Preservation Carpentry Curriculum

The Preservation Carpentry Program was begun in 1986 in response to the preservation community鈥檚 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鈥檒l 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鈥檒l gain an understanding of how current technology compares to traditional techniques. You鈥檒l 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鈥檚 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鈥檚 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.

  1. Math review
  2. Introduction to architectural drawing
    • Scales
    • Plans
    • Elevations
    • Sections
    • Details
  3. Hand tools
    • Identification
    • Use
    • Care
    • Sharpening
  4. Measurement
    • Linear
    • Area
    • Volume
    • Board footage, etc.
    • Introduction to estimating materials
  5. Safety
    • Shop
    • Job site
    • Chemical
    • Electrical
  6. Scaffolds and ladders
  7. Building code
  8. Traditional woodworking practices
  9. Portable power tools
  10. Stationary power tools
    • Use
    • Care
    • Safety of basic milling machines
  11. 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
  12. Framing square
  13. Timber frames: large scale joinery
  14. Preservation topics
    • Moldings
    • Orders
    • Architectural styles
  15. Periodic field trips to such sites as a sawmill, other work places and appropriate museums
  16. 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.

  1. Preservation philosophies and practices
  2. Field drawings and documentation of historic buildings
  3. Photo-documentation
  4. Design drawings and full-sized layouts
  5. Geometry
    • Layout practices
  6. Framing square review
  7. Advanced roof models
  8. Safety and hazards at historic work sites
  9. Building code issues for historic structures; ADA issues
  10. Stabilization of structures
  11. Protection of fabric
  12. Historic woodworking practices
  13. Historic timber frames and common repairs
  14. Specifying and estimating materials for preservation projects
  15. Historic millwork
    • Doors
    • Windows
    • Moldings
  16. Moldings
    • Profile types
    • Hand planes
    • Table saw techniques
    • Raking molds
  17. Flat wall plaster
  18. Masonry practices
    • Use of lime based products
  19. Historic hardware and glass
  20. Historic painted finishes
  21. Pests
    • Insects
    • Rodents
    • Fungal decay
  22. Epoxies and other contemporary treatments
  23. Cyclical maintenance
  24. Current preservation issues
  25. Most site projects will take place at local historic house museums
  26. Periodic field trips to other sites
  27. Resume and portfolio preparation
  28. 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
  • 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 , a lumber mill in Williamsburg, MA
  • Trip to in Saugus, MA


Contact Rob O’Dwyer, Director of Admissions, at 617-227-0155 x111 or聽