Why Women’s Carpentry?

This class is intended to respond to that need. It will get women and non-binary folks up-to-speed on basic carpentry skills, including working with wood, planning and designing simple projects, and using hand and power tools safely and effectively. 

There is a special magic that happens when we create a space to learn carpentry without any macho energy. One of our male teachers said it best, “There is a total lack of competition, and this makes for a place where learning can happen in a very different way.”

This class is open to all women (including trans) and non-binary folks.

If you’re a trans man and would feel more comfortable in this class, you’re also welcome.

line drawing of fabulous woman carpenter

Focus is placed on creating a safe, comfortable, relaxed and fun learning environment in which students with beginning to intermediate skill levels can thrive. Our goal in this basic carpentry course is to help each student learn, rather than to progress projects at a fast pace.


This class is truly about the basics of carpentry.

It’s about learning to use tools and getting comfortable with them by working on some large and small projects.

No prior experience is required.

Student and instructor pose during women's basic carpentry course

That said, if you have experience but don’t have a mastery over safe and ergonomic use of the table saw, chop saw, circular saw, and hand tools, this is also the class for you. If you’re interested in bigger projects, especially structural building, we offer an Advanced Women’s Carpentry Class and an All Genders Advanced Class for graduates of the basic class. In the advanced class, students learn to build a basic shed or small pole barn. Anyone who has completed the basic carpentry class will be well prepared for the advanced class. Plus, when you sign up for this more advanced class at the same time as the basic class, you get a discount!

Another building class option, if you really want to dive in deeply, is our Tiny House Building Class. This is appropriate for graduates of just the basics class, or basics + advanced. If you’re planning to take a series, we recommend starting with basics, then moving on to either advanced or tiny house building, or taking all three. It doesn’t make sense to take the basics class after the tiny house class. 


Prepare to tame those mythical beasts (power tools) and make them part of your building repertoire.

woman using a chop saw in a carpentry class


What to Expect: Learn Basic Carpentry Skills

woman with safety glasses using a carpenter's pencil to mark on wood

During this four-day course, we will cover basic carpentry skills through lectures, demonstrations, and lots of hands-on practice. 

Topics covered include:

  • Safe and effective tool use (including hand and power tools)
  • Choosing the right tools for different kinds of jobs
  • Accurate measuring and cutting
  • Hands-on tool practice in a group project setting
  • Small project design and planning
  • Lumber (wood) selection and purchasing
  • Implementation of your own project

This wealth of information will be specifically tailored for women’s learning styles and women’s bodies. There will be ample time to dialogue with instructors and get clear about the subject matter. We firmly believe that there are no “dumb questions.”


Carpentry Class Schedule and Timing

women's carpentry students using a speed square for marking a straight line on a board

Thursday 9:30am-12:30pm and 1:30pm-5:30pm

Friday 9:30am-1:30pm and 3:00pm-5:00pm

Saturday 9:30am-12:00pm and 1:00pm-5:30pm

Sunday 9:30am-1:00pm and 2:00pm-4:30pm*

Please note: Some classes will have slight changes in the schedule due to weather, the needs of the projects, and the desires of the group. Some students choose to come early on Sunday to start their personal projects.

* Class ends by 4:30pm on Sunday, and students may leave whenever they finish their personal projects on this day. During our lunch break on Sunday we hold a closing circle, which we encourage everyone to stay for, if they’re able.


Day 1: Tools, Tools, Tools

Student works on toolbox project during women's basic carpentry class

And women’s empowerment!

Our theme of day one is women’s empowerment. To begin, we’ll have an orientation and overview of the class. Then we’ll move into the bulk of the day: tools! We’ll cover tool choices, their ergonomic use, and safety. Each tool will be introduced and demonstrated in detail, then you’ll get a chance to try it yourself (with plenty of guidance and support). When we cover the more intimidating power tools, the class will break up into three groups, so each person can get personalized attention. Whether you’re building a birdhouse, bathroom shelves, a bike shed or a log cabin, having the right tools, and using them properly, makes all the difference. 

Tools we’ll cover on day one include:

  • Circular saw
  • Carpenter’s pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Speed square
  • Safety equipment
  • Table saw
  • Miter saw (sometimes called a chop saw) and sliding miter saw

Day 2: More Tools, Project Design, and a Field Trip

Three women smile and pose with arms around each other at lumber yard

Explore more tools, plan out your personal project, and learn to navigate a lumber yard.

On day two, we’ll get our hands on more tools, learning safe and proper use of:

  • Drills for making holes in wood
  • Impact drivers for driving screws *This is always a class favorite… women seem to love screwing around*
  • Bits for the above-mentioned tools, each of which are quite different

Your Personal Project

Woman poses excitedly with her final shelf project after women's basic carpentry class

On day two, you’ll also choose and design your own small personal project (to be built on day four). Of course, you’ll get plenty of support and guidance from the instructors. In order to ensure optimal learning of various techniques and every student’s success within the timeframe of class, we limit personal project options. We offer a selection of simple objects to build, which we call “learning projects.” You can choose to build a tool caddy, a small shelf (fits well into carry-on baggage), or a birdhouse.

After lunch, we’ll head to the lumber yard to pick out materials for everyone’s personal projects. While we’re there, we’ll explore lumber selection. Before our field trip, we’ll discuss what kinds of wood are appropriate for different projects, and go over screws and other fasteners and their application. Equipped with this knowledge, everyone will buy what they need for their personal projects, which we’ll tackle on day four.


Day 3: Tools Finale, Plus Hands-on Carpentry Practice

Woman uses drill to attach board during women's basic carpentry class

On day three, we’ll have our third and final tools class. This time we’ll cover:

  • Levels
  • Chalk lines
  • Hammers
  • Hand saws

Next, for three hours, we’ll work in small groups on simple, real-world projects. Some of these will be on Wild Abundance infrastructure, while others may be for neighbors, community members, or local non-profits. We won’t be trying to get a whole lot accomplished on these projects, but instead will focus on starting to master tools that have been covered so far in the class. Many students tell us that this is the most valuable part of class. Indeed, it’s a way to get tool use into your muscle memory. That way, when you go home you’ll have a feeling of familiarity with the tools; you’ll know them, rather than just know about them. 

These projects vary, based on our infrastructure and community needs at the time of class. However, they’re always something real; you won’t just be cutting and screwing scrap wood, you’ll be contributing to building something. We choose group projects so that students get an opportunity to practice the basic carpentry skills that are the foundation of this class.

closeup of hands pushing a board through a table saw

Some examples of group projects that we have worked on in the past:

  • Siding or sheathing on a building
  • Deck
  • Small bridge
  • Picnic table
  • Children’s play structure
  • Fence
  • Shelves

During group project work, students will practice measuring, making cuts, using levels and speed squares, and fastening boards. Beyond the basic use of tools, we’ll also practice working together and getting our hands, minds, and bodies in the groove of doing serious carpentry. These projects are invaluable for getting the basics of carpentry deep into your bones. It’s one thing to learn about tools, it’s something quite different to get proficient with them, and that’s just what students will do during these group projects.


Day 4: Your Own Woodworking Project

Student shows off toolbox built during women's basic carpentry course

Build your very own rough and simple masterpiece

On day four, everyone will get to measure out, cut the pieces for, assemble, and complete (time permitting) a woodworking project of their very own—with lots of support, if they want it!  To do this, we’ll reference the designs we solidified on day two, and utilize the materials we purchased at the lumber yard and then cut on day three. Throughout the process, instructors will circulate to answer questions, provide guidance, and avert disaster. Students will work semi-independently, making use of all the skills and confidence they’ve been building over the past three days.

Note on Day Four End Time:

We’ll close up the wood shop at 4:30pm (earlier than days 1-3). Individuals will be done with the class when they complete their personal projects (usually between 3:30 and 4:30). If you have time constraints, we advise you to choose a simple project like a small shelf.


Enjoy our beautiful outdoor woodshop near Asheville, NC

outdoor woodshop at Wild Abundance

The Women’s Basic Carpentry class “woodshop” is one of the lovely Wild Abundance campuses. During the class, we work in several covered areas amidst gorgeous mountain views, native plants, and a bustling land-based living school. There, students can use tools and work on projects with fresh air and direct connection to the natural elements. As a result, many folks who come to learn carpentry also get excited about the other things we do here, like permaculture and gardening. Additionally, getting to learn and work in this simple, outdoor woodshop can be very inspiring; you don’t need a fancy, dedicated space in order to use tools and build beautiful things! Please note: class happens mostly outdoors (under cover), rain or shine, whatever the temperature.


You’re just a weekend woodworking class away from building your ideas into reality

You might be asking yourself, can I really learn to use power tools and build things on my own in a weekend woodworking class? And we’re here to tell you that, yes, it’s absolutely possible! In one long weekend, you can get comfortable with tools, understand how to work with wood, and learn how to plan out and design your own simple carpentry projects. We’ve seen it happen time and again, with hundreds of satisfied students. 

We’ve offered this class over 40 times, and with every session we receive and integrate feedback from our students and teachers. That means, over many years of care and commitment to serving students in the best way possible, we’ve been able to create a structure that is optimal for learning. We are continually blown away by the progress our students make in just four days!

Of course, people spend lifetimes perfecting their woodworking skills, especially those who build houses or do fine finish work like cabinetry or furniture making. It’s not realistic to learn to do these high-level kinds of projects in a long weekend workshop. However, you can take the first steps that every carpenter and fine woodworker once took. And you’ll leave with the ability to turn your basic ideas into reality, right away. 

Woman poses with shelf she built during women's basic carpentry class


Frequently Asked Questions about Women’s Basic Carpentry

What tools will I learn how to use in this carpentry class?

In this basic carpentry class, you’ll learn how to properly and safely use the following tools:

  • Hammer
  • Circular saw
  • Table saw
  • Chop saw/miter saw
  • Impact driver
  • Drill
  • Carpenter’s pencil
  • Measuring tape
  • Speed square
  • Chalk line
  • Level
  • Hand saw
Spoiler title

This is a basics class, but it also covers more advanced power tools, as well as the proper ways to measure and design. If you have some basic skills, but don’t feel totally confident in your technique or comfortable using bigger power tools, you’ll still get a lot out of this class. Consider combining the basic class with our Advanced Women’s Carpentry Class, All Genders Advanced Carpentry Class or Tiny House Workshop if you want to really strengthen your structural building skills. If you feel totally confident building small to medium projects on your own, this class may be too basic for you. 

We used to let women take our Advanced Women’s Carpentry Class without the basics class first, if they thought that they had enough experience. Time after time, we found that these women did not have the foundational safety and ergonomic tool-use skills that the graduates of the basics class did. As a result, our confidence in the power of the basics class has been boosted. It’s clear that in four days so much more can be taught in this concentrated class than one might learn in years on her own. Because of this, we are now strict about only letting graduates of the basics class into the Advanced Class.

Will we learn how to build structures/buildings in this class?

You’ll learn how to use most of the tools that are used in structural building, and some of the basic techniques, but this is not a structural building class. If you’re excited to build buildings, check out our Advanced Women’s Carpentry Class, All Genders Advanced Carpentry Class (in combination with the basics class) or Tiny House Workshop. The advanced classes can be bundled with the basics class for a discount.

Spoiler title

We have some male instructors because we just haven’t been able to find enough qualified female instructors. This is something that we are actively working to change. In fact, we have multiple female instructors who have attended our women’s basic, women’s advanced, and/or tiny house workshops, worked in the field for some years, and then have come back to teach.

When we need to fill in with male instructors, we choose them very carefully. Each one is incredibly patient, experienced and skilled at carpentry, and they are excellent teachers. We are very careful in choosing and training male instructors who aren’t just willing to teach women a basic carpentry class, but who also feel passionate about women’s empowerment and shifting unfair gender dynamics in carpentry. They tend to love teaching this class and feel honored to be invited into such a space.  

We have never had a complaint about our male instructors’ teaching or demeanor. On the contrary, we’ve had many, many compliments about their teaching styles, skills, knowledge, and ability to work gracefully with our students.

Do I need to bring any tools or supplies to the class?

Yes! All the tools and materials we ask you to get a hold of for this class will continue to be useful afterwards as you practice and hone your carpentry skills. This does not mean that you have to spend hundreds of dollars on the tools required to take the class. If you just get the bare bones, you could spend $25. Or, you could choose to borrow tools from friends or family members. If you get all the required and optional tools, and choose the best brands of all of them, then you could be talking big bucks — and an awesome toolkit. Check out our list of both required and optional tools/supplies here.

Will I learn how to design my own projects, or just do projects that already have plans/designs?

You will get a chance to design your own simple woodworking project during the class, with lots of support. This includes envisioning your project in space, choosing the thickness and type of wood that’s appropriate, choosing fasteners, making measurements, determining board-feet needed, etc. To ensure a smooth flow, and that everyone can finish their project, we offer 3 types of projects to choose from: a bookshelf, tool caddy, or birdhouse. You’ll have some creative license within these projects. 

If you prefer to work with a done-for-you design, that’s an option, too. In that case, you could choose a project design that is identical to the example projects presented during class. Doing this means all the math will be done for you.

Will I learn how to make furniture in this class? Will I be able to make furniture after taking this class?

You’ll gain the skills to design and build custom furniture in this class, but it won’t be fancy. This is not a fine woodworking class that covers super-tight joinery or wood finishing. However, we do address project design, including how to look at an object and reverse engineer it into its pieces, so that you can copy things that you like the look of. We also show you how to make variations to make things customized to be more wonderful just for you. Additionally, you’ll learn how to take a concept in your head and design it and then build it.

There are a lot of classes for carpentry. What makes this class special?

This is one of a few classes in this country that are geared specifically toward women and non-binary folks. Plus, it’s probably the only one that takes place mostly outdoors in a beautiful mountain landscape. Add to this the fact that we’ve run over 40 of these classes, and we’ve dialed in a flow and pace that really works. The intensive nature of this four day class means that you will get to learn a ton, practice it all, and go home really knowing how to do basic carpentry with your body, not just understanding the basic concepts. 

I am looking for a women’s beginning woodworking course near me. Is there anything else?

There may be a beginning woodworking class closer to you, and it may or may not be geared toward women. Lots of community colleges offer beginning woodworking classes, and some are awesome. Others are either overly basic or too advanced for true beginners. We encourage you to check out what might be available locally, and consider what type of learning environment, pace, and general vibe most appeals to you. Our classes are held in a beautiful outdoor setting, are intensive and effective, and feel more like a fun retreat than a night class. 

Is this a physically intensive class?

This class is accessible to students of moderate physical strength and energy. Part of the purpose of a gender specific carpentry class is to teach in a way that makes carpentry accessible to people with different degrees of strength and physical prowess. We’ve had students from a wide range of ages and physical abilities thrive in the class. Throughout the days, there are lots of opportunities to drink water, eat snacks, and take breaks. It is worth considering that our campuses are hilly and rustic, and not accessible to folks with certain disabilities. The ground is uneven and requires a certain amount of balance and care to navigate comfortably. Read more about our campuses  here.

What’s the average age of students in this class?

We’ve had a wide range of students take this class. The average age of students has been around 45. That being said, our oldest student was 74 and our youngest student was a teenager. We usually get about 35% of students who are over 50, 40% between 35-50 and 25% under 35. The nature of this class is very inclusive and supportive, regardless of age or other differences that students might have.


Leslie Women's Basic Carpentry Student

“I came here with absolutely no experience; I had never touched a power tool. And this was the most affirming and supportive environment ever. I made a tool box! I’m so excited to go home and practice my skills. Thank you, Wild Abundance. I will always remember this.”
– Leslie, College Worker, Virginia

Anne Women's Basic Carpentry Student

“It is a fabulous atmosphere and a supportive learning experience. Turns out that I have been using tools wrong for many decades… I was so thankful to have someone look at what I was doing and tell me, ‘that’s a good practice,’ or ‘that’s a bad practice.’ I learned an enormous amount. And I will be forever grateful for this opportunity.”
– Anne,
Retired Nurse Practitioner, New York

Julia Women's Basic Carpentry Student

The thing that I’m most thankful about with my experience with Women’s Basic Carpentry at Wild Abundance is that it has opened up a whole new world to me through learning a new language, a language of tools, of wood, of carpentry, and of building. Equipped with this new language, I can go to so many places that I’ve never been able to go before. I can learn how to build, I can read plans, I can go to the hardware store. I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of this new way of looking at the world.
– Julia, Marketing Director, Colorado

 

Deanna Women's Basic Carpentry Student

I’m a stay-at-home-mom and massage therapist, and so using my hands is something that I’m really proud of. To be able to use the skills that I picked up here with all the wonderful instructors and take in the beautiful scenery has been something that I’ll remember forever. If you’re thinking about it, go for it. It’s wonderful time. Life changing, in fact.
– Deanna, Massage Therapist and Mother, Virginia

 

Jeanne Women's Basic Carpentry Student

The thing that I enjoyed most [from this class] is getting to partner with people that are like-minded… I really feel a lot of confidence that I can go home and I can do another project or build this project again, or solve problems to really tackle anything!
– Jeanne, Project Manager, Georgia

 

Patty Women's Basic Carpentry Student

I was surprised by the age spread of the participants. We had students from 14 to 70, and I enjoyed all the camaraderie. Everyone was willing to help others, so each person’s skill level just added to the learning process. The days were intense, but each person could work at her own pace.

The instructors were very hands-on and patient. Some students arrived concerned that they didn’t know as much as others, but no one left feeling intimidated. The students and teachers alike were encouraging and kind, and everyone finished the course feeling more confident and skilled. Overall, it was a great experience, and I recommend this course to anyone who wants to be more capable of handling projects and skilled at preparing for and executing them.
– Patty, CEO of a Manufacturing Company, South Carolina

 

Charis Women's Basic Carpentry Student

[I’m usually] sitting at a desk and it is amazing to be working with my hands. I have gained the confidence that I need to actually do the projects I want to do.
– Charis, Insurance IT Systems Integrations, Virginia

 


Instructors

Natalie Bogwalker doing carpentry

Natalie Bogwalker

Natalie (she/her) is the visionary behind Wild Abundance, as well as a primary instructor for women’s carpentry classes and the Natural Building and Tiny House Workshop, among other classes. She’s passionate about teaching and sharing practical skills to help all kinds of people feel more confident, empowered, and capable. In particular, Natalie gets excited about: ...

Ella Scotto

Ella (she/her) took a carpentry class with Wild Abundance in 2017. After that, she bought an acre of land in Barnardsville, NC, and began building a house. For over a year, she worked with Barron Brown, learning everything she could about carpentry and construction. Ella is always eager to learn more, and is constantly honing her ...

Alex Kilgore

Alex (he/him) has been learning and teaching primitive and traditional living skills since 1995. He began with a formative apprenticeship with Steve Watts, the founder of the Society of Primitive Technology and director of the Aboriginal Studies Program at the Schiele Museum of Natural History.  In 1997, Alex completed his degree in Outdoor Experiential Education ...

Danielle Swift

Danielle’s (she/her) career in construction officially started at 15 with a summer job as a laborer working for her uncle’s design/build firm in Maryland. She continued acquiring building experience and tools through college, ultimately graduating from SCAD with a master’s degree in Architecture and a dual BA in Architecture and Historic Preservation. She went on ...
Nadi

Nadi

Nadi (they/them) has been on a quest to study traditional woodworking, metalworking and ancestral skills ever since leaving behind their Aerospace Engineering path in Germany where they grew up. While attending University in Germany they turned an old early 1900s circus trailer into their first tiny home they lived in for the duration of their ...

Delaney Rae

Delaney Rae (she/her)loves the outdoors and working with her hands. She first started to learn carpentry as an art student in college while building frames for canvas. She was able to combine her passion for crafting with her passion for climbing in 2013 when she started working for a zip line company. She was a ...

Class Location

This class is held in Barnardsville, at a Wild Abundance home campus

Wild Abundance has two beautiful mountain campuses just 25 minutes north of Asheville. Each of them is a a bustling landscape with woods, wild plants, trickling creeks, and lovely outdoor classrooms and facilities. You’ll receive information about exactly where your class will be held, including detailed directions on how to get here upon registration. If you’re attending a class hosted at Wild Abundance, you may be traveling to other sites for field trips.

Please note: our campuses are all unconventional, with rustic amenities and uneven ground. Read more about our campuses here.

Local Accommodations and Facilities

Wherever you’re coming from, you’re welcome to pitch a tent in one of our flat camping spots in the woods or field, or to tie a hammock in the forest. If you live locally, you may prefer to commute to Wild Abundance from Asheville (25-30 minute drive). If you choose to camp, please bring your own bedding and rainproof tent or tarp. In the early spring and late fall it can be cold at night, so please bring warm bedding if you’ll be here before May or after September. We have a lovely outdoor kitchen equipped with a stove and running water, an outdoor shower, and an outhouse available to campers.  In extremely cold weather, the sink and shower may be out of operation due to water freezing.

If you prefer something with more creature comforts, we suggest you browse Airbnb for numerous options close to the campus. You can also check out local motels and B&Bs within a 10-15 minute drive to Wild Abundance. We’ll send a list of links to several options (with varying amenities and prices) in a welcome letter upon registration.


Registration Info

Pricing for Women’s Basic Carpentry

Regular Pricing: $850 – $1,700

Please pay what you can afford.  The median price is suggested to help cover the full cost of hosting this class. Please select the low end of the sliding scale if you are low income. If your household income is over $115,000/year, please select the maximum fee. Please place yourself in this range where you deem appropriate, based on your income.

Pricing for Women’s Carpentry Package

Includes Basic and Advanced Women’s Carpentry 

Regular Pricing:  A single, $250 discount will be applied if companion courses are purchased together.

Please pay what you can afford.  The median price is suggested to help cover the full cost of hosting this class. Please select the low end of the sliding scale if you are low income. If your household income is over $115,000/year, please select the maximum fee. Please place yourself in this range where you deem appropriate, based on your income.

Please note that our Advanced Women’s Carpentry Class is only available to those who have already taken the Women’s Basic Carpentry Class. 

Course Dates:

  • Apr 6-9, 2023 (filled)
  • Apr 13-16, 2023 (filled)
  • Apr 27-30, 2023 (filled)
  • May 11-14, 2023 (filled)
  • Jun 8-11, 2023 (filled)
  • Jul 20-23, 2023 (filled)
  • Aug 24-27, 2023 (filled)