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How to Help Others Get Woodworking

Get Woodworking 2014Tom Iovino put up a good article yesterday about some ways to get others involved in woodworking. I wanted to share one way that has been outstanding not only to introduce new folks to woodworking but as a learning experience for myself. My volunteer work at The Steppingstone Museum has been easily one of the most rewarding things I have done and I think I have impacted more people to further investigate woodworking than any of the blog posts or videos I have created.

Steppingstone Museum Hand PlanesYou see we can talk about good starter projects, and write encouraging pep talk articles for beginners, but nothing compares to the face to face interaction you get at a living history museum. Your passion for the tools and the work will come through in spades and become contagious while your visitor gets the full immersive experience while you work at your bench. The spark in their eyes when they bore a hole through a board with a T handle auger gets fanned into a flame when you hand them a plane and watch them pull a shaving off the same board. Many of my guests want to take the shaving with them in fact.

Every time I work there I am regaled with stories from my guests of remembered times with a father or grandfather in the workshop and how the tools on the walls take them back. Many a person has told me that they have always wanted to get back to woodworking to regain some of those magical times. I have had many visitors come back months later to tell me they have now set up a work shop and are working on something.

Just about everyone reading this is already a woodworker so I don’t need to tell you about the rush and satisfaction that comes from working wood or the all pervading excitement when you build that first project. I see that in the eyes of my return visitors and I get to see the spark ignite in the new folks who have never done any woodworking at all. I gotta tell you as exciting as it is to introduce woodworking to others, I get just as much if not more inspiration from the whole thing than my visitors do.

Steppingstone Museum ShopObviously this only works for the hand tool set among us as I don’t know of any historic sites with modern power tool shops running and open to visitors. I could be wrong as there are probably some cool belt driven shops out there but I imagine as the danger quotient goes up the “velvet rope” protocol increases. But there are a LOT of historic sites around the country. Not all of them will have woodshops but some of them may want to feature woodworking where there is none now. What a cool opportunity to set up a period shop and begin gathering tools! Still others will have a woodshop that lies abandoned just waiting for someone to volunteer to run it. Still more other museums will have a working program that you can jump into and lend a hand. I don’t know many museums who are NOT looking for volunteers, you just have to ask.

Personally, we are always looking for help in the trade shops at The Steppingstone Museum and the more help we have the more we can present our wide collection. Right now our Wheelwright and Cooper shops sit vacant just waiting for someone eager to learn these crafts and demonstrate to visitors. I’m sure there are other museums in a similar situation.

So if you are a woodworker hoping to spread the word, or someone who is interested in learning more about woodworking, I urge you to seek out a living history type museum. It is the ultimate gateway drug to woodworking. Check out the Preservation Directory to find an historic site near you worth investigating and hopefully you too can help others Get Woodworking!


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