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A picture of a block of wood, with the disassembled pieces of a gavel sitting on top of it. Below the block of wood is a drawing of the completed gavel.

If you read my last post (shameless plug), you'll know that I've been taking time this term to try a bunch of new things! I wanted to go into a bit more depth about one of these new activities: woodshop!

The Dartmouth woodshop (displaced for now by the renovation of the Hopkins Center for the Arts) is located in a stand-alone building in Maffei Plaza, right outside of the visual arts center. Although the building is pretty small (maybe a converted shipping container? I'm not 100% sure), it's filled to the brim with every saw, plane, and lathe a beginner woodworker could ask for.

To get into the woodshop at all, you first have to complete an orientation session and pass a short quiz, which combined took me about an hour total. Then, you can come in at any time and use all of the available tools completely free of charge! Woodshop hours are super flexible, and the tools are available to every Dartmouth student, regardless of whether they've taken a shop class or not. 

The people who work at the shop are super knowledgeable about woodworking and are there to help walk you through every step of your project. I've been working on a gavel for the Mock Trial team, and it's been a blast learning the ins and outs of woodturning. Learning woodworking is very experiential. I bought a piece of wood, drew out my design, and less than an hour later found myself carving into the spinning block with a parting tool, something I had never heard of until that moment.

But that's not all you can make at the Dartmouth woodshop! Although I'm keeping it small-scale to learn the basics, much bigger projects are also possible. One of my good friends is working on a skateboard as we speak, and the woodshop proudly advertises the super cool instruments that people like to construct (think guitars, ukuleles, thinks that aren't quite guitars and ukuleles, etc.). Although huge projects like canoes aren't possible in the current space, once the Hop renovation is complete and the woodshop can move back to its permanent home, gigantic constructions will be back on. The possibilities are endless!

The process of making the gavel has taken me through lots of important steps in the woodworking process, from picking the type of wood to planning a design, cutting blocks, turning pieces, sanding down, and (hopefully soon!) using the laser engraver to burn the Mock Trial logo into the gavel's stand. I feel like I've learned a lot about a relatively niche art form, and I managed to do so without ever taking a formal class or workshop.

Woodworking is super relaxing and a lot of fun. You get completely engrossed in the work in front of you, and it's generally a neat skill. After I finish my current project, I'm excited to delve into the world of possibilities that the Dartmouth woodshop offers me.

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