Works and Days



Learning How To Learn: Northwest Woodworking Studio, Jacob Hayman, Winter Shadow 2016

Even though I wasn’t sure what to expect, I had been looking forward to my shadow at the Northwest Woodworking Studio all winter break. I did some research on the studio, and found some YouTube videos of Gary Rogowski, the Reedie English major turned expert woodworker who was to guide me and Emily (a fellow Reed student and new friend) for the week. I soon realized I wouldn’t learn much about woodworking on the internet.

Entering the studio didn’t change my feelings of total ignorance. Emily and I talked with Gary briefly about his nonlinear path to becoming a premier woodworker and teacher, and we quickly got started making dovetail joints. Gary gave a demonstration and explained the mechanics of the tools first, but he didn’t want us to learn by listening. We had saws and chisels in our hands within minutes of first entering the studio. We hit the ground running, and the week didn’t slow down.

After going to Gary’s house and grabbing some lumber, Emily and I were assigned to construct a door for the studio office. Gary gave us an idea of what he wanted, but he left us to figure it out for the most part. We measured, cut the particleboard, made mistakes, and measured more. We had to frequently ask for help and guidance, but we eventually got it installed. It wasn’t the most attractive door, but it was a fun project and (hopefully) Gary won’t have to replace it any time soon.

Hail Gary, Free of Briefcase: Northwest Woodworking Studio, Emily Zetkulic, Winter Shadow 2016

On the first day, he had us build a door. I had no idea what I was doing.

I don't mean that I was unsure of how to build a door; I unquestionably did not possess that knowledge. I mean I really didn't know what I was doing—that I was building a door, that this door would be the entrance to Gary's office indefinitely, that I would not sever a fingertip in the process. (Don't worry, Gary Rogowski '72 had us sign waivers.) But at the end of the day, after several hours of foggy instruction following, Jacob and I did have a door in front of us (and lo, one that barely creaked, certainly opened, and practically closed), and twenty fingers between us.

Over the next few days Jacob and I would build more wooden things, culminating in the execution of a real live chair prototype. We designed and chiseled and sawed and swept. We went out to lunch with the Master Woodworking students at a Cuban restaurant in Northeast. We were privy to the same assignments the Master students received, if not the same skill set.