Learn a New (Old) Skill With Heritage Schools
Weekend workshops teach you the trades of our forebears
Thanks to a renewed interest in all things handcrafted, there's no shortage of workshops that teach the trades of our forebears. If the idea of a weekend trip spent perfecting dovetail joints or forging a set of fireplace tools sounds like heaven, keep reading.
Most workshops focus on specific areas, such as basic joinery, cabinetry, and furniture making. Courses range from the technique-based, like wood turning, to the project-based, where the goal is to finish a single piece, like a tall chest or a slant-top desk. You can find a class in just about every state. Three standouts:
Boston's North Bennet Street School offers a variety of workshops in everything from carpentry to cabinet and furniture making. Choose from weekend or five-day classes, such as the "Fundamentals of Fine Woodworking," "Introduction to Shutters," and "Sawhorse Workshop," in which you'll learn to build a pair of heavy-duty sawhorses. For a full course listing, visit nbss.edu/workshops.
Philadelphia's Furniture Workshop allows beginners and advanced students to study all manner of woodcraft. A sampling of possible classes includes "How to Make a Windsor Chair," "Woodturning for Beginners," and "How to Make a Philadelphia Tool Chest" for your prized hand tools. For more information, visit philadelphiafurnitureworkshop.com.
At Lonnie Bird's School of Fine Woodworking, in Dandridge, Tennessee, you can take a five-day course in woodworking essentials or one in which you build a piece of furniture, such as a classic tall chest or a slant-front desk. A nine-person maximum means you get plenty of personalized instruction. For the full list of classes, go to lonniebird.com.
Students interested in glassblowing can learn how to gather glass onto the rod, shape it, and add color. Beginners can make objects such as paperweights, while advanced students can try their hand at more challenging projects like stemware and goblets.
The Corning Museum of Glass, in the Finger Lakes region of New York, offers studio classes year-round in a variety of techniques for all levels. Courses range from beginner glassblowing to glass engraving to an introduction to Venetian techniques. For more weekend workshops, go to cmog.org.
At Seattle Glassblowing, weekend workshops are designed to give beginners a solid base of techniques in a short time span. Students produce objects such as paperweights, ornaments, cups, and bowls. If you have more time to invest, there are six-week sessions. For more information, visit seattleglassblowing.com.
Brooklyn Glass introduces students to the historic process of glassblowing, flameworking, and coldworking. Beginners can learn to make a paperweight or a mug in a weekend workshop or do an eight-week session. Visit brooklynglass.com for more info.
Whether you're interested in beginner bladesmithing, advanced sword making, or forging kitchen tools, look for single-digit class sizes. Among the top programs are:
The John C. Campbell Folk School blacksmith shop, in Brasstown, North Carolina, offers 12 forging stations and a large selection of tools. Basic, advanced, and specialty classes are offered year-round in one- and two-week courses as well as weekend options. For more info, go to folkschool.org.
The New England School of Metalwork, in Auburn, Maine, offers three- to five-day blacksmithing workshops in a variety of categories and from beginner to advanced levels. Past classes include "Architectural Connections," in which students learn how to make their own tools for joinery, and "Williamsburg Apprentice," where students make a variety of hooks, rings, kitchen utensils, and simple tools. For more info, go to newenglandschoolofmetalwork.com.
Touchstone Center for Crafts, in Farmington, Pennsylvania, offers three-day and five-day workshops to students of all levels. A sample of course topics includes "Beginning Blades," "All-in-One Garden Gate," and "Fire Tool Sets and Small Furniture Objects." For more information, visit touchstonecrafts.org.