I was watching The Wood Whisperer’s Friday Live this morning on YouTube, never mind that it was Saturday morning. Anyway, Marc Spagnuolo was speaking about a “Meet n Greet” he attended while on the road in Washington. He spoke about how just a few years ago it was thought that woodworking was getting old and dying out. But now there has been a resurgence and a youth movement, so to speak. This got me to thinking as to what my recent experiences showed about where the craft is going.
The bulk of my experience with the Woodworking Community, as a whole, is thru my membership in the Kansas City Woodworkers’ Guild. I’ve written before about when I joined the Guild 13 years ago, it mostly, consisted of about 80 middle-aged and older men. That has changed dramatically in the last few years. The Guild now is closing in on close to 800 members and they are not just a bunch of middle-aged and older men, though many of those original 80, from when I joined, are still around. Now they have a new job, teaching the next generations of woodworkers.
When I was in school, Junior High and High School, my favorite class were the Industrial Arts classes. We had metal shop, wood shop, drafting, and electrical class. These were great classes with great teachers. Now days, our public schools have dropped these, for the most part, from their curriculum. I guess they are worried about being sued in our too litigious society. I believe the absence of “Shop Class” is being felt and a new generation is looking for an outlet for their creative side.
For me, this is most evident in the Guild’s “Basic Woodworking” class’ popularity. I’ve been involved with this class for a couple of years, minus time off for cancer treatment. This class is a 10-week class, for 12 students, that is offered 4 times a year. It is usually filled up within hours of being offered. I believe we are already filled for the rest of this year. In the class, the students make three projects that are designed to teach them skills that they will need in making almost any project. The first project is a cutting board with a handle where they learn about milling and gluing up panels. The second project is a Presentation Box that teaches miters, using a router table, etc. The third project is an Arts & Crafts inspired plant stand that teaches layout techniques along with different joinery techniques. Along the way there are lectures on various tools and some “sidebar” projects, like making a bench hook or a glue scraper. And the final week is a lesson on finishing with the Guild’s resident finishing expert, Craig Arnold. All in all, a very well-rounded class.
My favorite part is the students. There are a very good mix of our society, today. Young and middle-aged adults, men and women, all races, it’s just a great way to bring them all together, woodworking. It’s really fun to be involved with this class. It’s also helped rejuvenate me and my love for the craft by sharing what I’ve learned thru the years. One of the great things is past students are recruited to be instructors in future classes. So, it keeps the knowledge going. And what could be better.