Monday, January 7, 2013

[School] And So it Begins

Day one of the Foundation Course at the Port Townsend School of Woodworking. I'm tired. It was great. Here is a little more detail:

When I last posted, I was wondering about moving my tool chest. It all went well. I did get a little paranoid and stuffed some shop rags into the tills, and nailed them into place. It seems to have worked. My shop is now unloaded, but not unboxed. It will be some time until I have the new one up and running (the space needs some electrical work among other things), but that is no problem since I have access to the school's shop and frankly will have almost no time for anything at home for the duration of the course.

image courtesy of

Sadly I do not have a camera unpacked yet, but I hope to remedy that soon. So for this one you will have to use your imagination.

When we arrived at the school, a 30" diameter Douglas fir log was waiting for us in the yard. We rolled it around using peavies (long spikes with hinged jaws at the end), used a 2-man (or woman) saw to remove a sizable chunk of it which we then turned on end, and took turns driving wedges into it with sledges. This created some large "pizza slices" as they were called. We then used froes and mallets to divide these slices into smaller bits, almost but not really rectangular. The goal was to make legs and stretchers for stools.

We did have introductions and orientations first. It seems to be a great crew, diverse in ages and skill level. As Woodworking in America seemed almost exclusively attended by 55+ white males, it is refreshing to have a handful of women and rather young participants overall in this course. One of them is a bit famous (far outside of the woodworking world), but I will leave that a mystery for now.

Teamwork was instantly important as we swung heavy sledgehammers and mallets near each others heads and hands, and very important with the 2-person sawing operations. We then had some time to work with drawknives and spokeshaves at our benches, which also took some co-operation as the long legs reached out of our own personal workspaces and into the territory of those behind us.

We also did a bit od crosscutting of fir planks to create boards to make the stool seats from, and some nifty geometry via dividers to create the layout lines for the leg tenons and then used an enormous auger to drill the holes. This was a 2-person job since a crufe gauge was needed to drill at an angle to accommodate the splayed legs.

I am a bit surprised at how physically taxing it all was. I've been packing, loading, unloading, and unpacking for what seems like weeks now; carrying heavy furniture, loading all my tools into various containers, driving without rest, all while managing a small menagerie of animals and a little kid. I've felt so physically tired that I thought I was "in shape" but the class today was demanding! I cannot say the same of the bike commute. Although it has steep hills, it is nothing compared to the rides into town I was used to. I believe my jaunt this morning took about 7 minutes, the leisurely ride home perhaps twice that. At any rate, I will try to update regularly here with reports from the frontlines of the program, along with juicy photos of enthusiastic fledgeling woodworkers doing their thing in a paradisical setting, but for now I need to focus on a glass of wine courtesy of the supportive wife and try to get that kid into bed for some well-needed rest for all of us. More soon, and I daresay it will get good.


  1. Wow. What an experience. I am sitting here at a cubicle surrounded by 1200 others. Wishing that I could have that experience. I'm hoping you have the time to keep posting (and with pictures) so office-goers like me can live vicariously through you!

  2. I enjoyed Dianne Roberts's blog when she took the same class (another a bit famous person outside of woodworking. Famous, if you climb) I look forward to following your adventures and hope to see you sometime there. We are often there for classes and just enjoying Port Townsend.

  3. I'm glad to hear your first day went well Rob! Looking forward to hearing more about it.

  4. Rob,

    I like how you actually started at the beginning for the Foundation Course. Working with big pieces of wood is certainly a lot of work!


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