Get to Know and Help Grow WoodLINKS USA

By Bernie Bottens | Posted: 09/27/2012 8:55AM


Bernie Bottens how to finish wood Do you know about WoodLINKS USA? I hope that you do. If you don’t, let me introduce you.

My buddy Dave is the Regional Director for WoodLINKS in the Pacific Northwest. He and I go way back. In fact, we go back farther than we even knew at the beginning. We came to find out that before we met face to face, we walked the same college campus during the same years.

Now, 30 years later, Dave and I have both left public school teaching. But you can take the teacher out of the class but you can’t take the class out of the teacher! In Dave’s case, he now works to promote WoodLINKS. And because he’s “retired,” I get to see quite a bit of Dave including at WoodLINKS events on the regional and national levels. He’s been to the AWFS Fair and IWF a number of times. Both events support and involve WoodLINKS.

WoodLINKS promotes cooperation on many levels between industry and education. That being said, the group focuses specifically on connections between junior and senior high school woodshop teachers and industry.

Why WoodLINKS Matters
Why??? Well, Mr. or Ms. woodworking business owner, where are you finding the qualified workers that you need to man your shop and do the level of work that you expect? Good cabinetmakers don’t just fall off of any old turnip truck that rolls through town. Those of you involved in hiring know exactly what I mean.

There has to be a really special turnip truck out there somewhere. And I’ll bet you anything that if you find it, the guy driving that truck is going to be the local woodshop teacher.

But school programs such as this are becoming a rare commodity in these days of tight school budgets and years of reduction in force needed to protect the “core curriculum” while balancing an ever-shrinking budget. I know all about that. You see, Dave and I met back in the '70s when things were quite different. I was the choir director and Dave was the new woodshop teacher. I loved woodworking and he loved singing. It was a match made in heaven. He’d help me with rehearsals during his prep period; I’d help him with whatever I could. We’re still helping each other all that we can today. Here I am, writing an article about another one of Dave’s passions. But the choral program and the woodshop program just aren’t the same today as they were then…trust me. That’s true.

Again, you, the shop owner, need to know about WoodLINKS. You have a need for workers trained in the art form known as cabinetmaking.  You need both talented and trained employees. Likewise, the teacher in your town needs to know that there are well paying careers out there for kids who become trained in…shall I say…Industrial Arts?

Let me illustrate my point.  Back in the days when Dave and I taught together, right next door to Dave’s shop was another buddy named Jim who taught metals. Jim’s kids left his program knowing how to weld with the best of them. Likewise, they could make shavings on a milling machine or a lathe like nobody’s business. They were well qualified as entry-level people in the metals trades. I know because one of those students was one of my children. Eryn began a career as a machinist because of Jim and his teaching.

Dave’s students were the same way. They left Dave’s class with some really good skill sets.I used to hire some of them for weekend jobs that required helpers for what I was doing in the cabinet industry.

How to Get Involved
So what can you do to promote WoodLINKS In your community?

That question requires some really hard questions in return.

  • Is there a woodshop program in your local high school?
  • How about the junior high?
  • Do you knowthe teacher(s) there?
  • Can you go over one day after school and meet them?

Ask them about WoodINKS and encourage them to get involved. But first, involve yourself by doing some research at

In closing, I met a couple of weeks ago to help plan the annual Washington-Oregon October Teacher In-Service offering. That’s coming up on Friday, October 12.

All of you Oregon and Washington shop teachers, don’t miss this opportunity to network with other woodshop teachers and meet industry professionals willing to help you. It will be a day for you to learn, exchange, and to build relationships. Those relationships have already paid off in our area.  They can grow from seed to full bloom in your area too.  It just takes a little cultivation and fertilizer.

I am calling all of you who read my column to do some cultivating and fertilizing in your own back yards this school year. It is perfectly possible that next year there could be a teacher in-service day of some kind in your area that encourages cooperation at a number of levels between school shop programs and industry. Please go out there and do some digging and make things happen.

Until next time…spray on!

Editor's note: Catch Bernie Bottens speaking on profitable wood finishing at Wood Tech Summit, October 22-23, 2012 in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

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About the Author

Bernie Bottens

Bernie Bottens ( and teaches on the subject of wood and wood finishing in industrial woodworking. He and his wife, Carol, live in Vancouver, WA. Bernie has been teaching wood finishing to shop owners, shop foremen, spray technicians and finishers all over Oregon, southwest Washington, and northern California for the past 9 years. Prior to that, he owned his own cabinet shop. His shop credentials include apprenticing and becoming a journeyman exhibit builder. Before that he taught in the public schools for 20 years. Bernie is the owner of Kapellmeister Enterprises, Inc. and Kap Coatings Consulting. Reach him at

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LR White    
US  |  October, 02, 2012 at 09:43 AM

I really liked the article about Woodlinks. It seems we pay more and more for public education but get less. Believe it or not, the need for "shop" in school came up at my men's breakfast this morning. Mr. Bottens' article it right on. We're denying a goodly portion of our youth the education they need to become profitable citizens. Woodlink sounds like it's motoring against the tide. Good for them.

Debbie Swanson, Abrasive Resource    
Anoka, MN  |  October, 02, 2012 at 09:48 AM

After reading your blog on the Woodworking Network email about Woodlinks USA I clicked over to their website to learn more. It looks like a great program! Our company provides sanding supplies to our local school district at our max discount level of 30% off for the very reasons that Woodlinks was created. We need to be helping along and nurturing our future woodworkers--which will, in turn, be our future sanders & finishers ;) As school districts cut budgets, industry needs to help fill the gap... I would be happy to look at extending that same discount to all of the Woodlinks schools, but wouldn't know how to go about that. We are a national distributor of coated abrasives and ship anywhere in North America. If you feel that would be valuable, will you please forward this email along to whomever I could coordinate that with? Abrasive Resource supplies abrasives for all markets--automotive, metalworking, solid surface, etc., but our specialty is woodworking. Let me know if we can help! PS: I was the "choir nerd" in high school and my husband was always hanging out in the "wood shop". Your article made me smile ;)


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