Madalyn Popp leaned over the mortiser in NMC Aero Park Laboratories’ woodworking shop, safety goggles in place, and drilled a square hole in a length of basswood.
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The piece will become part of a small wine rack, a project that is introducing Popp to building plans and tools like planers, sanders, miter saws and table saws.
The Traverse City college student is among an increasing number of women drawn to building and remodeling projects, thanks in part to DIY and HGTV network shows starring women like Nicole Curtis (“Rehab Addict”) and Amy Matthews (“This New House,” “Sweat Equity”). “Women watch that stuff on the Home Channel so much. It really inspires them to take on a home project,” said Maureen Carlson, publication and promotion specialist for Northwestern Michigan College’s Extended Education program, which will offer its first “Woodworking for Women: Power Tool Skills” class March 7 and 14. Popp, a 2013 graduate of St.
Francis High School, always wanted to take a woodworking class but said her school didn’t offer one. So she enrolled in a regular introductory woodworking course at Northwestern Michigan College after returning from a cultural exchange in India. She’ll broaden her skills this summer by working with her father, a stonemason.
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“I really, really like wooden furniture but it’s pricey if you buy it brand new,” said Popp, 20, who hopes to have her own woodworking shop one day. “I have two female cousins who took woodworking classes at TBA.
They’ll buy old dressers off Craigslist and just make a leg (to replace a broken one). They’ll paint it, put it in the living room or sell it on eBay.” Women in David Abeel’s Windsor stool- and sidechair-building classes find they can handle travisher planes, chisels and spokeshaves alongside their male counterparts.
“They’re very capable,” said Abeel, who will offer the classes June 15 and 16 and July 14 and 15 at Elizabeth Oliver Center for the Arts. “The cool thing about it is you don’t have to be Hercules or have a lot of prerequisite knowledge.
The excavation is done with a travisher plane,” a hand tool with a curved blade used to make comfortable chair seat contours. Sue Egan got involved in do-it-yourself projects out of necessity. The semi-retired administrative assistant was a single parent for years and said economics dictated that she try to fix things herself before calling in the pros.
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Now she hopes NMC’s extended ed class will give her the skills she needs to build simple furniture like deck chairs and a step-stool so she can reach the highest cabinets in her kitchen.