Principles of Woodworking

Instructor: John Manthei


This is an ongoing program in which we explore all aspects of woodworking from the most elementary to extremely complex. The idea is to try out tools and techniques of all kinds and begin to develop proficiency in many of these. Each project will involve design, planning and layout. We will work with both hand and power tools and cover all kinds of joinery. We will study the physical properties of wood and begin to intuit how these properties relate to our projects and tool use. We will also cover many of the manufactured products used in furniture and cabinet making such as plys and composites, hardware, glues and finishes.



This program is designed around the individual and students can join in at any time. The student and instructor jointly develop a unique curriculum. Projects will be chosen that push the limits of our experience while building confidence. The nature and complexity of these projects will depend on prior experience and personal goals for the course.

In addition to instructional time/guided work we are offering two opportunities to work on your own in the school shop.

Option 1: Open shop during regular class time. This option is available to any Folk School member enrolled in Principles of Woodworking and it provides an opportunity to work independently on projects or skill building at half the regular class cost. Students receiving instruction will have priority for space and equipment so open shop folks will have to be flexible.

Option 2: Open shop during hours when the shop is not in use. This option is made available to Folk School members that have completed at least one 5 session unit of Principles of Woodworking or equivalent, have undergone a complete operation and safety check for all equipment, and have the approval of the instructor. This option carries a heavier burden of responsibility for the facility and the privilege can be revoked by The Folk School at any time. The rate for this privilege is $12 per hour and an 8 hour punch card for $96 must be purchased ahead of time. Visit our Open Shop page for details.

*Note: Though you may join this class at any time, please register at least one week before you would like to begin. This will give the instructor a chance to contact you and begin the process of developing your individualized curriculum. Please contact the instructor at with any questions.



We started this program in January of 2015 exploring physical characteristics of wood, learning terms that allow us to talk about wood as it pertains to woodworking and design, and discussing joinery and how that relates to wood morphology. We then moved into the Shop and this is what we’ve been up to:

  • First we made marking gauges which exposed us to layout challenges, simple mortise, tapered mortise and tusk tennon.
  • We then used our marking gauges to help layout simple dovetails – learning to both saw and chisel to a line was a big part of this exercise.
  • At this point we tackled a simple dovetailed box with floating bottom which brought into play hand planes, grooves, rabbits and assembly.
  • Next we built a simple joiners bench complete with vise and tool well. The bench project exposed us to mortise and wedged tennons, bigger dovetails, splines and biscuit joinery, grooves and floating panels, edge gluing and assembly, continuing to refine flattening, dimensioning and squaring stock.
  • We even visited a commercial custom cabinet shop to see how the “Big Guys” do it.
  • Since that beginning we have done some steam bending, bent laminations, turning, made furniture, restored old furniture, made cabinets, a door for a boat, learned to make threads on wood, did some chip carving, made some rustic furniture and began to experience the challenges of joinery with unusual shapes, made new friends and had a lot of fun.



Principles of Woodworking runs 3 days a week from October – December and then January – May. Class times are Mondays from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm; and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 pm – 9:00 pm.

Check the class calendar for class listings and registration information.

*Note: We are always open to adjusting the schedule to better meet the needs of our students.

Cost: Students buy 5 sessions at a time for $225 (member price); $338 (non-member price), in advance of starting the program.



Principles of Woodworking” is for ages 16 and older. For youth woodworking courses please see “Woodworking for Kids” under “Programs”, or visit the class calendar.

It is never too late to sign up for this series as it is taught on an individual rotation basis. If you are interested in participating, please go to one of the class listings on the calendar and fill out the registration form or contact John Manthei at 457-1219 or