September 7, 2015 – May 27, 2016
The Nine-month Comprehensive is designed for aspiring professional furniture makers and dedicated amateurs who seek in-depth training at the highest standard of excellence. The hands-on, project-oriented format includes the full range of furniture making skills. Sequential projects take students from the fundamentals through the fine points of design and craftsmanship.
The projects, in order, are:
Our Basic Woodworking curriculum, which introduces the full furniture making process from drafting to finishing, and gives students a solid foundation in hand joinery skills and safe use of machines for stock preparation. (3 weeks)
Hand-applied Finishing, which covers all aspects of grain filling, coloring, and working with varnish, shellac, and oil. (1 week)
Machine joinery, which explores the use of power tools in the construction process. Each student builds a tool cabinet that involves a myriad of machine cut joints and shaping techniques using the table saw, router, router table, slot mortiser, shaper, and other equipment. (3 weeks)
Casepiece construction, in which each student designs and builds a solid-wood casepiece with a door and a drawer, employing both hand and machine skills. (7 weeks)
Veneering, where students learn to work with veneer and inlay by making tabletops. (1 week)
Marquetry, which introduces the decorative use of veneer to create images and patterns. (1 week)
Curves, in which students explore steam and laminate bending, as well as other curve-forming techniques. Each student designs and builds a project with curved components. (5 weeks)
Turning, where students learn spindle work for making furniture components and faceplate turning for making ornaments, bowls, and platters. (1 week)
Spray Finishing, in which students build upon the earlier finishing class to learn professional techniques for applying spray lacquers. (1 week)
CAD, during which students learn to integrate computer-aided design, along with sketching and model-making, into an effective, overall design process. (1 week)
Multiples, for which the assignment is to design, make, and sell a multiple object within a set price range. This emphasizes real-world concerns such as speed, efficiency, and marketing. (5 weeks)
Carving, where students learn relief carving and other techniques suitable for furniture and architectural ornamentation. (1 week)
Chair Making, in which each student pursues an extensive design process to create a prototype chair. (8 weeks)
Additional time is set aside for sessions with guest instructors on specialized topics such as:
Drawing, in which students improve their abilities to sketch, develop designs, and create rendered perspective drawings with pencil on paper.
Business Practices, which we address in numerous ways:
- field trips to professional furniture makers around the state to learn about marketing, pricing, and other aspects of their businesses;
- the Multiples Project, which focuses on efficient production and marketable design;
- discussions with visiting faculty about their professional histories and practices; and
- seminars with professional consultants about the ins and outs of starting a small business.
Comprehensive participants gain exhibition experience with a five-week show in our Messler Gallery, starting in mid-April. This is a good opportunity to learn professional exhibition practice firsthand. To see work from previous student shows, please visit:
We teach furniture making for the joy, growth, and satisfaction it brings, whether you are pursuing it professionally or as an avocation. We expect students to graduate with the confidence and skill to design and build fine furniture on their own, and to be qualified for employment by other fine furniture makers.
The audience for the Nine-month Comprehensive includes: (1) college-age people who want to become professional furniture makers; (2) people of any age who are exploring woodworking as a potentially more fulfilling, second career; and (3) individuals of all ages who want to learn furniture making as a life-enhancing skill.
Many of our students come with the dream of self-employment as fine furniture makers in one-person shops. In all fairness we advise applicants that, while the rewards of such a career are many, it is a challenging way to make a living.
Graduates of the Nine-month Comprehensive go on to careers in furniture making, cabinetry, architectural woodworking, and other aspects of fine woodworking such as yacht interiors. Approximately 85% of alumni (since the first class graduated in 2005) are actively engaged in woodworking as a profession. The majority are self-employed as furniture makers, although most of them also take in cabinetry and millwork jobs to make ends meet. Others have chosen to work at furniture, cabinet, millwork, and boatbuilding companies before striking out on their own. To see a listing of alumni, including professions and web sites, click here.
The Lead Instructor for the course is Aled Lewis. You can see Fine Woodworking's video about Aled here. For each project, Aled is joined by a co-teacher who specializes in the relevant skills. The following list is subject to change. Most of the instructors have web sites which you can visit for more extensive views of their work. See list of instructors here.
The only prerequisite is that applicants have enough prior woodworking experience to be sure that they can sustain their commitment to a nine-month course.
To apply please submit the following:
- A letter explaining your interest in furniture making and your goals
- Up to eight digital images of any woodworking or other artwork you have done previously
- Names and telephone numbers of three character references such as teachers, employers, and business associates
- Your resume
For priority consideration, applications should be e-mailed by March 1, 2015 to firstname.lastname@example.org. Notification will be sent by March 15. After March 1, applications will be reviewed for acceptance as space permits.
Open to all except absolute beginners.
Enrollment limited to 12.