Shop classes and woodworking may be a class of the past at many high schools and vocational schools, but at the Southwest School of Woodworking, the art is alive, and being taught at a variety skill levels.
“There’s a lot of variety, so you get different views,” Eric Morris, a student at the woodworking school who took a class in furniture making, said.
The school, located on Seventh Avenue, focuses on traditional woodworking skills, teaching its students techniques in hand tool skills and mastery, offering classes to any level from beginner to master classes for people from high schoolers to older adults, all being taught by world class instructors.
The school is young and relatively unknown, according to Raul Ramirez, director for the woodworking school. He has worked in wood crafting since 1970, taking classes in high school and pursuing it as a hobby. He established the school in woodworking in 2013 after many vocational and high schools around the country were shutting down their programs in woodworking and cutting budgets.
“There’s no other place to learn woodworking in Arizona,” Ramirez says. “And that’s why we started [the school] to keep the craft going.”
On Saturday the school held its annual Open House event to allow the public to get an insight into the craftsmanship of woodworking in an age where mass-produced wood fixtures and particle board clutter homes.
Upon walking through the door of the Southwest School of Woodworking, visitors were greeted with the rough handsaws, woodsy aromas and the strong smell of lacquer, and throughout the day, the school provided visitors with tours of the facility, demonstration classes in the workshops and a chance to look at some of the works from students in their art gallery.
Morris’ rocking chair project was one of the many pieces of work on display in the gallery. “It’s great to go on YouTube and to look up a technique, but [instead you’re] in their presence getting your questions answered right now,” Morris said.
James Aldwell, a colorist and finishing professional, praised the school for preserving craftsmanship over mass-production.
“This school has a lot of passion for traditional woodworking, so here they teach the usage of hand tools,” Aldwell said. “And then you facilitate your work using machine tools. When you can do a little bit of everything you make yourself more valuable and you’re much more of a craftsman.”
Classes at the Southwest School of Woodworking are offered for a variety of woodworking skills. For more information on how to sign up for classes or want to learn more about the Southwest School of Woodworking, visit their website at www.southwestschoolofwoodworking.org.