I had no real idea what to expect when I enrolled in the Carpentry program. I did a DEP in Furniture Finishing at Rosemont in 2015, but carpentry skills are very different.
I’m the only woman in my class of 21 students, and the only woman currently enrolled in any of the three ongoing Carpentry groups. I’m also the oldest person in my class. This is my first big taste of being a visible minority. It’s a bit surreal and not always comfortable. Deep breath…
But forget the stereotype of a carpenter as a large burly dude swinging a hammer. The reality in 2016 is so much more interesting and diverse than that. Time for a shout out to the 20 men in my class who have all been unfailingly positive and helpful, often letting me know that I wasn’t the only one to have questions or not know something. The same goes for each of the teachers I’ve met so far. Each brings so much knowledge, dedication and passion. A rare and beautiful thing to see.
I won’t lie to you: the program can be challenging. It’s not okay if a line is kind of straight, or an angle 90-ish degrees. We use a bunch of different tools and machines. Precision, constancy, quality – the only way to get these is to work at it. It’s about focus, planning, knowing your tools and correctly bringing the plan to life in the real world. Often with millimetres as your margin of error. No stress!
It feels really satisfying though when you can do it properly and can be proud of your work. You’re making things that last, that people will use every day. It’s worth getting good at. Acquiring the skills can be hard work but it’s a pretty happy process. The school is mostly a fun and positive place. Many of the teachers and staff, like the students, have done other jobs, had other lives. They choose to be here and seem to love what they’re doing.
So here’s my big discovery: Carpentry is a great mix of brain work (math, angles, measurements…), creative problem-solving, and physical effort. No matter how good you are or aren’t, you improve with every project. It’s a place where ideas, real world function, and physical work meet. I’ve done a lot of other things in my life but carpentry seems to bring them all together. Then there’s the thrill of “I made this” or “I helped make this”.
In a world more and more virtual I like having real machines, real wood, real effort, real results. Real fatigue too, for sure. And a real cold (beer) afterwards!
Kathryn McCully, Carpentry student