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 and topics include:
- Basic Woodworking – introduces the furniture making sequence from drafting to assembly, and provides a solid foundation in hand tool skills for accurate layout and cutting of dovetail and mortise-and-tenon joinery, along with safe use of machinery for stock preparation. (2 weeks)
- Table and Drawer – students continue to develop their hand, machine, and joinery skills by designing and building a tapered-leg side table with a drawer. (2 weeks)
- Tool Cabinet – focuses more deeply on machine skills for furniture construction. Each student builds a tool cabinet that involves a myriad of machine-cut joints and shaping techniques using the table saw, router, slot mortiser, shaper, and other equipment. (3 weeks)
- CNC – introduces digital milling technology to the furniture making process and engages students in CNC programming and operation. (1 week)
- Finishing – covers coloring, working with hand-applied finishes such as varnish, shellac, and oil, and professional techniques for applying spray lacquers. (1 week)
- Drawing for Design – students improve their abilities to sketch, develop designs, and create rendered perspective drawings with both pencil on paper and CAD. (1 week)
- Casepiece Construction – each student designs and builds a casepiece with a door and a drawer, employing both hand and machine skills. Work is done primarily in solid wood, while shop-sawn veneer and manufactured substrates are also introduced. (6 weeks)
- Turning – students learn spindle, faceplate, and end-grain turning techniques for making furniture components, such as legs and pulls, plus items such as bowls and platters. (1 week)
- Veneering & Marquetry – introduces the use of veneer for casework and decorative applications. (1 week)
- Curvature – students explore steam and laminate bending, as well as other curve-forming techniques. Each student designs and builds a table with curved components. (5 weeks)
- Carving – students learn incised, relief, and applied carving techniques applicable to furniture and architectural ornament. (1 week)
- Product Development – the assignment is to design and produce a multiple object within a set price range. This emphasizes real-world concerns such as speed, efficiency, and marketing. (5 weeks)
- Chair Making – each student pursues an extensive design process to create a prototype chair. (6 weeks)
In addition to the Product Development project, which focuses on efficient production and marketable design, attention is given to Professional Practices through in-person and virtual field trips to furniture makers in Maine and around the world to discuss marketing, pricing, and other aspects of their businesses, and business talks with visiting instructors and Messler Gallery exhibitors.
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.
Some 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 are pursuing careers in furniture making, cabinetry, millwork, boatbuilding, and other aspects of fine woodworking. To see a listing of alumni, including professions and websites, click here.
The Lead Instructor for 2024-25 is Aled Lewis. 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 websites which you can visit for more extensive views of their work.
See the list of instructors here.
In the admissions process we look for people who are exceptionally self-motivated, get along well with others in a shared work environment, and have demonstrated woodworking and joinery experience upon which to build.
To apply, please submit the following items through the application button below by March 1, 2024.
- 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 resumé
Notification will be sent by March 15. After March 1, applications will be reviewed for acceptance as they arrive.