Shop class more than birdhouses

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At first glance, Mark Wilson's woodshop at Hayden High School seems like any other shop class. Music plays in the background, students shout over the noise, and dust makes eyes water.

But birdhouses and baseball bats are the last things you will find students building in Wilson's woodworking class.

Solid oak cabinets, dressers and tables are just a few of the pieces being worked on in the classroom. Gun cabinets and racks also are pretty popular.

There might be something else a little different about this shop class compared to the one you may have taken.

"It used to be mostly boys, but now it's about 50 percent boys," said Wilson, who has taught woodworking for 27 years.

On Tuesday, sophomore Josh Ehlers burned the name of his cousin into a cedar toy chest he plans to give him. He also spent time trying to decide what kind of handles to install on the drawers of his oak dresser.

"He was going to put antlers on it, but he doesn't have enough antlers," Wilson said.

The dresser would sell for more than $500 if purchased at a store, Wilson added.

Wilson's students provide the elbow grease for sanding and the artistry needed for burning designs in the wood. But they have to pay for the materials if they want to take their work home. In Elhers' case, the materials cost about $170.

Elhers said he hoped to take woodworking for the next two years of high school, but he had one concern. Wilson plans to make this school year his last and then move to Hawaii.

"It sucks it's his last year, because I don't know how next year will be with woodworking," Elhers said. "He helps you a lot, and if you have a lot of questions, he'll just keep on helping you and helping you."

It also seems to be one of the more popular classes for boys and girls.

"Everybody likes this class, and everybody wants to have it," said Brianna Ford, who just started the course and was tested on shop safety Tuesday. Ford said she begged her counselor to get into the class.

Wilson said he will miss teaching and that he thinks students will, in the future, use the skills taught in the class.

"It gives them some experience so if they become a homeowner, they can at least use a drill and fix things."

His class has had a decent safety record, with only a few students needing stitches.

"We've never lost a finger, but we better knock on wood," Wilson said.

-- To reach Matt Stensland, call 871-4204

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