Our instructors are there to help you develop your design, explore wood selections; further explore and develop joinery and finishing options.

An instructor will contact you about a month before the class starts to discuss ideas, get a sense of your skill level, and help direct you towards a challenging, yet achievable project. Some suggested projects are variations on tables chests, cabinets, doors and drawers.

What our students say

“Everyone picked projects that challenged them and I think everyone grew a lot. It was nice to be surrounded by a bunch of other serious craftspeople who were working really hard and to see how they dealt with setbacks and how they thought through problems. It’s nice to see disparate views on things because that opens you up to not just regurgitating whatever your teacher taught you. It opens you up to different ways of processing this stuff and how to approach the problems.”

“It took a solid four or five days to do the design. I had sketches, but I didn’t realize how nebulous my design was until I got here and had to figure out how am I going to connect these two pieces of wood. Jim and Matthew helped me do the problem solving that I didn’t have the tools to do yet.”  

“You guys really trusted us to be capable intelligent craftspeople. That that set a certain mood that really encouraged people to push. I think that confidence really expressed itself in our projects and the things we were trying to do." 

“It was pretty perfect to have a concept and have guidance in doing it. It made getting to the place where you can do it on your own make a lot more sense.”

"One of my favorite things about this class was that everyone was doing very disparate projects that had different parts. When there was a lecture happening, you could watch it or not, so there was a lot of autonomy.” 

“Something cool about this class is that it’s repeatable. I can take it again and build something else. This is the class I’d been waiting for.” 


  • Hybrid woodworking:

    • Blending traditional hand tool and machine techniques for efficiency in the shop and for small production runs we cover

  • Tuning, sharpening, and the use of hand tools for joinery, shaping and detail
  • Safe usage of stationary and portable power woodworking machines  for milling stock, joinery and shaping.
  • Concept to Cutlist

  • Generating and refining designs through sketching, rendering and drafting.

  • Using proportional design techniques
  • Group design review and feedback sessions.
  • Working with models and prototypes
  • Creating full scale plans and story sticks
  • Planning for efficient workflow in the shop
  • Wood Selection

  • Naming the species:  learning the different types of wood and their suitability for furniture making
  • Finding local and sustainably sourced materials.
  • At the lumberyard: Selecting materials for aesthetics, strength and minimal waste
  • Joinery

  • Selecting joinery for strength and visual appeal
  • Traditional joinery techniques with hand tools and power tools
  • Carcass Construction

  • Drawer construction - engineering and building drawers into a cabinet
  • Door construction and fitting
  • Frame and panel carcasses
  • Solid wood carcasses
  • Decorative Details

  • Inlay - stringing and small highlights
  • Edge detail - beading, chamfering
  • Carving - creating textured surfaces and ornamentation
  • Finishing:

  • Choosing the right finish:  balancing durability, look, and environmental impact
  • Surface preparation - cutting, scraping and sanding
  • Finish application
  • Finish maintenance - repairing and refreshing finishes.



4 weeks  

Class hours are 9:00 to 5:00 Monday through Friday with an hour break for lunch.  we encourage you to arrive  by 8:30 to practice and prepare for the day.   

The workshop and machine room are fully available to students during class hours Monday through Friday. The workshop is available after hours and on weekends - subject to the School’s After Hours Policy.


We recommend bringing a basic set of hand tools for this class.  Student Tool List
Students will also have access to the full set of bench tools at the school if you are unable to bring your own.


This class is open to  woodworkers who would like to broaden their approach to furniture making. What do we mean by this? We think it means you are a person who has decided to commit to learning furniture making; is yearning to develop a finer sense of design; has already acquired some woodworking skills and has a strong sense of the limitations of your own knowledge and skills.

We prefer that you have experience woodworking before taking this class. If you have limited woodworking experience - we’d like you to produce evidence of strong practical skills, problem solving ability, and experience with hand work.  We're looking for the right attitude.



Tuition Fee: $2,400

Class size: Minimum of 6 students and a maximum of 10 students

Payment: 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.

Materials fees: $50
Wood is also available from Edensaw Woods in Port Townsend.

Accommodations: This course runs during the off-season in Port Townsend. Vacation rentals and house shares can be picked up in town.