Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Celebrate our First Full Year on December 11th

Please join us at the School on December 11th in a celebration of our First Full Year.

We've had a lot of fun getting the School up and running. More importantly we've really enjoyed working with our students and getting to know them. Plus when we stand back and scratch our heads (not a pretty sight) we are kind of gobsmacked (a fine old British expression) at the great reception we have received.
A short summary:
We've had a whirlwind first year. Starting from a raw building filled with paint cans we have a functioning class / bench room and machine room.
We've had around 200 students attending a mixture of 1-5 day classes in 2008. Our lecture series has drawn upto 50 people on a Thursday evening. We've even had folks staying at the park for some of the longer courses. We've drawn students from the East Coast, Arizona, Kansas, Florida, California, Switzerland and Canada.
Our current course schedule for 2009 has us running classes for about 40 weeks next year - which if fully enrolled would have more than 450 students attend the school.

We're expanding our faculty to include nationally renowned woodworkers from around Puget Sound, and from California and New Hampshire.

Our mailing list grown from 150 to over 800.
We'll open our doors at 5:00pm. Please come and join us for a glass of wine or beer and some snacky stuff.

And the Stump the Stooges challenge is still open.

We look forward to seeing you on the 11th.

Images from the Hollow Surboard Class with Paul Jensen

We'll update the site with images on a daily basis. If you're interested stop by and see the progress. Its happening this week - November 17th - 21st.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Images from Bonnie Klein's Basic Woodturning Course

Bonnie Klein taught our first turning class on November 6th and 7th, 2008. The class was great fun - see for yourself.

(Click on the link in the lower lefthand corner of the slideshow box to go to the Gallery and see full size images.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

See us during the Art Port Townsend Studio Tour October 11-12th

The school is part of the Art Port Townsend Studio Tour 2008. The doors will be open from 11:00 - 4:00pm both days.

Jim Tolpin and I will be there to meet you and answer questions. We'll have a display and demonstrations of hand joinery. There will also be some short displays of Coopering Techniques.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Helga Winter - Turning Bowls

Helga Winter creates this stunning bowl by turning green wood (wet straight from the tree) and then letting it dry. She then decorates the bowls by staining or painting them.

Helga will present her work and techniques as part of our "The Art and Craft of Working with Wood" presentation series on Thursday 9th of October at 6:30pm.

The free presentation will take place at the school.

Port Townsend School of Woodworking
Building 315, Fort Worden
Port Townsend, WA 98368

Enter Fort Worden by the Main Gate. At the four way stop go straight. Bear left behind the Copper Canyon Press Building. The school is the large concrete building on the right - set back into the hillside. Park in front of the school or on the flat.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008


We realize that as part of our mission in starting the school there is an implicit goal in helping the Woodworking community around us. We can do this by promoting the art and craft of working with wood and sometimes we need to help more directly. I got this email from John Marckworth this morning. If you can help please do:

"Some of you may know Jerry Smith, cabinetmaker. His shop was recently broken into, and most/all of his portable power tools were taken. He was uninsured for the loss. He will replace the day-to-day equipment out of pocket, but can't hope to get back above water for some time. I know we can all relate to what a blow this is, and how difficult it will be to recover.

Mark Sabella has undertaken, completely on his own initiative, to give Jerry a hand in replacing his Festool Domino. He is asking fellow woodworkers to chip in $20 (no more) towards the replacement cost. We hope you'll consider joining us. Also, please spread the word to our fellow woodworkers.

You can contact Mark at 385-1551, or me at 316-9480."

Monday, September 1, 2008

Success in Smallish Increments

We'd like to thank John Edwards for all the effort he put in to the Woodworking for Kids Program at the School. It was a great start - the kids who came had a great time and we learnt a lot about running a kids program. The major lesson we learned was to step back and let John do it. John has a wonderful way with kids, the patience of an elephant (or is it memory) and, now, a wonderful array of kid scale tools.

John has attracted the attention of the local "Y" (YMCA) and will be running an afterschool woodworking program when he returns from a well earned month in Thailand. Check in back here is a few weeks and we'll have posted a link to John's new website.

John will be back at the school at Halloween as part of the Fort's celebration. We'll have the school open and will invite the kids into make Spiders, Ghouls and other things that go bonk in the night. Just don't let Susan know - or she'll be there with her poker.

We're also hoping to get John back between Christmas to New Years to allow overwrought parents to let the kids come and make sawdust each day.

The Art and Craft of Working with Wood

We've renamed the Free Lecture / Presentation Series to "The Art and Craft of Working with Wood". This new name really reflects what we're trying to do with the series. Some of the presentations share the joy of working with wood for Art or to create homes. The homes can be on the ground, in a tree or on wheels

We need to work on timing a little... Kim Kelzer gave a wonderful presentation of her philosophy and work last week. Little did I know that it was going to be the same evening as Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the DNC when I asked Kim to give the presentation back in May. A small but enthusiastic audience got a whirlwind tour of Kim's life and work. Many thanks Kim!

I'm envious of the speed and intensity of Kim's new work. She certainly challenged me to think about how to work faster. Catch Kim's new work at the Museo in Langley on Whidbey Island from September 6th through 28th.

Next up Jim Tolpin on making a Gypsy Wagon (house on wheels) and then Jake Jacobs on Treehouses.

More details here.

Port Townsend Woodworker's Show - Call for Entries

John and Jim ran the Port Townsend Woodworker's Show from Mid Nineties to the early Oughties but family life got in the way. In 2006 the SplinterGroup formed and resurrected the Show. The new Show (fondly headlined by the Leader as "Woodworker's Show Knot Dead") runs on the first weekend in November with setup occurring on the Friday before. In 2006 we got about 1500 visitors and were in the range of 1800-2000 in 2007.

The show is sponsored by various companies around town which keep the cost of exhibiting in the show to $35 at the basic level. The Premier Exhibitor level is $100 and gives woodworkers the opportunity to have a web page on the SplinterGroup's website and an entry plus picture in the Show brochure.

Entry to the show is on a first come first serve basis. There are a few restrictions on what can be displayed:

  • Work that is new to the show - please don't submit work that has been shown before
  • No work from kits or purchased plans please

The School is a sponsor of the Show and we would like to have some alumni work on display is possible. So if you've attended a course and would like to show some work please let us know and we'll incorporate into our booth. So feel free to email us if you'd like to show your work.

This years show will be held on the 1st & 2nd of November starting at 11:00am both days. The show stays open until 8:00pm on Saturday to coincide with the Port Townsend Art Walk. The show is open until 3:00pm on Sunday.

More details here.

Woodworker's Club Starting in Port Townsend - Next Meeting September 9th at 2:00pm

We're delighted to share the news that a Woodworker's Club is starting up in Port Townsend. Dave Weeding and a bunch of friends have decided to start up the club. We're helping out by hosting one of their September Meeting. In Dave Weeding's words:

"Our next meeting will be on Tuesday September 9 at 2PM. We will meet at the Port Townsend School Of Woodworking at Fort Worden. We'll have a little social time, and discuss current projects. Tim Lawson, who is one of the founders of the school, as well as an instructor, will conduct a mini seminar on router jigs and fixtures."

You can reach Dave at (360) 385 9986 or by email.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Woodpalooza - Whidbey Island Woodworker's Guild Show August 22nd - September 7th

The Whidbey Island Woodworkers Guild presents the 5th Annual Woodpalooza on Aug. 22 through Sept. 7 at Bayview Corner Cash Store, 5603 S. Bayview Road, on South Whidbey. Map here.

The show will be open from 6 to 9 p.m. on Aug. 22 and daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Aug. 23 to Sep. 7. This free exhibition will showcase recent works by 20 guild members.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Images from the Greene & Green Class

You can find full size versions of these images in my Picasa gallery here. I'll leave the gallery up there for about a month.

The magic router bit for rounding over the ebony spline inlay is: Amana #51572 bullnose.

If you have any comments about the course please feel free to post them as a response to this entry.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Woodworking for Kids - starts 19th July 2008

We're running a Woodworking for Kids program starting on the 19th of July. More correctly John Edwards is running it for us. John used to run a kids program when he lived in Southern California (that was many moons ago). Since then John has been has been hard at work in the construction industry and raised a couple of kids.

Just after we opened up the Power House - John asked is if he could run a kids program. We were delighted to accept his offer. The program starts on July 19th. There are two classes each weekend day until the 24th of August.

From 10-12:00pm there is a class for 6-9 year olds and then from 1-3:00pm there is a class for 10-14 year olds. The classes will be held under a tent outside the school. We provide tools and materials.

The cost per class is $15. Pre-registration is encouraged. Drop-ins accepted if there is space.

Full details here

Timberframe Construction: Charles Landau

Free Lecture 6:30pm Thursday, July 10, 2008

Charles Landau, founder of Timbercraft Homes

"Timber framing is a simple but elegant building system consisting of large wood posts and beams fit together with interlocking joinery and secured with wooden pegs. As in any post and beam structure the timber framework supports its roof by transferring roof loads to principal posts and onto the foundation of the building eliminating the need for load bearing interior partition walls. The result is a strong, self supporting timber structure in which heavy timbers frame large, open living spaces.

This talk will place the modern craft of timber framing in the context of its historic development and describe some of the unique features of the contemporary timber-frame building system. Examples of recently constructed timber frame residences and public buildings will demonstrate the flexibility and energy efficiency of modern timber frame structures. It is my hope that the strength and beauty of the buildings you see, will persuade you that the future of timber framing promises to be as rich as its past and that if you choose to work in this field you will be inspired to design and build buildings that stretch the existing aesthetic and structural boundaries of timber frame construction."

Charles Landau founded Timbercraft Homes (based in Port Townsend). Charles sold the business several years ago, now in retirement (and no less busy), Charles will share his love of Timberframing in this presentation.

The Machine shop is open....

The machine shop is up and running. Our thanks to the volunteers who helped us clean it up and take out the old piping and radiators. Our thanks also to the Parks Maintenance staff who painted the shop.

We've added a heavy duty electrical service and started to move saws, planers, jointers and more into the space.

We've taught our Introduction to Stationary Tools course, over the last weekend in June, in the new shop. The students worked with us to get many of the big tools tuned up and running smoothly. It was amazing how much better the table saw worked!

Kitted out - the Lee Valley hand tool have arrived

In the middle of June four large boxes of hand tools arrived from Lee Valley. Each of the student benches is now equipped with a full set of high quality hand tools from Lee Valley. The teaching bench has a full array of hand tools and specialty tools.

We're adding storage cabinets to each work bench and will be adding the tools through the next few weeks.

If you attend one of our classes you'll get to enjoy using these high quality tools as you learn.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Images from the Coopering Class

We finished Coopering Class around 4:30 this afternoon. To give you a taste of what the class is like I'm embedding a slide show in this post.

I got so involved in the early part of the class when we were splitting blanks off the cedar blocks with a froe and beadle; shaping them with an axe that I clean forgot to take some photos. So these are from the latter part of the class.

This is definitely a class we'll run again.

View the gallery

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Hand tools at every workbench

Lee Valley has enabled us to equip each bench with complete sets of hand tools. Lee Valley has also helped with the teaching hand tools you'll see around the school.

We're beyond delighted. We'd been struggling with tool lists and requiring many beginning woodworkers to go out and purchase tools before they have experience with handtools. Buying a set of tools before a course can easily add several hundred dollars to the cost of a course (beyond accommodation and travel). We think that this helps reduce the cost of entry for anybody deciding to explore woodworking - you don't need to make an initial investment in tools before you take the course.

Once you have learnt woodworking, using the (very) high quality tools that Lee Valley makes under their Veritas brand, you can then make your purchase decisions based on that experience.

If you already have a some of the tools on the tool list for a course feel free to bring them along and tune them up and see how they perform.

Our deepest thanks to Robin Lee of Lee Valley Tools for this incredibly generous help.

Rescheduling: Working with Woodworkers - 26th June 2008

We're rescheduling the Working with Woodworker's lecture by Jim Tolpin and John Marckworth to be the first event of our Summer term on June 26th.

The original announcement:

What does it take to successfully commission a new kitchen or suite of furniture from a custom woodworker? Jim Tolpin & John Marckworth  will share their experiences good and bad. Plus we'll get a bunch of local woodworkers to present their stories good, bad and funny.

Thursday 26th June 2008 starting at 6:30pm. Free admission

In Building 315 (The Old Power House), Fort Worden, Port Townsend. See our website for directions.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Emergency Services at Fort Worden

We had a little too much excitement last week. The good news is that there was no lasting damage done...

We needed to call 911 from the school and we discovered some wonderful things. Fort Worden has an extended 911 system which means that any 911 call from any of the Fort's building goes straight to Jefferson County Dispatch and the local Emergency Services. The 911 call is also flagged to the Rangers and other trained staff at the Fort. Within minutes of the call there were helpful Fort staff at the scene and I'd been called at home to notify me of the event.

The Fort is also equipped with AED (defibrillators) and other first aid equipment.

This makes us additionally glad that we are located at Fort Worden.

Our sincere thanks to the EMTs of East Jefferson Fire and Rescue and the responding staff at Fort Worden.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cancelling tonight's lecture: May 22nd 2008

We regret that we have had to cancel tonight's lecture (Working with Woodworkers). We hope to reschedule it soon. Please check here to see when it will be rescheduled.

Great articles on Seth Rolland and more....

Seth and I co-taught a course on Curved Wood in Furniture almost a month ago. There is a great article on Seth and his work in the Woodworker's Journal eZine. You may need to register to read the article.

There's also a good article on the NW School of Wooden Boat Building in the same edition.

Its great to see a lot of publicity for woodworkers and woodworking in the Port Townsend area. This place really is a hub for woodworking!

Sssshh..... don't tell anyone.....

Aug Boeger reports:

Edensaw has a special on some "Sticker Stain Sapele for $2.10/BF.  They have several stacks of 8/4 left & a smaller quantity of 4/4. I thought the blog should know about this.  It's going out the door quickly as the boat yard has discovered this great deal

There's still space.....

There's just a couple of open spots In the Router Jigs and Fixtures course this Saturday (May 24th). Learn how to make the most of your router by using commercial or shop made jigs and fixtures.

We'd love to see a few more folks in the Coopering class on 31st of May. Coopering is the art and craft of making buckets, barrels and bathtubs without glue. Learn how to make a  bucket from staves that you shape on a coopering plane. Steve Habersetzer will take you through the whole process.

More information and on-line registration at our website.

Working with Woodworkers - Tonight at 6:30pm

<Ooops - sorry for the late update>

What does it take to successfully commission a new kitchen or suite of furniture from a custom woodworker? Jim Tolpin & John Marckworth  will share their experiences good and bad. Plus we'll get a bunch of local woodworkers to present their stories good, bad and funny.

Thursday 22nd May 2008 starting at 6:30pm. Admission $8 at the door.

In Building 315 (The Old Power House), Fort Worden, Port Townsend. See our website for directions.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Duck or Grouse! Decoy carving - May 8th

Mallards, ladies and gentlemen. Port Townsend's very own George Deacon will demonstrate, talk about or otherwise present the art of Making Duck Decoys. Find out more about wooden waterfowl and the finesse of the feathers. We'll even add it to your bill!

Seriously - George carves and paints wooden duck decoys. Find out more about this wonderful craft in an informal session at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking.

Thursday 24th April 2008 starting at 6:30pm. Admission $8 at the door.

In Building 315 (The Old Power House), Fort Worden, Port Townsend. See our website for directions.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Quick Post of the eCommerce Presentation April 24

Here is the presentation I'll be giving to the Port Townsend Chamber of Commerce today. The meeting is in the Fort Worden Commons at Noon.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Sole of a Frog

One of the more interesting things that has happened to me since beginning to teach woodworking is that I'm finally taking the time to get my tools up to snuff. In the process, I'm finally getting my planes and chisels really tuned up to where I've wanted to get them for a long time. I've been able to get a pretty sharp edge on the cutting edges, and I can tune my planes up well enough not to shred the wood when hitting crossgrain--but I've felt for a long time that they could be a lot better. Now, having to actually teach the process of sharpening and tuning, I'm taking the time to try out some new tricks...and its really working for me. I've never had my planes working this well and I can see and feel the difference. The secret is getting the back of the cutting blades absolutely flat to a polished surface (I"m becoming a convert to the "scary sharp" sandpaper method) and getting the part of the plane that holds the blade (the frog) properly seated by filing its sole. (Bet you didn't know that frogs had soles?)

Tim Lawson interviewed by Michael Dresdner

I was very flattered to receive a call from Michael Dresdner the other week asking to interview me for the Woodworker's Journal eZine. We had a wonderful long rambling conversation and lots of laughter.

You can read the interview (it'll be up there until May 6th or so). You will need to sign up to access the eZine.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Built in Furniture Design with Jim Tolpin - April 24th

Jim Tolpin wrote the book "Built In Furniture" back in 2000. Come and hear Jim take you through the history of built in furniture and its relationship to the architecture of a house. Jim will cover the basic principles of the design and layout of built in furniture and will illustrate them with examples from the book. John Marckworth will show examples of beautiful and specialized built in furniture from his extensive portfolio.

Thursday 24th April 2008 starting at 6:30pm. Admission $8 at the door.

In Building 315 (The Old Power House), Fort Worden, Port Townsend. See our website for directions.

Summer Schedule - Registration is Open

We've pretty much finalized the Summer Course Schedule and have opened up registration. The Traditional Crafts program and the lecture series are works in progress.

We're still working on the tool lists for the courses. But there is some potentially big news here.

We're hoping to work with a major tool manufacturer to equip each bench with a set of quality hand tools. This means that you could attend the course and not need to buy a set of hand tools.

We see this as a major advantage. You'd get to work on your project using great tools and decide for yourself what sort of tools you'd like to buy when you finally setup your shop.

If this happens (and it is still an if) we'd ask you, at the end of your course. to leave the tools fully sharpened and ready for the next student to use. This is good workshop discipline.

So if you're planning to sign up for a course please don't run out and buy all the tools yet. We'll let you know as soon as we have confirmation of the plan. Of course we're not stopping you from buying tools and bringing them along but we want you to make the best, most informed decision about the tools you buy.

You'll also notice that we've dropped the price point of the courses. This (the Spring) term we're pretty much including the cost of the materials you use in the class in the price of the course. In the future we'll be clear about the cost of the materials used in the course and will collect the materials fee from you at the end of the course.

We've also added some longer (two week) courses this summer. In these courses you'll get to buy your lumber from the local hardwood lumberyard directly. This is invaluable experience for when you return home and need to go to your local lumberyard.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Moving the Coopering Class to May 25th

Steve Habersetzer and I have both been asked if the Coopering Class can be moved. I had skillfully chosen the Saturday of the Rhododendron Parade (May 17th) which is one of the biggest events in the year for the folks of Port Townsend.

So we have heeded the requests and are moving the class out to Sunday May 25th at 9:00am. I'll be updating the website shortly.

Steve and I plan to make a couple of cooper's planes in the next few weeks so that we'll have plenty for the course. I'm looking forward to this as I've coveted a cooper's plane for some time.

One request if anybody has some rounds of well seasoned cedar, larch or fir that we could use to make one of the buckets please let me know. The rounds would need to be 16-18" long.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hands-on History of Handplanes

Come and hear George Anderson (from Sequim) talk about, demonstrate and let you try out some of his collection of Norris Handplanes. I tried to quickly find some images to tantalize you but this is all I could come up with in a hurry.

George was classically trained as a woodworker going through full apprenticeship in Glasgow (Scotland). George works in construction and is known for his exquisite finish carpentry.

Thursday 10th April 2008 starting at 6:30pm. Admission $8 at the door.

In Building 315 (The Old Power House), Fort Worden, Port Townsend. See our website for directions.

Note by Note at the Rose Theatre, Port Townsend

Rocky, who runs the exquisite Rose Theatre in Port Townsend, called to remind us that Note by Note is showing only at 4:00pm and finishes on Thursday 4/10.

"Note by Note - The Making of Steinway L1037"
In our age of mass production and consumption, what is the role of the musician - both an instrument's craftsman and its player? Musically, what have we gained? More importantly, what are we losing?

The most thoroughly handcrafted instruments in the world, Steinway pianos are as unique and full of personality as the world-class musicians who play them. However, their makers are a dying breed: skilled cabinet-makers, gifted tuners, thorough hand-crafters.

Note by Note is an independent feature-length documentary that follows the creation of a Steinway concert grand, #L1037 - from forest floor to concert hall. It is a loving celebration of not just craftsmanship, but of a dying breed of person who is deeply connected to working by hand. In the end, this is an ode to the most unexpected, and perhaps ironic, of unsung heroes. It reminds us how extraordinary the dialogue can be between an artist and an instrument - crafted out of human hands but borne of the materials of nature.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


What a wonderful word. I'm probably going to misuse it here....

In our Quick Joinery course last week we were pitting two different generations of Plate Joiners / Biscuit Joiners against each other. There was a Porter Cable 557 and a DeWalt DW682K. John swore by his DeWalt and I swore by mine (funny swear words but there we went).

It was really interesting to watch the students in class use them. The difference I would have said was important was not the difference that made both John and I agree on the Porter Cable 557 being the better machine.

The difference that made a difference was where the large handle was attached - on the 557 it is attached to the front / face of the machine and on the DeWalt it is attached to the body (which slides up and down to drive the blade into the wood).

The handle being attached to the front made a huge difference in the precision and ease with with the machine could be positioned and how it reacted when the blade was spun up after being turned on. The Porter Cable  stayed in place and the DeWalt waltzed around.

With practice you could compensate for the DeWalt's movement. But the Porter Cable has a host of other features that elevate it above the DeWalt: blade change for small face frame biscuits, more adjustable fence and a non slip face.

What did I mean by serendipity? I didn't realize how much better the Porter Cable design functioned! I just treated it as normal.

As the school can afford to buy machines we'll get the Porter Cable. The Lamello joiners are the Rolls Royce of the biscuit joiners but that is too spendy. Unless, of course, there is a willing donor out there.

Red Tag Sale on Lie Nielsen at Edensaw

We already know that there are bunch of tool junkies out there....

I stopped at Edensaw this afternoon to talk to Mark about organizing the "At the Lumberyard" session on the 18th of April. After we figured out some details I asked Mark what was new and he gave me the tour, at the end we wandered over to the glass cabinet of Lie Nielsen planes. There were a whole bunch of them with Red Tags on them!

Yes - there is a 10% discount on some of the Lie Nielsen planes! Including two of my favourite planes - the #62 Low Angle Jack plane (IMHO the best plane ever) and the 4 1/2 smoother (a brute of a smoothing plane but has the right mass to make using it easier).

You have been warned.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Some updates...

We've been doing fine tuning to some of our classes this session. (I have to remind myself we're a little over two weeks in to the session but......)

Introduction to Furniture Design

We've renamed the "Quick Mockups for Furniture Design" to "Introduction to Furniture Design" - this is a better name for the course and reflects the true intent of the course. We're still going to make mockups - 'cos it's way too much fun. Check it out here

Making S'Klallam Carving Knives

We're rethinking our approach to the Traditional crafts program and are reducing the price point. We want to encourage folks to learn and appreciate these traditional skills.

The knives that Jeff and Jerry make are amazing carving tools. These bent knives are double sided and cut in both directions. You can use them two handed or single handed. The curved back of the knife can ride on the wood adjacent to the cut for silky smooth cuts. And you can shift a lot of material fast!

Learn how to make these knives with Jeff and Jerry and then come back in the Summer to learn how to use them.

Check the website for details

Victorian Millwork: Interior and Exterior

I finally managed to pin Seb Eggert down and we finished planning the Victorian Millwork course.

Wow! We're going introduce you to the anatomy of a Victorian House and then visit three primo examples at the Fort and in town. This will be like the Victorian House Tour but with a real expert! On the second day we'll take a close look the details of assembling the millwork and, hopefully, each student will make a replica Victorian bulkhead.

Plus we're reducing the price to reflect that this is a largely lecture and visit course.

More here

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Summer Schedule 2008 / Course Algebra

I've posted an outline of the Summer 2008 Class and Event Schedule here. We're adding some longer 2 week courses and inviting a number of guest instructors. It looks pretty exciting to us!.

The longer courses (week or more) are pretty much set in concrete and are unlikely to change. The shorter courses and events we're still working on so expect some change there (scribbled in quicksand).

An inevitable question is: "How do the longer courses relate to the one day courses?". Hence the second part of the title "Course Algebra".

A partial solution follows (how could I resist?) to help you differentiate and integrate....

We've started to consider most of our day courses to be skills courses. Our longer courses are project based but integrate many of the skills courses.

For example in our summer schedule we have a two week "Introduction to Woodworking" course. We think of this as including:
  • Basic Woodworking with Handtools class
  • Sharpening Chisels and Planes
  • Router Basics
  • Introduction to the Tablesaw, Bandsaw, Jointer and Planer
  • The poorly named Quick Mockups course (this will be called An Introduction to Furniture Design in the future).
  • Some finishing stuff (which we have yet to define)
  • Assembly and glue ups
  • Some background lectures on how wood gets to the lumberyard - this is covered in our "At the Lumberyard course"
So if you've taken all the above courses in the day long instances we'd consider you qualified to take our "Introduction to Traditional Furniture Course" in September.

What I'm struggling to say is that we're offering a fairly full education in woodworking and the skills required to build basic furniture in two forms: The Algebraic (where you stitch it together over time) or the Integrated two week form.

The two week form requires a greater commitment in time - it'll probably be a wash in tuition costs but I (we) think that the immersion for the two weeks has great value.

Next question: I've taken a couple of the one-day skills courses - won't I lose out if I take the two week course?

Answer: No - we can challenge you to further develop your skills. While other students struggle to master something you've already learnt we'll up the ante extend your skills further.

We're working on a way to acknowledge accomplishment as you take multiple courses at the school and demonstrate your skills. We may ask you to show a piece at a show in the school or work something out where we recognize your accomplishment in some material way (handwave, handwave).

We're looking to do something similar with cabinetmaking. Watch for a future post.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Turning and Turning.....

We've discussed including a turning program in the School since our very first discussions about starting the school. A week or so ago we got a nice letter from the American Association of Woodturners (aka AAW) awarding us a grant that will allow us to get three or four small benchtop lathes. We're planning on getting these after we open the second room at the school.

We're also talking to Bonnie Klein about teaching a course in the Fall. Bonnie is a master turner plus she invented the mini lathe and a threading jig.

We've also been offered a very large lathe and we'll be pursuing that over the next few months.

If you are interested in turning and learning more please let us know. You can use the website to contact us or you can post comment to this post.

I guess somebody likes us....

We found this in our mail boxes this morning:

"Good Morning!
Well, I finally have a few minutes this morning to bang-out a few comments about my very recently completed Router Basics and Quick Joinery classes. John and Tim, you two were indeed outstanding in every respect and are well on your way to major successes in my opinion. I enjoyed every minute of both days experiences which were filled to the brim with everything from safety, tool usage, techniques, abundant world-class advice and expertise, humbled humor, new tools and most of all ~ from two terrific Gentleman Artisans. We students were so fortunate to share such expertise.

As a new weekend woodworking warrior, I was very impressed with your approach to the organization and teaching styles of your classes, the content, presentation and quiet gentlemanly partnership you both displayed in working together on our many hands-on projects. Your hands-on proper tool usage, with both yours and ours, is an absolute must for newby's like me, to insure future retention of those all-important ten digits!

In looking at what I've learned (learnt. . . sorry!) and in seeing the advanced schedule of future classes with Tim, I find it hard to make intelligent new suggestions worthy and valuable to everyone. In that regard however, I suggest some future segments to be oriented to the new woodshop builder. I am a newby who has struggled with the best way to build and set up a woodshop for optimum tool usage, tool selection, dust control, noise, future usage, storage, organization, etc., etc.

Lastly, my humble "Thanks" to John, Tim and Jim for finally bringing this outstanding opportunity to the North Olympic Peninsula. Your teaching styles, location and shop tools and equipment are superb in my opinion, and all with imparted knowledge being consumed like drinking and savoring fine wine! I am excited and enthusiastic about future classes I plan to take. Please keep up your outstanding work Gentlemen, and Thank You!

Dave Munro
PS: If you would like me to share this writing with the media, please let me know."

We're humbled and honoured by Dave's comments. Thank you Dave!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Creating a Cottage Home with Jim Tolpin

Jim Tolpin wrote the book "The New Cottage Home" way back in 1997-8. Jim has developed more insights and had more experience since then. Catch up on his thinking at our evening lecture on Thursday March 27th at the Power House (Building 315) at Fort Worden (directions are here).

The presentation starts at 6:30pm. The Q&A session is expected to finish by 8:30.

Admission is $8 which we'll collect at the door.

This is an expanded version of the presentation Jim made back in the middle of January at the Jefferson County Library in Port Hadlock.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

How to use this blog

Blogging comes pretty naturally to some folks and less so to others.

We're using this blog to communicate less formally than our website. You'll see notices & reminders of events and other news from the School.

You can also respond to the post and start a conversation with Jim, John or myself. All you need to do is click on the Comments Link you'll see beneath this post. This will bring up a web page where you can praise us, nag us or throw a brickbat (all are fair). At the moment I have any posts to the blog moderated. This means that I check the post before it ends up on the blog.

Why? I do this to filter out obscene posts and a lot of spam posts from link farms in China (places that splat links over blogs in the hopes of fooling Google in to giving the site a higher ranking). I generally check email and post notifications early in the morning and in the evening so hopefully any delay in posting will be short. This hasn't been a problem yet but I'd consider switching it off if people want to comment - let me know.

You can also use your browser to automatically get notifications of new posts on the blog. You can subscribe to RSS feeds.

What is RSS you ask? RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Simply put whenever a blog entry is created the server software updates an RSS file for this blog

This the RSS icon (don't click this - it is only an image).
In Firefox you'll see this icon in the Address Bar. Click on it to add it to your Live Bookmarks.
In Internet Explorer the icon appears in one of the toolbars - click to add it to your Feeds.

When your browser loads it quickly checks the RSS files and updates the bookmarks - so you can see when a post has been made to the blog.

Try it out and be the first to see new news from the Woodschool.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Stump the Stooges Tonight (March 13th)

Don't forget to come out to the School tonight and try to Stump the Stooges.

We're looking forward to tangling with those woodworking challenges. Anything wood related is fair game.

See you there. We start at 6:30pm. Directions on the website.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Wow - What a welcome!

The three of us, somewhat exhausted, sat down this morning to take stock of our Grand Opening. We reckon that well north of 200 people attended our Grand Opening. Folks came early and left late. There was real excitement in the air. Lots of interest from potential students and potential tutors (everything from longboard surfboards(!) to turning). The building is ready - now we need to get ready .

We must extend our thanks:
  • Jeff and Jerry Monson (from the Jamestown S'Klallam) for a wonderful display of carving and carving tools. Jeff showed a fully carved mask and was hard at work on an Orca (I think). I know that several woodworkers were buying blades from them. You'll be able to learn knifemaking from them in late March or the middle of April.
  • Greg Kossow (currently baking on a beach in Hawaii) sent some wonderful Windsor chairs and a prototype of a chair that may be the basis for a chair making course in the summer.
  • A very big hand of thanks to Will O'Donnel of the Mt Townsend Creamery for a wonderful donation of cheese which we paired with bread from Pane D'Amore.
  • To our wives and families for keeping the event fuelled ( I think there was only one emergency run for more wine).
  • To our local papers - the Port Townsend Leader and the Peninsula Daily News for wonderful stories and pictures last week. Thanks Patrick and Jennifer.
  • To the Fort Worden Staff and management for helping us through all the hurdles to get ready.
  • Finally to everybody who attended the Grand Opening - your enthusiasm for our venture really made our day.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Grand Opening today....

We're holding an Open House at the Old PowerHouse at Fort Worden to celebrate the (almost) completion of our bench room / class room. Please join us between 4-8:00pm today.

You can see the new space, the work benches and meet us.

We look forward to seeing you there.

See our website for directions.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I'd give my right hand to ambidextrous....

Is a very old joke. There are very few folks who are ambidextrous (Question: Is there such a thing as ambisinister? Yes).

Handedness - how you hold a tool can completely change the way you work. Sometimes a left handed approach to cutting or paring can make a huge difference compared to moving a piece around and re-clamping it to work the same cut from a right handed position.

Much of my work is sculptural - I spend a lot of time with rasps and files to blend surfaces together. For example in blending the base and stem of this piece I consciously practice using my left hand to rasp and file the profile. I've found that over time I've got a lot more dextrous with left hand (that almost sounds like an oxymoron).

So I urge you to try using you left hand (or other hand) whenever you can. Recently I've been painting the windows in the new bench room and I've found it easier to switch hands than contort myself to always use my right hand. Similarly I found it much easier to switch hands to use the razor blade scraper to clean up the glass.

I find that I can use use light tools more easily in either hand but have a tough time using a cordless drill driver in my left hand. Guess I'll just have to row some more and build up my strength.

My father was left handed and always lamented that nobody else in the family was left handed (though my brother started out left handed) - so I imagine he's having a little chuckle now.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Roll up, Rollup!

The electrical contractors start work tomorrow and it looks like all the other tasks needed to complete the work before the school can be opened are under control. Well they're doing a perfect impression of being under control.

So we're going to open up registration. You can now sign up for any of the courses.

In this first term in our new home we are trying out variations on a course to give you the option of signing up for a week day or weekend version.

We want to know what works best for you. If you see a course that you want to take and the dates don't work for you - let us know and we'll ferret away that information and try to include your needs as we work on the schedule for the rest of the year.

If you would like a course that is not on offer - let us know. It may be in our plans for next term or we may like the idea enough to add it.

If you've looked closely at our class schedule you'll that this Spring's classes are all focussed on hand tools and small power tools. In April / May we'll get the second room in the Old Power House we add the big stationary power tools. But not too big - no three phase machine or top line professional tools - just the tools you'd expect in a single person furniture shop.

The one high end exception we hope to make is a SawStop table saw - we believe in being safe and providing you with the safest possible environment to learn woodworking.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Practice Makes Perfect. Sawing away!

We were having supper with our good friends Bertram, Bobbie and their daughter Madeline. Bertram is a wonderful musician and spends many hours a day practicing the Bandoneon (see his website). Bertram, as is his way, made the observation that musicians spend hours and years perfecting their art and that woodworkers seem to expect to get things right the first time.

I couldn't particularly disagree with him. We, woodworkers, want to make the project right the first time and tie ourselves in knots in the process. The more experienced (those with the most practice) are better able to get it right the first time - but even then every project can be an adventure.

I remind folks when learning to cut dovetails that sacrificing a 2x4 to improving your sawing skills is no bad thing. Every morning mark up ten straight lines and ten inclined lines. Crank the wood up in the vice and practice those 20 cuts. Repeat for a week. You'll be surprised how much easier it becomes!

When I was stuck in the bitmines (read software development) we were trying to apply metrics to the work we were doing. It taught me a simple lesson - you don't know if you're getting better unless you record and measure what you are doing. So at the end of the session mark your cuts on a scale of 1-10. A perfect 10 is when you split the line on all three sides of the 2x4. 1 is when you are way off the line and then cross it (you'll know what I mean). Tot up the score and keep track daily.

One of the things that beginners find hard to do is to relax when you are sawing. You have to relax and let the blade follow the line. If you try to force it, like a cat, it will wander away from the line.

I prefer to use Japanese handsaws for fine work like dovetails. The pull stroke tensions the blade and holds it straight. I also like to use the biggest set of muscles I can to do handwork. That may sound strange but there is a simple explanation.

When sawing I like to rock (there is a better way to say that but it escapes me now) backwards and forwards using my upper legs and then I can use my hands and arms for the fine control of the blade rather trying to control both the motion of my arms and hands!

There's a lot more to say about practice in woodworking and we'll share more in the classes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Yea!!!! Permits Approved!!!

We just got notification that our Conditional Use Permit and our Commercial Building Permit have been approved. There is still an appeal period on out Conditional Use Permit that will expire on March 3rd. However the only comment recieved by the City was one of support!

So we are continuing on plan to hold the Grand Opening on March 8th. We still need the gods of contractors to continue to smile benignly on us but the omens are looking good. We've invoked Anoia and she is guarding our drawers. The responsibility for bad jokes and pun(e)s on the website and in class are mine (All mine!!).

I'll be turning on registration for classes in the next day or so. Watch those mailboxes.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Meet us at the Port Angeles Woodworker's Club - Feb 7th 2008

We'll be giving a presentation on the Port Townsend School of Woodworking to the Port Angeles Woodworker's Club at their February meeting.

After the presentation on the school Jim Tolpin will give you an illustrated tour of his most recent project: A reproduction of an English Gypsy Caravan..

Time & Date: February 7th 2008 at 7:00pm
Where: The Fellowship Hall, Hillcrest Baptist Church on Black Diamond Rd, Port Angeles

View Larger Map

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Winter 2008 Course Schedule

I've just published our Spring 2008 course & event schedule. We're excited by the variety of courses we're offering. We want you to look the schedule over, salivate and mark you calendar.

We won't accept any registrations until we have out conditional use permit signed off by the City (we expect that to be around Feb 15th). It seems unethical to make any commitment before we know we can use the space. We'll keep to the courses in the later part of the schedule and reschsdule earlier courses if we miss our opening target date - that way you can have a fairly high level of certainty that the courses will happen in later part of the schedule.

In these early courses we're limiting many courses to the number of benches (8) that we'll have in the bench room. You'll get the benefit of a wonderful 4:1 staff student ratio! Later in the year will be adding more benches (until we reach out planned maximum of 12).

Many of the courses are offered on both a weekday and a weekend day. We recognize that many people work and want to learn more and that there are others who have the time to indulge new hobbies or want to hone their skills. Choose which works best for you.

We're also offering some week long basic woodworking courses. We strongly believe that full immersion in a topic is the best way to learn.

Our initial courses offerings are focussed on hand tools - both because we prefer them and (really) because we won't be adding stationary power tools (table saws etc) until we get the second room ready for use in early June.

Last year we got a lot of interest in our Introduction to Cabinet Making course. We've thought long and hard about the response to those courses and we've decided to teach a couple more Cabinet Making courses but with the focus on Cabinet Making in the home shop. These will emphasize how you can build cabinets without a table saw or other big stationary machines!

Most of our courses are aimed at folks new to woodworking or with some experience and wanting to learn more. We've added several courses aimed at the intermediate to advanced or the professional woodworker who wants to increase their repertoire of skills. We're bringing in some local master craftsmen to teach with us on these courses:
  • Seth Rolland on Bent and Curved Work in Furniture Making

  • Michael Hamilton on Vacuum Bags in Furniture Making
We think of our teaching mission with three main programs:
  • Furniture Making
  • Cabinet Making
  • "Preserving the Tradition". This is a kind of catchall program that will cover both the Native American Tradition of the area and the traditions that came with the Settlers and their Victorian descendants.
The first courses in the "Preserving the Tradition" will be taught by Jerry and Jeff Monson from the Jamestown S'Kallam tribe. Jerry and Jeff will teach "Making Traditional Carving Knives". We've sat down and talked with Jeff and Jerry and were blown away by the various tools they can make. I use some commercially made traditional style knives in my work and find them both easy and very precise to use. I'm really looking forward to learning how to make these knives. We're hoping that Jerry and Jeff will come back in the Summer and teach more courses from their tradition - they've mentioned drum making and carving! We're also talking to other folks there about more possible courses.

Port Townsend and Fort Worden have a rich Victorian / Edwardian heritage and many of the skills of those Victorian carpenters and furniture makers are slipping into obscurity. There are craftsmen, here in Port Townsend, who we are trying to pry out to teach those skills. We're penciled in a course on "Victorian Millwork and Finish Carpentry" - watch the site or this blog for updates.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Cottage Talk Aftermath

Seeing as how the talk on cottages at the County Library was a standing-room only affair, and that I was soon after deluged with requests for more information on cottage design and furnishings, I've realized that I should use the venue of the school to "feed the need". In the early Spring (or perhaps even sooner), we will therefore hold some seminars on cottage design, tentatively titled "Creating Cottage--Making your house into the home you've always longed to live in". We will also offer some hands-on workshops where students can learn to build cottage-style furnishings. Watch our schedule for these developments!

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jim Tolpin on Cottages 1/16/2008 6:30pm at Jefferson County Library

Catch our very own Jim Tolpin presenting " The Thing About Cottages: How to Create the Home You Long to Live In" at Jefferson County Library on Wednesday 16th January 2008 at 6:30pm.

Jefferson County Library: 620 Cedar Ave, Port Hadlock - (360) 385-6544

View Larger Map

We get a permanent home.....

We're busy working on our new permanent home. We've signed a memorandum of understanding with Fort Worden to use two rooms in the Old Power House (Building 315). This is a big solid building built of reinforced concrete (the walls are 18" thick) that used to contain the boilers and generators to power Fort Worden. The boilers and generators were stripped out a long time ago. Most recently the space has been used for storage and as the paint shop for the park.

There is a 1300 sq ft room that we intend to use as a benchroom / classroom. This is the room we get first. The other room is about 900 sq ft and this will be our machine shop - we expect to get this space later in the year.

We're about to submit a conditional use permit with the City of Port Townsend - this includes a public comment period - we hope to have it approved in 4-6 weeks. We're also applying for a building permit to make changes to the building - we're planning to add doors inside the big steel doors, add a dropped ceiling (to make the space warmer and a lot less noisy) and to bring the bathroom and access to the building up to ADA compliance.

We share the building with a recording studio so we'll also be working on minimizing sound and vibration transmission.

Our current guess is that we'll be open in early March to start teaching. Until we get the machine shop open the focus of our curriculum will be on working with hand tools and projects that can be done using portable power tools. We've outlined courses on making shaker benches, end tables, a course on cabinetmaking in a home shop and more. We're also talking to some folks from the Jamestown S'Klallam tribe about teaching carving knife making, carving and drum making courses. If you want to be notified when course schedule becomes available please sign up on our website.

Before I close this post I want to thank Kate Burke and Steve Shivley from Fort Worden for the terrific support and encouragement they have given us: giving us access the Old Power House and helping us through the partner review. We're proud to be the latest recruits to the Life Long Learning Centre at the Fort.

I also want to acknowledge the advice and support of Russ Hendricks (the Fort's Building Maintenance Manager) and his crew in helping us get the space ready