Precise Work, Proud Smiles: Selkirk College fine woodworkers prepare for their year-end show

The year-end show by the students in the Fine Woodworking Program at Selkirk College is, for many people, one of the important artistic events of the year in the West Kootenay. I am always amazed at the quality of the work produced by students who may have never done any woodworking before entering the course.

This year’s show will run Friday May 27th from 9am to 9pm (including a reception), Saturday the 28th from 9am to 6pm, and Sunday the 29th from 9am to 4pm, at the Trading Company Mall at Stanley and Baker.

I visited the class one day last week and interviewed several of the students. I have a special interest in this because I am a graduate of the program myself (1986) and have spent much of my life as a carpenter and woodworker.


Loni Kimber: "…a really, really gratifying experience."

Loni KimberSt. Catherines, Ontario

This is a coffee table I designed for my parents. We were assigned a table project so I asked my parents what they would like. The bottom piece is European plum veneer and it is a rocking magazine stand because my parents absolutely are obsessed with Sidoku, so I have it for that and for their National Geographics and my Dad’s motorcycle magazines.  It is a bent form with man-made board underneath with solid wood edging  and veneer on top.

The legs and rails and top are black cherry which is surprising because they all have different figure and colour in them, and the rails are hard maple. In Ontario we have a lot of trees on our property so I wanted to use trees that are grown there and we have cherry and maple and plum trees.

Loni, what was the biggest challenge  in making this piece?

The joinery. There were quite a few joints and if any of them are out by the most minute amount it messes up the whole thing. And the drawer was a bit of a challenge too. It is really precise and it is not a mechanical drawer guide system, it uses a wood guide system, so you have to get the measurements exact.

Had you ever done any woodworking before this year?

No. Well, I took shop in high school and I made a skateboard and a birdhouse. I helped my dad with fencing and a deck. But nothing involved.

Instructor Michael Grace

What’s the most important thing you have learned this year?

Not skipping steps. It’s worth the extra effort to not cut corners, because you have to be so precise. And patience. And learning to redo your mistakes, not work with them.

And I learned a lot about safety.  Pretty much the first month of school you go over every machine, you are given a rigorous spiel and demonstration and homework because if you can’t operate the machines properly you are not a good woodworker, and you are endangering everybody.

Are your parents going to be amazed because they didn’t know their daughter could do anything like this?

Yeah, I think so. It’s a really cool tangible piece of what I can do.  It is something they can touch and see and use and hopefully have for a very long time.

How has the year been for you, overall?

It’s gone really, really well. I did a brief stint at university taking classics and that really was not rewarding. Here, pretty much in the first month I would come home every day and be like, I made something with my hands, and it is a really, really gratifying experience and I think I am going to be excited to see what I can do outside of the school year.


Christian Savage: "I love this course because woodworking is my favourite thing to do."

Christian Savage, Saltspring Island, B.C.

This is a small coffee table, 60s style, very curvy, made of zebra wood, black walnut and some ebony inlays. My sister really likes Marilyn Monroe and she is getting married in September and this is my wedding gift to her. It has that kind of 50s and 60s kind of look and feel with the flamboyant wood.

Christian, what was the biggest challenge in making this?

The curve. Just to make the form for it was two weeks in itself, and then it was at least 3-4 weeks just to make this one curved panel, and the edging was really hard, and the veneering was really hard. It only took me a week to make everything else though.

What was the most important thing you learned from making this piece?

How to press curved panels. Part of the reason I designed it this way was to learn how to do that.

How has the course gone for you?

I love it. I love woodworking. I love the course because woodworking is my favourite thing to do. It’s sort of like art and sculpting, but it is also functional. That’s why I love woodworking.

There seemed to be a nice feeling of cooperation and camaraderie among the students the day I visited, and sometimes you need that in a woodworking shop. When you are glueing a piece together, for example, you can use some help. If you need to make many joints come together properly within the few minutes it takes the glue to try, it can be a race against time. Here’s Brock McNeil of Rossland, B.C., getting some help glueing his cabinet together.

CLICK HERE to watch the video.

Bronwyn Krause: “I would have never thought I could accomplish what I did in such a short time.”

Bronwyn Krause, Castlegar, B.C.

This is going to be the lid of a trunk. The trunk is in pieces, still. I am working on getting the top layer of veneer on the curved ends and the only way to do it is a lot of clamps, as you can see.

The majority of it is made of cross-banded MDF so it is a plywood core with MDF on the outside so it is nice and smooth for veneer work, and then the veneer I chose is blistered black cherry, so hopefully it will finish up very nice.

Bronwyn, had you ever done woodworking before this course?

No, never. The learning curve was HUGE.  I am amazed at what I can do. I never would have thought that I would accomplish what I did in such a short time, both the learning and the actual working like the pushing boards through the table saw.

How did that happen?

A lot of patience on the part of the instructors, and a drive on my part just to learn as much as I can.

Advice from Assistant Instructor Dave Fraser

I have always been creative. My career background is fibre. I took the fibre course at KSA and while I was there I really got into upholstery and so I have been tearing apart second hand furniture and reupholstering it,  and then I got to the point where I was looking at if the arm of the chair curved this way, or if the leg went that way it would look so much better, but I didn’t have those skills, so can sort of meld those two worlds together now.

Seneca Paavola: "…taking the time to do something perfectly well, rather than rushing…"



Seneca Paavola, Nelson, B.C.

It is two cabinets that are attached, and this is one part of it. The requirements for this for this course is that we have to learn how to hang a door. So my cabinet is a wall- hung book shelf, two triangles that are attached, and it is made from bloodwood, an all-veneer panel.

What has been the biggest challenge with this piece?

The mitres, because they are random weird angles and it is really hard to get them exact, and then also gluing.

What is the most important thing you have learned from doing this piece?

How important accuracy is, especially because of the mitres, taking the time to do something perfectly well is better than rushing through and then having to go back and re-do it.

We went at a pace at where I could keep up. We learned a lot but we went at a good pace for people like me who are just starting out.

Last year, if you could have looked forward in time and saw the work you have done in this course, what would you have thought?

I would be impressed with myself! Yeah. Considering I have never done this before.

Cole Jones: "You have to put so much care into it…."

Cole Jones, Panorama, B.C.

This table is basically two veneer panels, sandwiching some drawers.  It  took a lot longer than expected. I just finished it a couple days ago and it took almost 90 percent of the year just because the veneer needed so much time and work put into it, and I always had wanted to do some kind of veneer arrangement. The older table tops usually have a diamond or x shape, so I was going for something more unconventional using the same process but putting the veneer in a different order instead of the traditional way.

What’s the biggest thing you learned?

The biggest thing I learned was veneering.  And dealing with curly walnut for the rails, dealing with different grain, just how difficult it can actually be. One side of your board might be easy to work with and then the part you are trying to make use of can be a nightmare sometimes, so it is just reading the grain.

The top took three days of work, the edges have to be nice and sharp, everything has to come together perfectly or else the finish starts seeping into the cracks even if you didn’t see them before. So a couple days ago when I finished it I noticed some flaws that I still needed to fix.  You have to put so much care into it, it’s a lot of work. It’s really rewarding though.


Click here to watch this video.


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