The Wood Technology Center is a section of Seattle Central Community College of which most students at the Broadway Campus have no knowledge. Tucked away on South Lane Street in the Central District a brand new building houses a vocational institute dedicated to woodworking. The school has been around in various iterations and locations since 1936, and became a part of the Community College system in 1967. The new building, finished last year, is state-of-the-art, with high ceilings and steel beams accented with fine woodwork.
On Friday February 22nd and Saturday February 23rd the Wood Technology Center held two events. One, which spanned both days, was a visiting workshop and presentation by the Maine based Lie-Nielsen Toolworks. Crafters of fine bench planes, block planes, saws, chisels, joinery sets, and more Lie-Nielsen travels to vocational schools and other locations nationwide giving demonstrations, promoting their handmade tools, and inspiring people to work with wood. Their tools are all made in the U.S.A.
Marta Madden, an employee with Lie-Nielsen, said “we’re not saying we make the best tools, but we make very high quality tools” while she discussed other, local toolmakers who joined them in their event. When someone purchases tools from Lie-Nielsen at an event like this they have the chance to really feel the tool, to hold it in their hands, before deciding what to purchase. Marta added: “You’re not only getting the tools, you’re getting the knowledge of the craftsmen.” Lie-Nielsen brings employees who are master woodworkers to each of their events, and they were spending time with passersby and onlookers teaching and demonstrating the use of planes, chisels, and other tools.
The first stop, Marta told me, on their yearly travels from institute to institute, is in Port Townshend, Washington, at the Wooden Boat Festival.
Lie-Nielsen Toolworks coming to the Wood Technology Center provides a good way for community members, craftsmen, and others to see the new Wood Technology Center building and begin to recognize its potential as an educational institute for future generations of woodworking professionals.
The second event, which occurred only on Saturday, was the 23rd annual Tool Swap hosted by SCCC Wood Technology Center students. This event was packed with tools, old and new, of all different types. There were power tools, hand tools, cheap tools, and expensive tools, everything one could imagine. There were tools to which most people are accustomed, such as hammers, axes, and screwdrivers, and there were tools such as drawknives, and specific types of planes, which perhaps only a woodworker would know.
Jesse Barnes, one of the event organizers and a student at the Wood Technology Center, explained a bit about the school, saying “there are three different directions you can take [as a student at the Wood Technology Center], carpentry, boatbuilding, and cabinetry.” Examples of work from the carpentry program were in the room where the Tool Swap took place in the form of the tables for the event. “All the projects that come out of the carpentry program are community projects,” he added, listing off various locations which they had done, or are working on, carpentry work for. These included such diverse places as a house in the Central District, a Church on Whidbey Island, and a project at a park in Bellevue.
The Tool Swap brought out community members in droves. Louie Read was one of those. Read was also a vendor at the event, and said that “turnout vendor-wise and buyer-wise has been remarkable.” The Tool Swap, he added, had not happened in a couple of years while construction was being done on the new Wood Technology Center building. He seemed glad that it had started again with such a strong showing. Read also stated that the “amount and quality [of the tools for sale] is remarkable.” Read is a member of the Pacific Northwest Tool Collectors (PNTC), a group that meets, holds events, and is involved in various tool swaps such as the one held on the 23rd. Read said that “five or six of our members are vendors here today.” He also expressed that a handful of students at the Wood Technology Center are members, and that more had expressed interest during the Tool Swap event. The PNTC also offer scholarships to woodworking students.
Overall, the combination of Lie-Nielsen Toolworks and the 23rd annual Tool Swap provided an opportunity for the local community, the greater woodworking community, and others to see the new Wood Technology Center building, interact with like-minded people, and allowed students opportunities to meet individuals in their desired fields. It brought in people, such as those from the PNTC, who are passionate about woodworking, to meet students, afforded them opportunities to find all varieties of tools, and hopefully will bring more attention in the future to the Wood Technology Center and the work and education that goes on there.