Woodworkers, not unlike wood itself, must be given time to grow. That simple fact is the foundation of Laguna Tools’ participation in the woodworking program headed by teacher Rand Hall at McKinley Middle School (MMS), McKinleyville, CA.
Hall has taught at the school for the past 27 years. Most of those years were spent teaching science to 7th and 8th graders. Five years ago the school decided to add electives to its daily program.
Hall immediately offered to teach a woodworking class. At first glance, the offer seemed ideal. Hall built houses for 15 years prior to his teaching career and restores antiques professionally in his spare time. However, one roadblock remained after school administration agreed to his proposal. When Hall inquired about the budget for his new program, the reply was a brief “None.”
Hall then learned that although the school was enthusiastic about his background and knowledge, there was no state funding for a program that would let him share it with students. Undeterred, Hall began soliciting contributions of basic woodworking materials, from the wood he used to make workbenches, to sandpaper, glue and finishing materials. Hall repaid his contributors by constructing a “sponsor wall” that displayed posters of the local and not-so-local companies that supported his program.
One of the sponsors that has earned a prominent place on Hall’s sponsor wall was Laguna Tools. Laguna Tools donated a 14” bandsaw, Driftmaster fence and a Resaw King carbide blade to the program.
“I originally met Laguna Tools in Las Vegas at the Association of Woodworking & Furnishings Suppliers show (AWFS),” recounted Hall, "where I bought a bandsaw for my home shop. As I used that saw, I realized how well made it was and how well it worked.
"Two years ago, thanks to the success of the school’s woodworking program and its great sponsors and tool donations, I was able to move the woodworking shop from a small portable classroom to the largest classroom on campus. I emailed Laguna Tools with pictures of my kids and the work they were doing, and asked for a new resaw blade for the used bandsaw we were using.
“The next day I received an email from Laguna Tools’ Jerry Goodman asking if we would be interested in a new bandsaw. I don't know if Laguna Tools realizes just how great this donation was for us. It made a huge difference in what I was able to set up for the kids. I have a resaw blade on the Laguna Tools saw, and we use it only for resaw and rip applications.
"I put a narrow blade on the older bandsaw so the students can use it to cut curves. This put an end to down time in the class since don't have to change blades every time a student wants to make a straight or curved cut.”
Since its beginning Hall has shared his woodworking knowledge with over 500 students in two separate programs. He currently teaches a daily, introductory program to 7th and an 8th graders, where students learn basic woodworking skills and make small projects working mostly with hand tools.
He also leads an “Entrepreneurs Woodworking Program,” aimed at 7th and 8th graders who want to learn how to start their own business. This class meets daily after lunch and is made up of students who give up their recess time to participate.
Participants learn how to make specific products, create a business plan showing potential profit, apply for a “virtual loan” and write (pretend) checks to the MMS Comets VirtualBank for the materials they use. The program also sponsors a craft fair three times a year. The event is open to both students and the surrounding community and serves as a place for students to sell their completed projects. After paying back, with real money, the costs for materials, the students keep any profits that result.
”All of the wood donated for the students use is rough and full dimension,” said Hall. “So we use the Laguna Tools’ bandsaw to resaw and dimension the wood to a size more suitable for student projects. In addition, experienced students who can handle more advanced projects receive training and permission to use the Laguna Tools’ 14” bandsaw for all rip and resaw cuts.
“It would be very difficult for me to present the program I offer without the Laguna Tools’ bandsaw,” continued Hall. We resaw both hard and soft woods, often as wide as twelve to thirteen inches. The Laguna 14” bandsaw, the Resaw King carbide blade and the Driftmaster fence work quickly, with excellent results and, most importantly, with no wasted wood. The saw has plenty of power for larger cuts, and its accuracy allows consistently true cuts. The Driftmaster fence not only lets me quickly adjust for blade cutting drift, but also quickly and accurately dial in the dimension of the cut.
The saw’s overall size and quality make for smooth, vibration-free cutting. This smooth operation, along with built-in safety features, makes it a safe tool for student use. My students are usually intimidated the first time they use the saw. But they quickly gain skill and confidence once they see how easily and well it works to dimension their wood.”
The quality and capacity to cut large size wood also gives Hall and the students other advantages. Hall was recently offered a 32”diameter at-the-base California Black Walnut tree. Without a saw with the capability of the 14” bandsaw, Hall would have had to turn the offer down. Instead, he used the saw to create green wood turning blanks for students. “I spent a couple of weekends cutting, splitting and hauling the tree to the school shop and prepared several blanks for the students to turn up to a 12" diameter bowl on our lathes. I don't know of any other 14” bandsaw that would allow me to do all of those tasks as easily, accurately, and safely as the Laguna.
“The bandsaw, fence and blade allow me to offer more project options to my students. This has helped make the woodworking program highly popular among the students. In fact it has led to an increase in the number of woodshop sessions we offer daily. I acknowledge the Laguna Tools donation as an important part of the success of the program. I hope when I retire in three more years that the school district will contract with me part time to keep the program running. If this happens Laguna Tools certainly deserves an important share of the credit.”
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