Workable Wood


For a lot of students, woodshop is the best class of their day. Whether they’re taking Wood 1 or Computer Aided Drafting, they can be sure the experiences and lessons learned will last for a lifetime.  

The woodshop teacher, Mr. Bell, teaches various different woodworking classes this year. He teaches Wood 1, an entry level class, and Computer Aided Drafting, where students learn to use computers to create models of real structures. He also offers a construction class, where students learn the basic information to maintain a house, and an advanced woodworking class. Most of these classes can be taken by students in any grade, besides the advanced woodworking class, where it is required to take Wood 1 beforehand.

For many of the students, one of the most exciting parts of being in woodshop is being able to use advanced power tools.

“A lot of the students that come into this class from the middle school level have really gotten accustomed to various hand tools. And so when they come here they get really excited about the fact that now you get to incorporate all the big machines into your tool repertoire,” Mr. Bell said.

Some of these big machines include bandsaws, drill presses, stationary sanders, router tables, and miter saws. As thrilling as these power tools can be, they can also be very dangerous. Because of this, each class spends a week going over safety guidelines and studying for a safety test before they can handle any of these tools.

Once they are sure they can properly use all the tools woodshop is all creativity and building. Every student starts with a basic project for practice, which get more advanced as the year goes on. They are essentially allowed to make whatever they want, and are guided by Bell or a woodshop manager.

“Some of them just like making pens, some of them make other things, like furniture for their home. I had a student a couple years ago that was making really high end, beautiful cutting boards and was selling them through his mom’s craft fair for like 200 bucks a piece,” Bell said. “They can be very good quality. You know, the craftsman is going to determine the quality of their work.”

Woodshop managers are skilled student woodworkers who work in the class like a mixture of a TA and a peer mentor. They are allowed to make their own projects in their free time, and also assist the teacher and help the students in their class.

“I’m kind of like the teacher,” Sidney Needle, eleventh grade woodshop manager, said. “If they have a question they can come to me before they go to Mr. Bell, because he’s really busy.”

Needle fell in love with woodworking when she was randomly put in woodshop for her elective in seventh grade. Ever since then, she has improved her skills, making a variety of objects, until she was able to share her talents with her peers as a woodshop manager.

“I made some really cool cutting boards freshman year and then I made some clocks that were really cool. I made a lot of bowls because I really love using the lathe,-” Needle said.

Most notably, Needle put her woodworking skills to the test over the summer at a camp called National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC), where Mr. Bell was one of the instructors. At this camp, she and a team of twenty woman spent a week building a ten by twelve foot house, complete with insulation and an actual roof. Their hard work paid off, for now the house stands in Ventura as transitional housing, for homeless people to transition back into a permanent home and get back on their feet.

Needle and many other women used skills that they learned in their woodshop classes to make an actual, usable house. Mr. Bell stressed the importance of construction jobs in society.

“Right now it’s a really good, viable option with a career that can be anywhere from engineering, the design aspect of it, the actual hands on, the legal portion of with the law and paperwork, office work, and all jobs needed within construction. A lot of people don’t realize that,” Mr. Bell said.

While woodshop is a fun, elective class for high schoolers now, the skills learned in it are unforgettable, and can even lead to careers later in life.