A study in wood: turning a hobby into a career

Scattered throughout Andrew Coates' workshop are tributes to the passion for woodworking that he's carried for half his life.

The workbench and bookshelf he built himself, along with a toboggan that rests against a corner wall. Bits and pieces of projects - a table leg here and longboard there - reflect works in progress.

Coates is one of the lucky people who have turned a hobby into a career. By day, he teaches shop to students at Brocklehurst middle school, with woodwork one of the classes he instructs.

On weekends he instructs an adult entry-level woodworking course for the City, running the classes out of his shop in Rayleigh.

His next course begins March 31 and runs every Saturday for six weeks. By the time the program ends, Coates promises his students will be able to construct a small entry table from rough, unfinished wood.

"By working with rough wood you can save yourself tons of money," Coates said Tuesday.

That's because it costs almost three times as much to buy finished wood from a hardware store. Coates said finishing the wood yourself saves money and, when the woodworker becomes proficient, there isn't much time involved.

Two key tools in Coates's arsenal are the joiner and plainer. A big part of the course is teaching people how to use these and other woodworking tools safely.

"These are essential for getting smooth, flat boards," he said.

Coates chose the entry table as a beginning project because it's simple enough that anyone can build one, yet suitable for teaching all the skills needed to work with wood.

"It's designed to be a project that people can succeed at," he said. "I actually designed it for my Grade 9's project but it's such a good project."

The three table legs require the wood to be tapered, he said. The tabletop is made from narrow strips of wood that need to be machined flat and smooth, glued together and cut to shape.

Coates only enrols four students per class, which creates a more intimate learning environment. And, because he teaches out of his own workshop, he's willing hang out after class and help with projects.

Coates struggled in school until he took a summer construction job when he was 16, he said. From there, he developed a love of building his own furniture, something he still does today.

He became an assistant to his Grade 12 shop teacher, which led him to his current career.

"There's just something about watching a kid do something he couldn't do 10 minutes earlier that's rewarding," said Coates.

For more information on Coates's woodworking classes, phone 250-371-7929 or email lostinwoodwork@hotmail.com.

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News