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Handmade satisfaction

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Ashland asked for it, and now it's here -- a community woodshop open to the public.

Wood Theory Community Woodshop is equipped with tools of the trade, open and private working areas and a large space for classes and community workshops.

It's located at 2915 Highway 66 beside Secure Storage with a "wood for sale" sign out front.

Owner Nick David said he wanted to create a shared space for people who might not have the space or tools at home.

"The idea of having a community woodshop is to become more efficient as a community," David said. "There's also a sort of shared wisdom in a community shop. By being near someone who has a different perspective, you can often find a better solution. There's a lot you can learn in a community workshop that you can’t learn from YouTube."

He said a large driving force for him to open the shop is to provide a space and educational opportunities for people to dive into an important trade that is disappearing.

“In our world these days, we’re living more and more virtually and not viscerally,” David said. “We don’t live in our bodies, we live in our computers, and one way to change that is to have people, especially the younger generation, make things with their hands and see their product from start to finish. Creating a project from start to finish, from wood to putting it in your bedroom and sitting your lamp on top, is a satisfying thing, and the younger generation doesn’t know about that satisfaction in a lot of ways.”

For $159 monthly or $49 daily, members have access to “two table saws, two band saws, a 15-inch helical head planer, an 8-inch jointer, miter saw, comprehensive dust collection, assembly space and plenty of coffee.”

“If you don’t have the room or the tools, it’s a great place to come for that,” David said.

One of the table saws stops within .005 seconds after sensing skin. David said it’s a lifesaving piece of technology for people of the trade.

“You’ll get a nick, but you’ll save your hands,” David said.

Table saws have been the demise for woodworkers since the tool was crafted, eating fingers and instilling fear in its users.

David said he’s working on acquiring a computer numeric control (CNC) machine that can be programmed to cut and carve various materials such as wood, plastics, foams and aluminum.

A full security system complete with video surveillance is being installed soon. Members will have a passcode to get into the building. David said everything is insured inside and out as well.

David was born and raised in Ashland. After spending a stint in Portland, he moved back and started a custom woodworking business.

“At the end of the day I was working alone, so I just brought in a bunch of my friends,” David said. Then his business model morphed into what it is now, a shop for his friends and everyone else.

Richard Pope, who has been a woodworker his entire life and was a part of the group that transferred from the last woodworking shop, said he was raised with the trade because his dad was a woodworker. He said although he’s strayed from the craft at times, he’s always been able to supplement his income with the work because it’s in such demand.

The younger generations aren’t learning these crafts; they’re buying poor quality furniture from overseas, he said.

“It’s something to put your coffee on, but it’s not something to engage with,” David said.

Pope, who earns his living by woodworking now, crafting furniture and other custom projects, has one of four “cubicles” in the shop. This is his permanent work space that he’s sharing with a friend. His son even has a miniature work table where he makes cutting boards from Pope’s scraps while he works.

There are three available “pro memberships” currently, where members can have a permanent, private work space. A pro membership costs $395 and can be split with a partner to share the space.

He’s hoping to have about 20 members at a time.

The spaces are about 8-by-9-foot squares with walls for hanging tools.

The cubicles are in each corner of the back room. The middle section of the room is filled with work tables and larger, stationary tools for communal use.

The front room is large and open with four giant tables on wheels. This room will be used for classes and workshops and could be rented for large art creative projects, David said.

Pope teaches a woodworking class at John Muir and hopes to teach youth classes at the woodshop this summer.

He said his goal is to have a summer class for 14- to 16-year-olds in which they would craft an heirloom piece of furniture that would last multiple generations.

“I want to teach them a trade that they can have for the rest of their lives as well as give them an opportunity to express themselves,” Pope said.

He also wants to teach a class for kids in the 11-13 age group that would focus on smaller projects like building birdhouses.

David said he hopes to eventually have classes for all ages, even younger children — called “Tinker Time” — to introduce kids to hand tools and teach them how to repair everyday items.

A loft space above the open class area is filled with couches, books and a record player. This area is intended as a break area or a place for people to brainstorm but could also serve as a place for parents to watch their children’s classes.

David said he’d like to hold “fix-it cafes” where people can bring in broken items and receive help repairing them while learning how to use the tools necessary to fix future projects and reduce unnecessary waste.

Currently an Intro to Woodworking class is available at the shop.

Pope and David agreed that teaching future generations craft skills is important because interest is dying quickly, and not everything can be 3-D-printed — nor should be.

Pope said for every one person entering the field, about three are retiring.

David said he wants to bring Ashland in on the makerspace sensation.

“I wanted to make Ashland a place where people can come and feel part of the community of makers and doers, and people who want to live through their work and through their hands,” David said.

The shop is open and accepting members now. A grand opening event is planned for Sunday, May 19.

For more information, see wood-theory.com or the Facebook page at facebook.com/WoodTheoryWoodshop.

Contact Tidings reporter Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4496. Follow her on Twitter @cfowlkes6.

Richard Pope of Pope Custom Woodworking goes over plans to build storage space at Wood Theory Community Woodshop off Highway 66 in Ashland. Andy Atkinson/Daily Tidings
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