RX Workshops

I signed up to teach some of the ReBuilding Exchange's Make It-Take It workshops this spring.  Each Sunday for a few months, I taught two three-hour classes on how to make a simple home project -- a wine rack, a laptop/bed-in-breakfast tray, a bench, an end table, a kitchen blackboard, and a crash course in bandsaw taxidermy, creating a wooden facsimile of a mounted deer head.  Promoted through Groupon, we got a healthy turnout throughout, though we lost some folks to the wiles of good weather and playoff hockey.  

All the projects are crafted out of lumber from the vast RX warehouse.  For the wine rack, I wanted to go as simple as possible while retaining a healthy dose of visual theatrics.  Given the beauty of our source material, we didn't need to go too crazy -- the old-growth pine and fir speaks for itself, dense, rich, and finely-figured.  I settled on a slanted L-shape, punched with three holes, allowing the bottles to cantilever out into space.  This makes the bottles the centerpiece, leaving the rack to recede somewhat.  

Rack 'em.

The most popular class, measured by general class enthusiasm, was Bandsaw Taxidermy.  We used a few simple templates, some old-growth lumber, and the aforementioned bandsaw to cut out deer heads, antlers and plaques.  It's actually a very simple project, given the right tools.  The weathered surface of the boards lent a suitably manly, vintage air to the pieces, and we didn't have to kill anything (always a bonus in my book).

Finished product, with some modern angular antlers. 
Various templates for the heads, plaques, and antlers were made out of masonite so folks could trace them.
The kitchen blackboard started with painting 16" squares of smooth masonite with chalkboard paint -- we went with the old-school green shade.  I pre-ripped grooves in a bunch of old-growth two-by material, and the students mitered and fit it around the  squares.  The thickness of the material made a nice ledge to hold the chalk and, on the backside, made a ledge to hang the board on the wall.

Two happy students.
The bench followed our standard RX Made design -- a 4' long top, with two legs and a set of triangular 2" x 4" braces in between.  Folks seemed to want them mostly as an entry-way or mudroom accessory, a place to take off shoes and stash them underneath.   I pre-cut a bunch of 2" x 10" material, then the students went to town, chop-sawing with a vengeance.  No matter how many students I have, how many classes pass without an injury, my heart ends up in my throat a little bit every time a novice puts blade to board.

Mmmm.  Lots of character on that one.
Today, we capped off the season with the laptop tray, which is a simple little jam for eating breakfast in bed or watching something on the 'ol interwebs.  Built from a single 3' piece of wood, it mates two small legs with a smooth, 22" top and integrated handle cutouts.  Lightweight and compact, it makes life much easier on the couch or in bed.  

Laptop tray nearing completion.
The classes were fun; people who work at other things Monday-Friday seem to light up with a sense of accomplishment when they finish a project they can hold in their hands, the product of some honest, simple labor.  I had all kinds -- couples, novices, father-and-son teams, salty old shopdogs in for a refresher course -- and the simple magic of seeing physical effort take concrete form never gets old.