Why Women’s Carpentry?

Let’s face it, female-bodied folks are less likely to grow up using tools and building things than our male counterparts. Women also don’t see folks who look like us doing carpentry for themselves. The story that working with wood is only for men is outdated and in need of rewriting!

This class is intended to respond to that need. It gets 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.

Black woman holding up a small bookshelf she made in the outdoor wood shop at Wild Abundance

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 women’s carpentry isn’t for you, but you want to learn the basics, please check out our All Genders Carpentry Class.

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.

What our students say

This women’s woodworking 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 for this carpentry course. All ages are welcome; we’ve had students from 17-74 join us and love the class!

Student and instructor pose during women's basic carpentry course

That said, if you have experience but don’t have mastery of 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 for graduates of the basic class. In the advanced class, students learn to build a basic shed. 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.

Older woman learning carpentry in a class at Wild Abundance

Choose a 4 day intensive carpentry course, or a 5 day version that is more relaxed

For the last 10 years, our Women’s Basic Carpentry classes have always been four days long. We’ve refined the schedule to cover a wide range of content in a short amount of time, transforming the skills and ability of students quickly. Each day and section of the class builds on the one before it, and all are essential. The schedule is full and the pace steadily active; the days are packed with learning and practice, broken up only by lunch, and one or two shorter breaks. Over the years we’ve received feedback that some students would prefer more breaks and shorter days. We can’t see a way to cut content and still deliver the quality education we pride ourselves on. So, this year we’re trialing a five-day option. The course content and cost will be the same, but learning will be spread out over five days instead of four. If you’ve got the time and want to learn  in a more relaxed environment, rather than an “intensive,” the longer option may be for you.

What to Expect: Learn Basic Carpentry Skills

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

During this four or five-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 female 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

Four day intensive schedule

Thursday 9:00 am-5:30 pm

Friday 9:00 am-5:00 pm

Saturday 9:00 am-5:30 pm

Sunday 9:00 am-4:30 pm*

Each day includes a one-hour lunch break.

The five day “relaxed class” schedule

The five day sessions start on Wednesday and run through Sunday from 10am – 5pm each day (4:30 on Sunday). Students will get a 1 hour lunch plus multiple luxurious breaks throughout each day. We’ve added this option for students who want more of a “retreat” atmosphere.

three women students smiling with their projects in a carpentry class

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. 

* 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.

The following day-by-day schedule is for the four day class. During the five day class, the same content is distributed over five days.

Day 1: Tools, Tools, Tools

female student changing impact driver bit

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. 

Carpentry tools we’ll cover on day one include:

  • Circular saw
  • Carpenter’s pencil
  • Utility knife
  • Measuring tape
  • Speed square
  • Safety equipment
  • Table saw
  • Miter saw (sometimes called a chop saw) and sliding miter saw
Student works on toolbox project during women's basic carpentry class 

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

Explore more tools, plan out your personal woodworking 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

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

Your Personal Project

On day two, you’ll also choose 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, 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.

 

Woman of color smiles down at her carpentry class project: a custom shelf

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

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

  • Levels
  • Chalk lines
  • Hammers
  • Hand saws

Next, we’ll work in small groups on simple, real-world projects. Some of these will be Wild Abundance infrastructure, while others may be for neighbors, community members, local non-profits, or to be sold to the public for the cost of materials. 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.

white woman uses an impact driver to attach a board

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.

Two women smile down from the worksite of a privacy fence they are learning how to build during basic carpentry class

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
  • Shelves
  • Fences

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

Older black woman smiles triumphantly with the tool caddy she built herself as the final project during a woodworking class for women

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

View from the timberframed 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. 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 50 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 holding a drill and wearing a toolbelt holds up a fist to show strength as she smiles

Frequently Asked Questions about Women’s Basic Carpentry

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

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
  • Utility knife
  • Measuring tape
  • Speed square
  • Chalk line
  • Level
  • Hand saw
I already know a little bit about carpentry, will this class be too basic?

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 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 (in combination with the basics class) or Tiny House Workshop. The advanced classes can be bundled with the basics class for a discount.

I see there are some male instructors in this women’s woodworking class, will I feel comfortable learning from them? Will they “mansplain”?

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 haven’t had complaints 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 $30-40. 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.

Is this a woodwork class or a carpentry class?

Carpentry is the craft of using wood to build buildings or work on buildings. Woodworking is generally thought of as the craft of using wood to make furniture, cabinetry, and art. Carpentry typically happens onsite, and woodwork typically happens in a shop. At the basic level, carpentry and woodworking are very similar. They both focus on cutting boards, fastening them together, and both use similar tools. Our basic carpentry class is relevant to both aspiring carpenters and woodworkers.

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.

I want to take this class with my friend/partner who is not a woman, what can I do?
This class is only for women and non-binary folks, but we do offer an All Genders Basic Carpentry Class that’s open to everyone. This is a great option for couples, siblings, or friends of different genders who want to learn together.

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 carpentry 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 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. You’ll be walking around a bit as you learn here. 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.

The video below was made by Wild Abundance founder Natalie Bogwalker some years back and some specifics are out of date. Please refer to the text above for accurate details about the class schedule and projects. A new video is currently in the works!

 


Instructors

Nadi

Nadi Mond

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 ...

Madison Moore

Madison’s stoked to be teaching with Wild Abundance because she’s super passionate about empowering women with skills in a safe & welcoming environment. She’s been building on her own since middle school and also worked for a number of years on a framing crew doing residential carpentry. When not teaching, Madison spends a large portion ...

Pete McKelvey

After getting a degree in New Media in 2013, Pete didn’t take long to realize that sitting behind a computer screen just wasn’t going to cut it. A big believer in hands-on learning he threw himself into the world of carpentry, learning on the job while working for small custom home-builders and eventually taking a ...

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 ...

Alexandra Miller

Alexandra Miller Alexandra Miller (she/her) started out her career as a manufacturing engineer. In 2016 she fled corporate life to hike the AT and travel, and has spent as much time as possible in the woods since. She has an encompassing love for the natural world, especially mycology, botany and the interdependencies of ecology. The ...

Quetzal Jordan

Originally from British Columbia, Canada and raised in Tampa FL, much of Quetzal’s (she/her) time is currently spent side by side with Mel Chin a conceptual visual artist in Burnsville, North Carolina. Quetzal’s day to day experience consists of her making and installing sculpture art, utilizing such skills as carpentry, welding, masonry and basic construction. ...

This class is held near Asheville, NC, at the Wild Abundance Paint Fork Campus

Our Paint Fork campus is a bustling creekside landscape with gorgeous mountain views, a breathtaking timber-framed pavilion classroom, and spacious covered open-air wood shops for learning building and carpentry in all weather, plus other lovely features. The Paint Fork campus is 30 minutes north of Asheville.

Please note: our campuses are all unconventional, with rustic amenities and uneven ground. Read more about Planning your trip and about our campuses. You’ll receive detailed directions on how to get here upon registration. 

Accommodations and Facilities

You’ve got several options of where to stay during your class. Some students camp, some locals commute, and others choose to rent accommodations with more creature comforts.

Onsite camping (with your own warm bedding and rainproof tent or hammock) is available for free to all students (including locals) during class. Some set-up-for-you tents are available with cots and cozy bedding for a flat fee. 

Campers and all students have access to a lovely outdoor kitchen equipped with a stove and hot and cold water, plus pots and pans, knives and cutting boards, bowls, plates, and utensils, along with an outdoor shower with hot and cold running water and an outhouse. If you’d rather rent a hotel, house or cottage, there are many available. We’ll share a curated list of nearby options once you’ve registered. 

Costs of different accommodations

So you can better plan your trip to come learn with us, here’s some info on accommodations we offer, or that we link to in the student handbook you’ll receive upon registration. Below it you’ll find info on transportation.

  • Camping with your own gear: free
  • Staying in a large tent with a cozy cot and bedding that we set up for you: $200 flat fee; you can stay there anytime from 5pm before the first day of your class, to 12pm the day after your class ends.
  • Hyper-local off-campus single rentals: $40-$2000/night + fees
  • Hyper-local off-campus couples rentals: $20-100/person/night + fees
  • Hyper-local off-campus group rentals: $25-$86/person/night + fees

Getting a place or renting a car with a group of fellow students and carpooling are great ways to make connections and reduce costs! We share contact info for each class so you can get in touch and make plans together. Everyone has a chance to keep their info private if they choose.

Transportation info and costs

You won’t need a car during your class. There’s a chance you may want to run an errand or go out to dinner with fellow students, and if this happens, it’s highly likely that another student with a car will be happy to give you a lift.

We’ve also got a list of folks who will do airport and grocery shuttle runs for $50-$80 each way. We share this information in the student handbook when you register. If you’d rather rent a car, those run anywhere from $45-$200/day. Just like with lodging, teaming up with a group of fellow students to share a car rental can help build connections and reduce costs. 


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:

  • Jun 6-9, 2024 (filled)
  • Jun 27-30, 2024 (filled)
  • Jul 4-7, 2024
  • Jul 24-28, 2024 (filled)
  • Aug 8-11, 2024
  • Sep 12-15, 2024
  • Oct 23-27, 2024 (standby only*)
*What is Standby?