Woodworking and Building a Gypsy Wagon Course

Tim Lawson from Port Townsend School of Woodworking contacted me about an upcoming workshop starting in January. A three month Foundation course that includes furniture making, cabinetmaking and Gypsy Wagon (or Tiny House) building as focus areas for the project part of the course.

Tim says: “We’ve always wanted to teach longer courses as part of our curriculum. We’re going to take that plunge and offer an intensive residential course starting January 2011. This will be a three month/twelve week course that will give any woodworker a very solid grounding in the array of skills they’ll need to develop as a furniture maker, cabinetmaker or (dare we say it) as a maker of Gypsy Wagons.”

He goes on to say: “We’re planning to push the envelope here and offer students the option of choosing to focus on one of these areas in the final part of the course. This would be a way for somebody with carpentry skills to transition to furniture making or finer finish work. For the avid hobbyist to develop a broader range of skills. Or for the Romany at heart to build the skills to complete a Gypsy Wagon.

We believe that this course can change your life. The course will give you woodworking skills that will last the rest of your life whether you make furniture for fun, rebuild your kitchen or plan to finish that gypsy wagon. Through the design part of the course we may uncover hidden passions or flair that help you grow as an artist.”

To get the full details visit the Woodworking website and see if this course if for you.

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Bill - October 24, 2010 Reply

It sounds like an interesting program, but out of my price range. Too bad they didn’t have it broken up so you could take just the section you wanted, like the wagon building.

Tim Lawson - October 24, 2010 Reply

Hi Bill,
This class is designed to give you the woodworking skills you’d need to build a Gypsy Wagon or Tiny Home. One student is planning to start his Tiny Home during the course.

We also offer a three day design seminar on Designing and Building Gypsy Wagons in April and August. Steve and Jim cover a lot of ground in those three days – so if you have the skills you could go home finish the plans and start building. At $295 we believe to be pretty affordable. Plus there is reasonable accommodation on site at Fort Worden. You can find more info here: http://www.ptwoodschool.com/gypsywagons2009.html

(one of the founders of the school)

    Bill - October 24, 2010 Reply

    Thanks Tim. I did see that class, which was more of a design than hands on class. I have almost finished my tiny house on wheels, but I was looking at the hands on learning aspect of the course to gain other woodworking skills. It sounds like an exciting program though.

      Tim Lawson - October 25, 2010 Reply

      Thanks for the clarification. Can I seek some further insight – what sort of woodworking skills are you seeking? Cabinetmaking? Hand tools and carving for fine details? Finish carpentry? None of the above? Please let me know I can either recommend some courses (either at our school or elsewhere) or we can invent new ones! We want to help.


      Bill - October 27, 2010 Reply

      Actually Tim, all of those skills are what I want to improve on. I have built cabinets, some furniture, and now finishing a tiny house on wheels. I would like to build more of each.

      I wonder if the order of the classes might need to be reversed? I know there is an overlap of skills in all areas. If focusing on the tiny house builder, I would think building the house would be first step. Rough carpentry for building a house could then be improved on to build cabinets and furniture to furnish it. Some may just want to build the house, others may want to go on and build the furnishings too.

      I like the direction you are wanting to take your school to improve and spread woodworking skills. I will enjoy seeing how your school continues in the future.

Tim - October 24, 2010 Reply

While I commend the fact you are trying to help people gain the skills needed to build their own tiny home, I think that most people that are into Tiny Homes are doing so because it is an affordable way for them to actauly own their own home, in some cases their only option, they dont have a lot of money sitting around for expenses like this, the cost of this course at $6100 PLUS materials, PLUS your own food and houseing for 3 months, that much money would be the start of a very nice Tiny home for someone, they could most likely finish the shell and some of the interior for this much money. I am not knocking your school in anyway, as I said I commend your actions here, but I do think this will be out of reach for most people that are trying to build a tiny home of their own.

    alfred - October 25, 2010 Reply

    Well, yes and no.

    Lots of folks out there who are contemplating a tiny home do so for a variety of reasons – ecology, aesthetics, simplicity of life, etc. Its not necessarily about the money. Jay Shafer seems to be doing quite well with finely crafted high-end structures, some of which cost over $400/sq.ft. When I built the Little Red Cabin, a frequent comment was, “Why are you doing this, you could have had a much bigger house for far less money!”

    And of course, Tim Lawson is offering education, which is not really a tangible product.

    None of this is a criticism (of either Tim).

    One thing I think we all tend to forget (especially on the net) is that all sorts of people are attracted to a given product, idea, event or what-have-you, for all kinds of different reasons, some of which may not be particularly apparent at first glance.

      Tim - October 25, 2010 Reply

      Hi Alfred, I fully understand your point of view, I guess my view stems mostly from my reading of some of the most popular Tiny house blogs by people building their own homes because they just dont have the money for other options. Also I think the majority of posts on the tiny house forum are by people looking for options to own their own home because they dont have the money for other options, if you read some of the recent posts there you will see what I mean. Education is ALWAYS a good thing, and I commend what they are doing, but I think the average everyday Joe/Jane Doe are building their tiny homes for finacial reasons. Yes there are others with money to spare, but I do think they are the minority in this case. Believe me, I hope they fill up there school classes and have lots of people to teach I truly do. But when you figure in the cost of the class & materials, plus 3 months food and housing, I would imagine that would top close to about $10,000 in all, and if they are coming from another part of the country figure transportation fees as well, that is the start of a very nice tiny home, and most people in this economy do not have that kind of extra money to burn on top of the expense for their home. We are always reading about Tiny house builders useing freecycle, craigs list and the like to find reuseable material to use in the building of their homes to save money. Anyway, this is just my point of view, and I wish the school all the best of luck.

      I wish there were more options for people like the single mom with kids trying to come up with options to build a tiny home with little or no funds…there are many examples of this on the tiny house forum.

        Tim Lawson - October 25, 2010 Reply

        I appreciate your encouragement of the commitment to education. I agree if that you’re trying to build your own tiny house on a shoestring that our course is out of range. There are other folks in the Tiny House movement who look at the building as a retreat, a way of reducing their footprint and not impacting the environment, or making an artistic statement. We may well be focusing on that segment of the Tiny House movement.

        As Alfred so well puts it – we’re also educating people and building a set of skills that prove useful. Related to that it is my profound belief that manufacturing needs to return locally. That we connect the forester with the woodworker to supply the local community. I think we’ll see that happen as the locovore movement meets the local production movement. We hope to build the skills that will bind communities – especially rural communities. IKEA or China shouldn’t dominate.

        (Steps off soapbox). We(the school)are increasingly looking to share techniques and information about our different programs. We’ve recently started adding woodworking tips and techniques to our blog. We plan to increase that information flow. So please let us know what else we can share that will help.

        Craft or trade education is not just about information. There are key physical parts that cannot be shared via the internet. For example how to change your stance to be more efficient when sawing or chiseling wood. We can video that until we’re blue in the face but that is no substitute for working with an experienced teacher who can react to you while you are working. That was/is a core value of the apprentice programs.

        Good luck in building your Tiny Home.


susan - October 24, 2010 Reply

You have just made my year!

Cathy Johnson (Kate) - October 26, 2010 Reply

Wish we could see inside that gorgeous wagon!

john b - May 22, 2011 Reply

Would I and my girlfriend be able to attend on the same fee? or would we be required to spend a second fee. This is just the thing we have been looking for!

alex - May 27, 2011 Reply

Hi Any one out there got plans for Reading style
caravan want to build one here in france

regards alex

elli - November 12, 2011 Reply

love the craftsmanship in these little houses … but I’m always wanting more pictures, details from inside … but I know the builders are busy *sigh*

deann dubois - August 30, 2012 Reply

Where is this course being heald? Do you sell books if I am too far away?

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