Based in Seattle’s Georgetown neighborhood, Ebanista School of Fine Woodworking offers expert furniture design and building education. We shared a bit of the school’s and founder’s story in 2018, soon after the school opened, here on Dunn Solutions. Since then, the school has moved into a new space and added different class options, all while sticking true to its purpose of “offering the highest level of instruction in the design and making of inspired furniture to the Pacific Northwest”—a mission we certainly support at Dunn Lumber.

Five years later, we decided to catch up with Jonathan Cohen, Ebanista’s founder and director, to learn more about his woodworking journey and see how he’s supporting a new generation of skilled woodworkers. When asked about his primary goal for the school, Jonathan says, “Our goal is not to teach you to be a good woodworker—it is to teach you to love being a good woodworker.”      

The inspiration behind Ebanista School of Fine Woodworking 

From a young age, Jonathan was interested in Native American art and design, particularly from the Pacific Northwest. After studying law and graphic design, during which he studied Northwest Coast Indigenous artwork and calligraphy, he decided he'd rather be crafting the desk a lawyer would work at instead of working behind the desk himself.

Around this time, he planned a road trip from his homebase of Ithaca, NY to Seattle to further experience the art and culture that had captured his interest.

“I was coming down through the Cascades and looking at these beautiful trees. I could just sense the water and thought: ‘This is where I should live.’ I hadn't even seen Seattle yet—which I loved as soon as I did see it,” Jonathan says. 

He started an apprenticeship with a woodworker at the University of Washington and dedicated himself to the craft, developing his signature woodworking style: hand-planing, minimal machining, and curved lines based on his calligraphy.

“I put curves in almost everything [I make] because straight, square pieces would bore the hell out of me,” he says. “Once you start bending lines, then you start bending light, and magic happens.” (An excellent example of his incredible work is the "Kimono Cabinet," a commissioned cabinet that had six secret compartments, each with a separate sequence of movements before the compartment would be revealed or opened. Watch a video about the project here.)

After more than 40 years honing his craft, including teaching the furniture design program at the University of Washington for nearly two decades, writing as a correspondent for Fine Woodworking magazine, and running a successful design/build furniture studio, Jonathan opened The Ebanista School of Fine Woodworking to share his craft with others.

“I have three rules,” Jonathan explains. “The first is always safety. The second is not simply having satisfied students, but having students who leave the classes feeling euphoric—happy is not enough. The third is safety.”

Jonathan Cohen, Ebanista School of Fine Woodworking

Classes at Ebanista School of Fine Woodworking

In the past few decades, the number of woodworking programs have dwindled across the country. This is just one of the reasons that the Ebanista School of Woodworking is such a valuable resource. Though, even if there were more programs around, the school would still stand out from the crowd, thanks to its incredible dedication to high-quality craftsmanship. Here, everything is geared toward best supporting and educating the students to instill both the technical skills and the love needed to craft pieces out of wood.  

Ebanista’s instructors, who are all specialists in certain aspects of the craft, each bring at least 40 years of experience as a professional woodworker to the proverbial table. The school’s unique class format is also designed to benefit its students—each class is limited to just six students, ensuring that everyone has plenty of one-on-one guidance with the instructor and never has to waste time waiting for a machine to be available. 

Additionally, since moving to its new space, Ebanista has expanded its already-popular class schedule, introducing a series of new workshops (see below). 

Core Classes

In-depth Core Classes, lasting between 4-10 weeks, include the Beginnings I and II classes, Intermediate Classes, and a virtual Design Studio class taught by Jonathan himself. 

“[When you begin your woodworking journey with] the Beginnings I class, you learn a lot in four weeks. It's kind of our dip-your-toes-in-the-water class,” says Jonathan. 

“On the first day of class, I tell my students, ‘There's only one concept you need to understand or embrace to become a good furniture maker—and that is sharpening. If I ask you how to improve the performance of your jointer, [the answer is to] sharpen the knives. If I ask you how to get a cleaner cut on your board, sharpen. If I ask you what's for lunch, just say sharpen. It's the answer to everything here. If you're not gonna learn to sharpen, it's not easy.”

“A lot of times at the end of the first class, people will then sign up for more classes,” he continues.  

Each of the courses runs in the spring, summer, and fall. Those who already have a level of woodworking experience can contact the school for placement in the correct course.

Ebanista School of Fine Woodworking
10-Week Classes

The school’s 10-Week Classes tend to dive deeper into a certain skill set or a type of furniture, like crafting chairs. 

5-Day Build Workshops

Designed for students with limited time, the school’s intensive 5-Day Build Workshops focus on a hands-on building process in which the student completes a piece of furniture, like the recent cherry writing desk, over the course of five consecutive days. 

Weekend Workshops

Ebanista’s Weekend Workshops cover various skill sets and woodworking-related topics, ranging from how to saw your own lumber to the art of finishing.   

All classes are listed and can be booked online on Ebanista’s website. If you’re interested in a class, it’s best to reserve your spot as soon as possible since classes are small and fill up quickly—one of our Dunn team members, Austin, has taken a couple of the courses and cannot recommend them highly enough! You can also contact the school to add your name to a waitlist for a certain class if it’s already full.

Woodworking resources

More woodworking resources 

Interested in advancing your woodworking skills or just starting out and looking for more information or resources? The Dunn Solutions blog is a great place to find trusted advice, instruction, guidance, and recommendations, whether you’re just starting out or are looking to improve. For example, check out our extensive Decking Series or Cabinet Series.