Putting Old Methods to New Uses

April 21, 2010

Shaker Museum and North Bennet Street School to teach traditional woodworking skills to fans of historic properties

New Lebanon, NY (April 21 2010) – For the second summer, Boston’s acclaimed North Bennet Street School will team up with the Shaker Museum and Library, this time to offer three two-week training courses in traditional woodworking and carpentry skills at the museum’s North Family at Mount Lebanon Shaker Village site.

The expanded series of hands-on courses bolsters a unique partnership the institutions launched last summer with a two-part pilot program: the Village hosted four summer interns from the school’s preservation carpentry department, and a course for local preservation enthusiasts on traditional timber frame construction.

Both aspects of the partnership will be repeated this year, thanks in part to continuing financial support from The 1772 Foundation and The World Monuments Fund.

The 2010 courses are for anyone interested in acquiring a foundation of time-honored hand skills that they can immediately put to use. These include people advancing their careers in historic preservation, people interested in fine woodworking as hobby or second career, and owners of historic homes and barns.

The upcoming courses are:

June 14 – 24: Fundamentals of Fine Woodworking. The course covers the basic skills needed for any fine woodworking project – use and care of basic hand tools, characteristics of wood and wood movements, laying out and cutting dovetails, and mortise and tenon joinery. Traditional furniture making and cabinetmaking techniques will be emphasized. Classes are held Monday through Thursday, 8am to 6pm for two weeks. Course fee is $1,150, plus the cost of tools if needed. On-site housing is available for an additional fee.

July 12 – 22: Historic Window Sash Restoration. Learn the techniques and recipes for rejuvenating tired, worn out windows. Topics include assessing the condition of the sash, determining proper tools, safe techniques for paint stripping and repainting, glass cutting and tool glazing. Students may bring their own sash to work on, or use a sash from one of the museum’s buildings. Classes are held Monday through Thursday, 8am to 6pm for two weeks. Course fee is $1,100, plus the cost of tools if needed. On-site housing is available for an additional fee.

August 2 – 12: Historic Timber Frame Construction and Restoration. Learn about the layout and construction of historic timber frames made popular in 18th century barns and dwellings. During the first week, students will construct a timber frame structure using traditional joinery and tools. In the second week, students will apply their skills to the ongoing restoration of an actual historic structure, the Shaker Brethren’s Workshop. Classes are held Monday through Thursday, 8am to 6pm for two weeks. Course fee is $1,100. On-site housing is available for an additional fee.

North Bennet Street School, which marks its 125th anniversary this year, is one of the few institutions in the country that offers a two-year training program in preservation carpentry.

While at the Shaker Village site, the school’s interns will work closely with crews from the Stockbridge, MA construction firm of David E. Lanoue, Inc. The company specializes in the preservation and restoration of traditional architecture and has been leading the recent restoration of the North Family Brethren’s Workshop and 1838 Granary building here.

“Finding historic structures to work on is often difficult,” said the school’s president, Miguel Gomez-Ibanez. “So we welcome the opportunity to send our students there to be trained on old buildings in need of repair. We also appreciate using the village as a place to teach local homeowners and preservationists in traditional hand skills.”

The museum welcomes the opportunity, too. With the closing of its Old Chatham site last year, the museum has been slowly transitioning to the New Lebanon campus. All of the site’s eleven structures need repair, and the work must be accomplished in a manner that preserves their historic nature.

“Our goals are to improve the level of historic preservation trades training in the area, to honor the Shaker North Family story by preserving the buildings of that era, and to help the local community connect to our new location,” said David Stocks, president of Shaker Museum and Library.

For more information about the courses, contact North Bennet Street School, 617-227-0155, continuingeducation@nbss.edu, or Geoff Miller at the Shaker Museum and Library, 518-794-9100 x 220.