New! Cruck Framing course added to the schedule,
Please fill out our Request Form or call our office to get our latest updates and brochure.
Who We Are
& What We Do
Since our founding in 1978, Heartwood students have built dozens of houses, additions, cabins and other projects in the Berkshires, as well as in other parts of the country with our traveling workshop program. Most of our homebuilding projects include timber framing and conventional light frame construction, super-insulation techniques and passive solar design, and the use of resource-efficient materials.
The Heartwood Schoolhouse is located in the Berkshire Hills of western Massachusetts. Built by the staff and students in 1978-79, the building houses our office, spacious classroom, greenhouse, well-equipped woodworking shop, library with 500+ building books and videos, and dining area where we serve delicious and bounteous home-cooked lunches.
Those who attend Heartwood include teachers, truck drivers, architects, social workers, retirees, real estate agents, and high school students, and most have little or no previous construction experience. They range in ages from 12 to 75, men and women enroll in approximately equal numbers, and many come as couples or families. Our programs are designed to be useful as well for experienced builders who wish to expand their skills and deepen their understanding of energy-efficient house design and construction.
In our comprehensive Homebuilding course and specialized one-week programs, enrollment averages ten students, so there is plenty of opportunity for questions and personal attention in an atmosphere that is stimulating, friendly and educational.
Our instructors are contractors and tradesmen and women who take the time to share and communicate their love of their craft. They are people who are not only skilled at their trades but also good teachers, and we are lucky to have them.
Will and Michele Beemer are the directors of Heartwood programs. Will helps teach many of our courses and has been designing and building houses for over 40 years. He has been a construction foreman at the Arcosanti project in Arizona, design instructor at Cornell, and served as co-Executive Director of the Timber Framers Guild for eleven years. He has organized and taught building workshops around the world, including timber framing courses at Palomar College in San Diego, North House Folk School and Colorado State University's Mountain Campus. Will has presented seminars on roof framing and timber framing at "JLCLive" the annual conference sponsored by the Journal of Light Construction. He has written for Fine Homebuilding, Joiner’s Quarterly, Wood Design & Building, and Timber Framing. He is a major contributor to the best-selling book Timber Framing Fundamentals (published by the Timber Framers Guild) and is currently working a new timber framing book Learn to Timber Frame due out in 2016. Michele is office manager, on-site instructor and a talented and creative spinner, weaver and seamstress. Her daily lunches are delicious and memorable, and her warm personality makes the incoming student feel welcome and comfortable. She is the author of Lunches at Heartwood.
The Carpentry for Women staff is led by Karla Kavanaugh. She is owner of Octagon Builders, a women's construction company, and is a contributor to Fine Homebuilding. Dave Carlon, Dave Bowman, Neil Godden and Jack Sobon, who teach in the Timber Framing curriculum, have long been partners in creating many unique timber structures. Jack is an architect and author of Timber Frame Construction, Historic American Timber Joinery, and Build a Classic Timber Framed House. Other visiting instructors include some of the most experienced members of the Timber Framers Guild, including Brad Morse (Timber Framing) and Josh Jackson (Scribing), Jon Santiago (Earth Oven) and Kevin Kiwak (Country Woodcraft and Windsor Chairmaking).
Mike Paulsen and Greg Bossie from Stone Soup Concrete teach the Concrete Countertops Course. Bill Girard leads the Game of Logging in our Converting Trees to Timber course.
Kirk Fox teaches our Woodworking courses and has been a furnituremaker and cabinetmaker for more than twenty-five years. He has written for Fine Woodworking magazine and maintains his own shop for private commissions in our town of Washington.
Mike Beganyi (SketchUp courses) has wandered through the design, woodworking, and timber framing world for the past 14 years. He has played sculptor, carpenter, architecture student, instructor, barn restorer, timber framer, designer, project manager, and mover of heavy objects. He currently lives and works in Vermont, pushing pixels as an independent designer, and is the New England design consultant for New Energy Works Timber Framers.
"It was great to begin learning this craft from people who are getting it right. " — Randall, Indiana
"I was very impressed with their ability to convey their knowledge and ideas, coupled with fantastic attitudes. " — John, Alabama
The surrounding Berkshire Hills provide an ideal environment for a learning vacation. Cultural and recreational activities abound. Nearby is Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony, Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival, the Stockbridge Playhouse, Hancock Shaker Village, the Norman Rockwell Museum, the legendary Dreamaway Lodge, the Appalachian Trail, picturesque New England villages, lakes, streams and miles of forests to explore. Our Schoolhouse is located on a beautifully wooded yet sunny hillside, providing relaxing and spacious surroundings for your Heartwood activities.
Here's a photo tour of the Heartwood Campus:
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