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December 20, 2014
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Not just for women; A new day in woodworking

Karol Sundholm and Joan Fergus are members of the Women’s Winter Wonderland Woodworking Workshop, where everyone learns to use all kinds of woodworking tools, and each will take home her own hand-made relica of a historic spice rack/tea cabinet.
Contributed photos


GLEN SPEY, NY — The scene is as old as the first colonial American settlements and as modern as 21st-century America: four women friends, gathered around a crafting table, are working on projects while exchanging gossip and small talk. Their instructor interrupts the session with a drill sergeant bark, “I want these pieces as smooth as a baby’s butt!” The women gleefully pick up their tools and, one by one, power sanders roar to life. This is the April 2 meeting of the 2013-2014 Women’s Winter Wonderland Woodworking Workshop. There’s some disagreement on the workshop’s official name and start date, but none whatsoever about the group’s success.

Power tools no longer intimidate Nancy Stephenson, Shain Fishman, Karol Sundholm and Joan Fergus; they empower them. Like Tim Allen’s character, Tim the Toolman Taylor, on the long-running television sitcom, “Home Improvement,” their new mantra is, “More power!” Arrh Arrh Arrh. Together with their instructor, Marcy Pesner, they extol the latest, lightest and most versatile power gadgets in woodworking: Black and Decker’s Matrix Multi-Tool, a toolbox worth of tools in one implement with multiple attachments. But this workshop is not all about noisy tools. Participants also learn to use traditional hand tools as well as innovative tools, including dental instruments, to repair, restore and conceal wood imperfections

It started with a spur-of-the-moment decision at a community event last fall, where Pesner was drumming up business for her Beagleandpottsworkshops, a craft school relocated from its Brooklyn origin to a Glen Spey shed. Pesner was pitching her workshops to one of four long-time women friends, all of whom were at the event. When Pesner stipulated that four students was maximum workshop capacity, the deal was sealed. The four take yoga classes together (taught by Fishman at Highland Yoga and Dance Inc.) on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday nights, but they needed a Wednesday night activity for the lonely Highland winter.

The decision to take the class may have been made quickly, but the commitment of time, effort, and money was not taken lightly. Originally envisioned as two-and-a-half hours one night a week for three months, the workshop cost each participant $500 for instruction plus $75 for project materials. Winter weather forced rescheduling of some sessions, causing the workshop to run into spring, and Pesner estimates that one or two additional sessions will be required for completion of the project—a spice rack/tea cabinet.

The project looks deceptively simple. Standing about two feet high and one foot wide, this cabinet (complete with hinged doors) is a replica of a historic piece and features a base, molding and genuine brass fittings, all in period style. The piece was carefully chosen to give its builders a solid foundation in essential woodworking techniques, mitering chief among them. Says Pesner, “There is no cutting corners when we make corners with wood. No pun intended. We learn the correct way to perform all fundamental woodworking skills.”

There were some unexpected takeaways. Stevenson now knows that special requests once asked of a carpenter were unrealistic, while Fishman is confident that no carpenter will ever again be able to put a snow job past her. Fergus plans to share woodworking projects with her craftsman husband. And Sundholm has added woodworking to her other hobbies: quilting, fly tying and golf.

Pesner emphasizes that both men and women are welcome in all workshops. For more information on woodworking instruction, safe and proper power tool handling, and independent construction projects, see www.beagleandpottsworkshops.com, or call Marcy Pesner at 845/858-8345.