American Woodworker

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Winter 2013-2014

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School News - Future Woodworkers of America


By Randy Johnson

A visit with Las Vegas area high school woodworking teachers.

I recently had the opportunity to tour a few Las Vegas, Nevada area high school wood shops to talk with the teachers and some of the students.
    Having taught wood shop myself in the past, it was obvious that some good things have not changed. The teachers are still committed to their students and programs. Their ability to keep 20-30 students safely working in a room full of woodworking machines is nothing short of amazing. It comes from their ability to know what’s happening across shop simply by listening to the machines; confirming with a quick glance whether the student needs immediate assistance or is simply having a learning experience
    Also unchanged is the enthusiasm that most students have for the opportunity to work with tools and make something constructive with their own hands – and the pride they have in the finished product. Projects haven’t changed much either, although the VHS video storage cabinet has become the DVD storage box and the writing desk is now the laptop desk.  The paint gun storage case was a bit new, but perhaps it’s just a scaled down blanket chest or an oversize jewelry box.
    The basic woodworking machines haven’t changed much either. However, two tools did stand out. They were the SawStop and Shopbot CNC router.  The SawStop makes great safety sense for schools and all around a great saw. The Shopbot CNC router links woodworking to computer technologies and design, and provides a new (digital) way of producing projects and  parts.
    There are 45 high school woodworking programs in the Las Vegas, Clark county school district, and 26 of them have a Shopbot CNC router – pretty impressive. Some teachers use the Shopbot primarily for decorating the surface of projects while other use them to cut out all the parts for a project. The teachers I spoke with found the CNC technology to be a valuable teaching tool that helped students apply knowledge from other subjects.  To quote one student “ Wow, that X, Y, Z axis stuff really does have an application. I get it now”

Below are some photos of the shops I visited.  CLICK ON PHOTOS FOR A LARGER VIEW.


Palo Verde High School

Palo Verde's woodshop instructor Steve Turbie credits
a supportive administration and money from the
Carl D Perkins Act
for his well-equipped modern school shop.


Steve's commitment to his student's is reflected by
the broad range of skills his students develop and the
quality of their projects.


Two SawStops - sweet!
The dust collector is link to special switch so other tools will
not turn on unless the dust collector is running.


Two 4' by  4' Shopbots back to back saves floor space and
allows more students to benefit from the technology.
Student projects made with the CNC include a small bookcase
and foot stool with CNC cut mortise and tenon joinery.

Steve's favorite cutoff saw - a 12" CTD  with 2HP 3 phase motor.
This saw will last a long, long time.


Valley High School

Instructor Mark Bullen's shop is a bit tight for space,
but is well arranged and very popular with students.


There's nothing small about Mark's tool selection,
which includes a 24" Powermatic planer as well as two
SawStops,and several other commercial grade power tools.
Thanks again to funding from the Carl D Perkins Act


The 4' by 4' Shopbot at Valley High School is tucked into a small
side room. Although the working space is tight, the separate
room help contain the noise and the dust.


A CD/DVD storage units made with dado joinery and decorative
V-carving is the standard project that a student makes when
exploring CNC technology in Mark's class.


Bonanza High School


The first thing you notice when you enter Fernando Sanchez's
woodworking shop at Bonanza High are the wonderful
instructional murals on the wall. The cross section of a tree
and the map of the US inform students about the science
and geography of trees.


Just a friendly reminder that woodworking requires a brain.


It also requires a good understanding of math.


Products Made From Trees. It takes a wall to list them all.


The X and Y axes are clearly marked on the Shopbot
at Bonanza High to help student easily identify the difference.

Fernando uses the tongue drum to teach CNC programing,
joinery and parts cutting. The drum also very popular with students.


Elvis was a woodworker...well maybe not.


Desert Oasis High School

Located on the southwestern outskirts of Las Vegas,
Desert Oasis High is one newest high schools in the
Las Vegas / Clark county area.


View from the school's parking lot. Although it can snow
in Vegas, it's one thing that doesn't stay in Vegas.


Tim Wenzel's state-of-the-art school woodworking shop is
thanks to a very supportive school principal, and Carl D Perkins
grant money. Plus Tim spent many evening and summer
vacation days building all the shop fixtures. His pride in his
program and shop are easy to see.

Tim has the wonderful habit of greeting every student with
a hearty handshake and a "how are you today?" Tim reports that
this cordial practice increases mutual respect and makes
class room management less challenging. Hat's off to Tim for
his creative approach.


The Shopbot at Desert Oasis High gets a lot of use.
It's a newer 4' by 8' PRSalpha with a quiet running spindle.
The machine  has full bed vacuum that can hold a full
sheet of plywood in place with no additional clamping

Tim encourages students to use the Shopbot for any aspect of their
projects (once they've completed the necessary CNC training)
This includes outside projects for the school or community.
Shown in photo above are parts being cut for large pink ribbon
donation boxes for the upcoming Relay For Life Cancer Society
event that the school is hosting on May 14-15, 2010.


A completed Relay for Life donation box.