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  • Writer's picturegingerlau

A Modern Introduction to Woodworking

Course: Purely fun

Purpose: Learning how to work with wood through the process of building a side table

Key skills used:

  • Machine Shop Safety

  • Wood Working

  • Joinery

I had a wonderful time at the introduction to woodworking class offered by Craftsman Ave. I had expected for it to be solely hands on, but the instructor went in depth about the science and the mechanics behind our builds. Going into the experience, I was only expecting to be able to familiarize myself with machines, but I think I have discovered a new hobby - making. I really enjoyed the hands-on experiences. I was even able to go beyond the class and design my own key holder in addition to the table.

Picture 1. Ginger Lau cutting her wood with a circular saw.

There were so many engineering applications that were taught in this class. It was cool to learned about error propagation when working with wood because it directly relates to the error propagation lab, I just worked on for PH291. We learned about a bit how to optimize systems. When their shop receives fresh boards of wood, they have to measure and systematically determine the number of tables that the board can make depending on factors such as the blade thickness and overall design (for instance, certain connecting joints are able to optimize wood usage).

At the end of this class, I travelled back to Manhattan with my classmates holding a small table that I built from start to finish. In making the table, I had learned about how to properly mark wood, measure wood, and how to design pieces to optimize wood. In terms of machines, I learned how to use a circular saw, table saw, belt sander, and router table. All of which I have no prior experience with but now feel very comfortable using.

Picture 2. Alsu, Ginger, Eugene in order from left to right. Excited to begin the wood working class after being given their first pieces of wood.

I had taken the shop orientation class at Cooper, but it was really nice to get the opportunity to work with machines hands on and be taught the industry standards. Things like understand how wood is sources and sold is something that was really cool that I had not learned at Cooper. For instance, a “two by four” is actually 1 ¾” and 3 ¾”. I also learned that two by fours are common and are often used as wall studs which provide the structural strength to a house.

The way the class was structured was really interesting but also really helpful in that I know I will retain what I have learned. The instructor emphasized a 3 point system to learning how to work in the ship (1) Learning - learning about the safety measures and about the way the machine works (2) Getting comfortable - getting comfortable with using the machines, setting the settings and just getting to know the machine (3) Teaching and optimizing - teaching others how to use the machines and implementing jigs to make cutting wood more efficient.

Picture 3. Ginger and Alsu using a router table.

While this was not a networking event, I was able to get to know that few other people that are in the class. It was interesting to hear how software engineering and graphic designers were inspired to take the wood working class. I spoke briefly with one gentleman in that class who mentioned that he is taking woodworking because of his personal interest in furniture design despite his full-time job as a software engineering working with AI.

Mechanical engineering is a very broad field filled with many qualified and talented students. Taking this wood working class has really helped me realize how much I enjoy hands on making and designing. I believe that being able to make tables will lead to me creating my own projects will make me a better mechanic and a better mechanical engineering student. There are only so many things I can learn from a textbook and a professor. This experience has really opened my eyes to a new hobby and a new way of applying what I’ve learned in class.

Picture 4. Eugene and Ginger being really excited about their first build and testing its strength by sitting on it.

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