Community Woodshop aims to ‘bring people together over the art of woodworking’

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Put away the 3D printers and swap wireless technology for wooden planks: London’s newest maker space is all about circular saws, not circuit boards.

The London Community Woodshop opened this week, a do-it-yourself dream spot filled with enough equipment to make any handy person drool.

“It’s a place of connection. People can start learning about woodworking and really see where it takes them,” said Sarah Gastle, business development co-ordinator with Pathways Skill Development.

“There are just so many possibilities . . . I can’t wait to see where it goes from here.”

The Horton Street workshop is a riveting new idea to get retirees out of their basement workshops and expose millenials to the art of woodworking.

From concept to completion, the Forest City shop has been a year and a half in the making. Pathways got the idea from a program in Barrie and sought funding from the city and the London Community Foundation to make it happen.

From purchasing the 3,600 sq. ft. building to outfitting it with all the workshop trappings, Gastle said the project cost at least $650,000. The shop has all the tools of the woodworking trade, from saws to chisels, lathes and sanders — costly equipment that’s often out of reach for people taking up the craft.

“You have to have the space to do it, you have to buy the equipment, which is expensive, you have to develop the skill set to do it safely,” said Gastle.

“To get your start in it, even as a hobby, it’s hard.”

Gastle wants members to build more than just tables and chairs — she’s hoping they’ll build connections too. The work space is supposed to be a social place where people can learn from others. And with seniors’ programs and therapeutic woodworking sessions starting up this fall, Gastle has high hopes the shop will make an impact.

“The idea is to bring people together over the art of woodworking,” she said.

“We want to open the space up to the community, welcome people in.”

The workshop is planning an official grand opening in September but is hosting an evening open-house Thursday to show off the cutting-edge space.

Would-be woodworkers can buy monthly or yearly memberships to the space and come and go as they please. There are volunteers and staff to guide beginners and, though it only opened on Monday, the workshop is already attracting attention.

“We’ve seen a tremendous amount of interest from all age groups. From the 20 and 30-somethings . . . right up to retirees in their seventies,” said Paul Hubert, Pathways executive director.

Hubert said the popularity of do-it-yourself projects — and the bonanza of crafts on sites like Pinterest and Instagram — might just bring more people in.

But in the meantime, Hubert is happy to hammer in the final nail on the London Community Woodshop.

“It’s been a big undertaking, but I think it’s going to be a really valuable asset for the community,” he said.

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