Preservation Carpentry Curriculum
The Preservation Carpentry Program was begun in 1986 in response to the preservation community’s need for trained carpenters to work for museums and specialist preservation contractors.
Since then, the program has flourished and graduates are working as preservation carpenters throughout the United States. The two-year training is the only full-time, hands-on program in the United States.
The two-year program combines an introduction to contemporary residential construction with a foundation in pre-20th century New England home construction. You’ll learn a broad range of construction methods, including stabilizing endangered buildings, preserving architectural details, and recreating historical design elements. Through lectures, hands-on projects, and collaborative field work, you’ll gain an understanding of how current technology compares to traditional techniques. You’ll graduate with the skills needed to work with contractors and institutions specializing in preservation work, including historical millwork and interior finish carpentry.
The program space includes first and second year bench rooms, where each student is assigned a bench and work space, and a central machine room. New England’s rich historical legacy of pre-20th century buildings provides exceptional field projects. Such site work is often done in collaboration with non-profit museums and historical sites.
Students begin their first year at the woodworking bench. This approach helps develop traditional hand-tool skills and the habits necessary for work in the field. The program’s facilities offer a fully-equipped shop and individual bench spaces. Projects are designed to help the student practice traditional skills and challenge their individual abilities.
- Math review
- Introduction to architectural drawing
- Hand tools
- Board footage, etc.
- Introduction to estimating materials
- Job site
- Scaffolds and ladders
- Building code
- Traditional woodworking practices
- Portable power tools
- Stationary power tools
- Safety of basic milling machines
- Contemporary construction:
- Stick frames
- Balloon and platform styles
- O.C. layouts of floors, walls, and roofs
- Door and window openings
- Exterior finishes: trim and siding
- Roofing: asphalt, wood, slate
- Stick frames
- Framing square
- Timber frames: large scale joinery
- Preservation topics
- Architectural styles
- Periodic field trips to such sites as a sawmill, other work places and appropriate museums
- Summer employment counseling
The summer between the first and second year program is a time for students to use skills learned during the year in a work environment, either with a preservation contractor or in a museum setting. Each year, the school receives many requests for interns to work with local and national organizations. In addition to internships, we also recommend contractors as a source of good experience and income.
The second year is shaped somewhat different from the first. The emphasis is on working directly with historic material using current preservation and conservation practices. The projects undertaken are generally at historic sites and range from short-term single-goal group projects to more comprehensive and independent efforts by individuals or smaller groups. Students should be able to provide their own transportation to onsite work.
- Preservation philosophies and practices
- Field drawings and documentation of historic buildings
- Design drawings and full-sized layouts
- Layout practices
- Framing square review
- Advanced roof models
- Safety and hazards at historic work sites
- Building code issues for historic structures; ADA issues
- Stabilization of structures
- Protection of fabric
- Historic woodworking practices
- Historic timber frames and common repairs
- Specifying and estimating materials for preservation projects
- Historic millwork
- Profile types
- Hand planes
- Table saw techniques
- Raking molds
- Flat wall plaster
- Masonry practices
- Use of lime based products
- Historic hardware and glass
- Historic painted finishes
- Fungal decay
- Epoxies and other contemporary treatments
- Cyclical maintenance
- Current preservation issues
- Most site projects will take place at local historic house museums
- Periodic field trips to other sites
- Resume and portfolio preparation
- Employment counseling
Each selected project is the demonstration of a particular part of the curriculum. We strive to find projects that meet the curricular guidelines. Because each project is unique, we rarely repeat them.
As a non-profit organization, we generally find work with other non-profit organizations such as museums, municipalities, historical societies, and other preservation organizations in the New England area. We often partner with other preservation professionals and share their expertise with students. As a result, graduating students have developed an impressive school resume that includes experience with local and nationally recognized historic sites.
The curriculum each year includes guest speakers who provide hands-on lectures and demonstrations, as well as off site field trips, in addition to frequent offsite class projects. Past speakers and trips have included:
- Lectures on building code, OSHA, and lead abatement
- Preservation timber framing with Aaron Sturgis
- Paint analysis with Sara Chase, preservation consultant
- Paint and dendrochronology lectures with Brian Powell
- Janet Kane, structural engineer
- Visit from Helco Safety Gear
- Machine maintenance
- Wood turning with guest instructor
- Architectural walking tours in Cambridge and Salem, MA
- Trip to Lashway Lumber, a lumber mill in Williamsburg, MA
- Trip to Saugus Iron Works in Saugus, MA
Contact Rob O’Dwyer, Director of Admissions, at 617-227-0155 x111 or firstname.lastname@example.org.