Preservation Carpentry

Recognized as one of the premier woodworking and preservation schools in the country, North Bennet Street School (NBSS) teaches the time-honored skills, ideas and values of fine craftsmanship through intensive hands-on training in Preservation Carpentry.

The exceptional curriculum, master faculty and inspiring community encourage individual growth and curiosity, commitment to excellence and authenticity and technical mastery.  

The prestigious Preservation Carpentry program attracts students who share a love of history, materials, quality workmanship, and working with their hands to build, restore and preserve beautiful structures that are designed to last.  


The two-year, comprehensive Preservation Carpentry program combines an introduction to contemporary residential construction with a thorough grounding in pre-20th century New England house construction. Through lectures, demonstrations, projects and site work, students are exposed to a broad range of construction methods, including stabilizing endangered buildings, preserving and uncovering architectural details and recreating documented design elements. Students develop an understanding of building components and systems and learn to compare current technology and traditional tools and practices.  

Topics covered include:  

  • Basic math for carpenters
  • Identification and measurement of materials
  • Architectural drawings, shop drawings, blueprint reading and full-size layouts
  • Documentation and research of historic structures
  • Hand tool selection, care and use
  • Machine tool woodworking; stationary and portable equipment
  • Project management and estimating
  • Geometric layout for shop and construction
  • Principles and procedures in residential construction
  • Building code requirements
  • Traditional architectural components: timber framing, exterior finish, door and window layout and construction, roofing systems including wood and slate, moldings
  • Window sash and frame-and-panel doors
  • Material sources
  • Conceptual overview of American architectural history
  • Pre-20th century building technology
  • Preservation/conservation practice
  • Traditional masonry: brickwork, mortars and plasters
  • Mechanical systems for historical buildings  

During the summer between the two academic years of the program, students are encouraged to pursue work experiences that reinforce skills and/or explore potential areas of specialization. Typical summer jobs include positions at historic house museums, preservation societies such as Trustees of Reservations, Historic New England and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and various private contractors throughout the United States.  

Preservation Carpentry students graduate with the skills needed to work with contractors and institutions that specialize in preservation and conservation work, including historic millwork and interior finish carpentry for traditional buildings.

"Before NBSS, I received a B.A. in Economics from Columbia, then I worked as a carpenter doing restoration and general carpentry. I grew up in an old home. I've always liked fixing old things and working with my hands."

Walter Beebe-Center '94
Owner, Essex Restoration
Wilmington, Massachusetts


The Preservation Carpentry facility includes first and second year bench rooms, where each student is assigned a bench and work space, and a central machine room. New England’s rich historical legacy of pre-20th century buildings provides exceptional field projects. Field work is often done in collaboration with non-profit museums and historical sites.  


Steven O'Shaughnessy

Steven, a 1999 graduate of the program, is the department head and first year instructor. He worked for Historic New England (formerly the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities) for six years as a preservation carpenter and has served as an instructor for Boston Youthbuild’s preservation carpentry component. During his tenure at Historic New England, he supervised NBSS students as summer interns and for two years he led a group of second-year NBSS students in the preservation of Pierce House in Dorchester, Massachusetts which earned him Historic New England’s President’s award. Steven has guided NBSS first-year students through restoration work on the 1713 Old State House in Boston, the 1770 Josiah Quincy House in Quincy, the 1796 Otis House in Boston and many others. In the 2010, his class saved a late 18th century, two-bay English barn from demolition by carefully documenting and disassembling the structure for the town of Hanover, Massachusetts. 

Michael Burrey

Bio to come.

Read all NBSS faculty profiles here. 


Preservation Carpentry graduates work for diverse organizations and employers including: non-profit museums, preservation publications, educational programs, custom millwork and casework companies, the National Park Service and private contractors. Many graduates choose self-employment, specializing in preservation/restoration work. Read more about preservation carpentry careers here.  

NBSS Student Services provides placement assistance for program graduates. As a result of job development and the program’s expanding reputation, many leading preservation practitioners regularly contact the school to recruit graduates.  

Click here for the school's gainful employment report.


NBSS offers rolling admissions and accepts qualified applicants throughout the year. The program is designed to challenge students at all levels from the novice with little hands-on experience to advanced students. Previous woodworking or preservation studies experience is helpful. Learn more about the admissions process.


  • Students are admitted in September. 
  • The maximum enrollment is 26 students.
  • Classes typically meet 7:30 am - 2:30 pm, Monday - Friday, September - May, although when working on site, 4-day weeks with longer days are common.
  • The program length is two, nine-month academic years (72 weeks or 2340 class hours***). 
  • September 2017-June 2018 tuition is $25,300 per year totaling $50,600**, with the option of making 18 monthly payments of $2,811. 
  • The estimated cost of hand tools is $3,700
  • The estimated cost of books is $250.
  • Students are responsible for materials for their own projects. 
  • Students are responsible for their own transportation to site work and class trips.
  • Students who complete the program receive a Diploma of Preservation Carpentry. 

**North Bennet Street School reserves the right to increase tuition in the second and subsequent years of a course. If the school does increase tuition for a course in subsequent years, that increase will not exceed 7.5% of the previous year’s tuition. Should the school exercise its right to increase tuition, the school must give the student a minimum of ninety (90) days written notice prior to the effective date of the increase and a new enrollment agreement will be executed.

*** Class hours equals clock hours.

Preservation carpentry students restore the window sashes for the oldest church in Boston. Read the story.

Workshops and short courses

In addition to full-time programs, NBSS offers workshops and short courses in woodworking and carpentry. Click here for details. 


Get more info and ask questions about the preservation carpentry program.

Watch a video of preservation carpentry students in the field.