Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Preserving the Tradition

Sam Allison


Sam Allison

photo by Glenn Lucas

I’m an artist & novice woodworker recently transplanted to the Olympic Peninsula from Vermont. I got my start in woodworking while helping run a therapeutic carpentry program back East, which gave me shop access after hours and a sympathetic boss who helped me troubleshoot. In my first year of butchering salvaged wood, I made a set of impractical furniture based on geometric designs, including a “honeycomb” table and a triangular bookcase. I had far more determination than joinery knowhow. After watching the surface of the table cup like a salad bowl due to wood movement, I knew it was time to hone my skills at traditional craftsmanship school.

The Furniture Design Intensive lured me cross-country to a corner of the Northwest I’d long dreamed of. The 3-month program was, hands down, the most challenging creative training I’ve ever done. I had to scramble to keep up with the curriculum and high standards set by my classmates, who had all (wisely) completed the Foundations of Woodworking Intensive. I had to persevere through at least a thousand mistakes along the way to building my first furniture held together by proper joinery.

When the course wrapped up, I started working for the school as a shop / teacher’s assistant, and the learning curve hasn’t fallen off. A major factor in becoming a woodworker is familiarity with the nuances of hand tools, machinery, and the wood itself. Milling lumber and sharpening tools has provided me with consistent practice. Assisting classes exposes me to an endless stream of brilliant teaching, and a great diversity of approaches to the art & science of woodcraft.

The silver lining of being the guy who needed a lot of extra help in class is that I’m now well situated as a teacher’s assistant. At this stage, I’m able to spot bad habits and help folks accelerate their journey to proficiency in design & execution.




E-mail: sam@ptwoodschool.org
Location: Port Townsend, WA