Furniture Making: Traditions of Necessity
Twelve-Week Intensive Program
Jan 6 - March 27, 2020
Scholarships may be available for qualifying students
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Our Philosophy Behind the Course
As a school striving to nourish traditional woodworking and design, we find ourselves fascinated with furniture. This course is our (Tier 2) exploration of traditional forms of furnishings and the long-standing standards for their production. Historical styles and ornament are a focus as we journey through the course.
We're committed to passing on the living tradition of woodworking--rooted in techniques that create lasting results and instilling the values and practices of fine craftsmanship, sustainability, and creative expression.
This course is designed as a follow up to our Foundations of Woodworking course and a next step in our furniture making "apprenticeship." We build on woodworking skills by deepening your understanding of design, expanding your range of joinery and decorative techniques to build well designed and robust furniture.
This course is focused on developing the skills that will allow you to start to work as a furniture designer / maker. Design will be the consistent thread through the numerous projects of this class. We will take a hybrid approach to furniture making by blending traditional hand tool techniques with pragmatic use of woodworking machines.
You will explore the history and development of furniture styles and learn Jim Tolpin’s methods of traditional design to develop your eye for proportion.
In this course we focus on free standing solid wood furniture. Like our Foundations of Woodworking intensive, the program is broken down into a series of progressively more complex projects that allow you to refine your sense of design, explore new techniques and develop a sense of how fine detail adds to the richness of the design.
Woven throughout the course will be presentations on the history of furniture making, the evolution of furniture styles and a review of contemporary styles. We’ll also demonstrate and practice some advanced techniques such as shaping, drawer making, carcass construction and some contemporary joinery techniques.
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
Exploring the history of furniture styles, aesthetics and design details
Exploring your affinity for shape and form
Generating and refining designs through sketching, rendering and lofting
Using proportional design techniques
Group design review and feedback sessions
Creating technical drawings and story sticks
Efficient workflow in the shop
Naming the species: learning the different types of wood and their suitability for furniture making
Finding locally sourced and sustainable materials
At the lumberyard: selecting materials for aesthetics, strength and minimal waste
Selecting joinery for strength and visual appeal
Traditional joinery strategies
Methods and tools
Drawer construction - engineering and building drawers into a cabinet
Door construction and fitting
Frame and panel carcasses
Solid wood carcasses
Carving and Ornamental Motifs
Scrolled lifts and corbels
Ornamental carving basics
Creating textured surfaces
Edge detail - beading, chamfering
Choosing the right finish: balancing durability, look, and environmental impact
Surface preparation - cutting, scraping and sanding
Introduction to decorative finishes - pigments, dyes, and layered finishes
Setting up Shop and Tool Maintenance
Selection, setup, maintenance and tuning of woodworking tools and machinery
Designing a shop for efficient and safe workflows
Materials staging and handling
Dust collection and dealing with off cuts, sawdust, shavings
Using, storing and disposing of hazardous materials
THE Projects and Course Outline
Intro and Grounding into the Shop
Green Woodworking throughout History
Project: Build a Rustic Windsor-type Chair
The first week starts with a grounding into the shop environment and the conditioning of tools. Next, we'll explore green woodworking and hewing in an exploration of chair-making. Students will build their own rustic Windsor - type chair. The venerable stick chair is found throughout the world. Our exploration of global furniture begins with this versatile exploration in seating.
Design, Layout and Rendering Practices for Furniture Makers
Reading Styles and Motifs
Lofting and Pattern-Making Basics
Project: Student Portfolios
Traditional drawing is a necessary skill to many crafts. During this week we will be exploring best practices in hand drafting, layout and color rendering. Some consideration of modern digital methods will be presented.
We will continue our foray into art history by considering how to read styles and motifs. Traditions in joinery will be considered.
These contexts and basic lessons in lofting and pattern making are intended to help students carry their knowledge of traditional furniture forms into satisfying personal statements.
Occasional Tables Throughout History
Furniture of Necessity
Project: Build a Side Table (and drawer)
Our project focus for this module is the table. Our design element for the project includes a consideration of art history. We will frame contexts of lifestyle, built environment and the concept of "Furniture of Necessity." Students will build a personal occasional table (with drawer).
Reading a Room
Periods, Themes and Styles in Interior Architectural Work
Project: Build a Bookcase
This project focuses on reading a room and designing for harmonious interiors. After reflecting on periods, themes and styles in architecture, students will build a traditionally - joined bookcase of modest proportions to their own design.
Personal Project: Build a Furniture Cabinet; an armoire, credenza, showcase, personal chest, secretary or kitchen hutch for example
Here we will apply both our joinery and design knowledge for a four-week build of student personal cabinets. The design potential of this project is broad, but the duration is moderate.
A handful of suggested projects will be provided at the time to serve as starting points. Students will design and build their own personal project. The goal is to finish it in four weeks.
Electives and buffer overflow:
Lofting a Splayed Form
Developing Decorative Motifs
Building and Running a Business (includes hiring and firing)
This week is structured to provide overflow and buffer for the final projects. Otherwise, time permitting, we are preparing several options for elective studies and presentations.
Closing activities include a studio photo shoot, graduation dinner, project critique and debrief.
Course duration and hours:
Class hours are 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday through Friday in Building #304 with an hour break for lunch. We encourage you to arrive by 8:30 am to practice and prepare for the day.
The workshop and machine room are 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.
You are required to bring a basic set of hand tools for this class. Student Tool List
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.
You must have some experience in hand tool 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.
This course is an ideal follow up to the Foundations of Woodworking twelve-week intensive.
$75.00 Registration Fee (due at the time of registration)
$750.00 1st Deposit (due upon acceptance into the course)
$1,500.00 2nd Deposit (due 2 months before class start date)
$5,250.00 3rd Deposit (due 1 month before class start date)
= $7,575.00 Total Payments
Two steps are required:
Register - you pay a $75.00 non-refundable registration fee. Registering adds your name to the class roster.
Submit an application - the application is your opportunity to tell us why you want to take this course. We review your application as a final determiner of acceptance to the course.
* The Register and Apply buttons are at the bottom of this page.
A materials deposit of $300.00 is included in the total payments of $7,575.00 Any unused materials deposit will be returned at the end of the course. You may use the materials deposit to buy books, finish, wood, fasteners, and hardware.
Due to credit card processing fees, we kindly ask that students make the 3rd Deposit (final payment) of $5,250.00 by personal check, money order, or bank check.
This course runs during the off-season in Port Townsend. Vacation rentals and shared housing can be picked up in town. We maintain and offer a list of housing opportunities with home owners who enjoy hosting students and offer a range of accommodations and reasonable rates. Students are responsible for contacting the providers and arranging housing that suits their needs.
Our school fund-raises so that we can offer scholarships for our Intensive Programs. Our ability to offer scholarships is dependent on having funds available and requiring that students meet the conditions that donors attach to the funds.
The school received approval to accept GI Bill funding in January 2017. Read more...
The Port Townsend School of Woodworking is licensed as a Washington State Private Vocational School. The school is not nationally accredited and regrettably cannot accept AmeriCorps Funds.
Application and Registration
The application process for Furniture Making opens nine months in advance of the course start date. Once you complete your application, we will schedule a brief phone interview to get a better sense of your woodworking experience and make sure the class is a good fit for you. There is no fee for applying. Applications are completed online by students.
If the class is full and you would like to add your name to the wait-list, choose that option through the Register: Furniture Making button below. Follow the directions to add your name to the wait-list.
What's in the application?
Enrollment agreement stating School Policies and Procedures including:
Physical Eligibility and Safety
Code of Conduct
Statement of Financial Responsibility
Why are you interested in taking Furniture Making? What drew you to this course? What are you hoping to gain? (250-500 words)
What else should we know about you? Share some fun stuff about yourself. What other experiences do you bring to the class?(up to 100 words)
Scholarship Application (optional)
Please take a moment to read our Registration, Cancellation and Refund Policy
You must Register and Apply. You will receive a registration confirmation e-mail and confirmation of your application by e-mail after you submit your registration and application. Please contact us if you do not.