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The Essentials of Fine Woodworking

Building a dovetailed utility box with a focus on traditional hand skills.

Tuition: $900

Materials: $110

Note: This is a six-day course ending Saturday afternoon. Previous woodworking experience is required.


There are as many approaches to designing and making boating projects as there are woodworkers. In this six-day course with woodworker and furnituremaker Mark Whitcomb, students will learn the intricacies of fine joinerwork in a project that will combine elegance with utility.

Mark will present students with an array of four projects to choose from; a sample of each will be on hand. Each student will choose the design they want to build and the types of woods they’ll incorporate into the piece (pine, cherry, walnut, and mahogany). The project will incorporate hand-cut dovetails and other types of essential woodworking joints.

Mark will first introduce students to the components of designing and laying out the project. He’ll then move on to wood selection, coping with wood movement, types of joints, and the correct procedures for gluing up material. Mark will also offer extensive instruction in the sharpening, tuning, and use of planes, chisels, and other tools.

joinerwork photo

Mark will also discuss finishing, although time may not allow for any applications of oils, varnishes, or paint during the course.

During the week, students will practice the step-by-step process of cutting dovetails by hand and crafting the parts of the design they’ve chosen. Practice is the most essential component to mastering craftsmanship. In this course you’ll learn from your mistakes and successes, and, above all, learn from your hands.

It will be a very informative week with a very talented craftsman that everyone, even longtime woodworkers, will find enjoyable. And at week’s end, each student will take home a beautiful, handcrafted piece that will last a lifetime.

I have come to WoodenBoat School for 8 years, largely because of the consistent excellence of the course offerings. Mark Whitcomb, instructor for ESSENTIALS OF FINE WOODWORKING, is excellent and one of the very best instructors I’ve had at the school.”
B.T., Bremen, Maine
Mark Whitcomb provided excellent instruction and technical expertise. He conducted the ESSENTIALS OF FINE WOODWORKING course in a friendly and informal, easy to follow manner. Mark made it a very enjoyable and fulfilling experience.”
B.B., Pittsfield, Massachusetts