"You're going to want to burn two and then mark it 13.5," Judi says to her workshop buddy Linda. Linda carefully measures across a piece of hemlock harvested from Starrigavan Valley and marks it with a pencil. She pulls out the tape measure and goes over it again (measure twice and cut once!) as Judi confirms the pencil lines and arrows. Judi grabs the ‘worm saw' (a powered skillsaw) and starts ripping the board as Linda holds it down and observes.
After a piece of wood drops to the floor, both women carefully inspect the cut, running their fingers along the edge then nodding in approval. It's not perfect but pretty close. "We can fix that when we sand it," Linda says.
We've come a long way from our first workshop class when we built our saw horses, making sure to pad the top of them with ‘sacrificial' wood. The sacrificial wood being scrap that we don't mind chipping, cutting and scarring as a result of our novice woodworking abilities. Our first class began with instructions from Marcel LaPerriere, local craftsman and owner of Southeast Cedar Homes. He gave usthe basic DOs and DON'Ts of the wood shop as we eyedthe unfamiliar gadgets and tools that surrounded us. The next few meetings we learned how to use tools, how to change drill bits and saw blades and the difference between crosscut and plane cut. Despite our rapidly growing repertoire of skills and vocabulary, we were still short on confidence, often having to encourage one another to take the helm when it was time to start up a saw. Now, class participants are confidently using saws, drill presses, and are continually awestruck all while being steeped in the delicious smell of fresh cut wood. Our class is small (eight participants) but maxes out the space in the wood shop. It is also a diverse group of women ranging from an opera singer to a retired teacher to a Sheldon Jackson summer camp organizer proficient in Chinese.
In April SCS and the Sitka Fine Arts Camp partnered to offer a ‘Women in Carpentry Workshop'. The workshop, a brain child of SCS board member Judi Lehman, and she thought it would tie in nicely with our young growth projects that were funded by the NFF Community Capacity and Land Stewardship program. The course provides locally harvested wood, tools, supplies and instruction from SCS board President Marcel LaPerriere. The product of the class is quite simple: six wooden benches to be placed at the Allen Auditorium on the SJ campus. The goal, however, is much more involved. SCS wanted to showcase young growth timber, contribute to the production of a local wood product and shed light on the quality and usefulness of young-growth timber. This class takes it one step further by providing an opportunity for women who had little to no experience with wood working to learn new skills and create something for the community.
One class member, Kenley, described why she decided to take the course: "I signed up because I really wanted to learn how to use power tools and wanted to gain skills for volunteering and life projects. I've learned so much already! The vocabulary and skills are foreign to me and I've reveled in learning the names of tools, techniques, and processes. I have a much deeper respect for how buildings are constructed and how wood objects are made. I've learned a lot about trees and wood and really appreciate Marcel's dedication and patience in teaching this awesome class". We aren't quite ready to start building our dream homes, but we are learning and having fun along the way. For now, I just wish I could wield a planer or skillsaw fluidly and one handed like Marcel!