Carpentry

Hands-on Halifax begins holiday workshop series

Locals learn woodworking and leave with handmade gifts

David Clearwater works on the platform for his tea tray at Hands-On Halifax.
David Clearwater works on the platform for his tea tray at Hands-On Halifax.   Haleigh Atwood

Hands-On Halifax, the only community woodworking space in the the area, held the first of five holiday workshops on Sunday for locals looking to build new skills and make a gift or two.

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the sound of power tools and the smell of sawdust filled the 950-square foot space at 6070 Almon St., as four beginner woodworkers built tea trays from scrap lumber.

“It’s just a fun way to spend an afternoon,” said Beth Stevens, an engineer. “I have a tea tray at home, but I like seeing the finished product and knowing I’ve accomplished something.”

Since its first open house on Sept. 10, Hands-On Halifax has attracted people of different skill levels and interests. Russell Zwicker, carpenter and owner of Hands-On Halifax, calls it the “backyard tool shed” of Halifax.

“For skills like cooking, you can watch a YouTube video and just try it, but with carpentry you need so many tools,” said Zwicker.

Last year he began asking groups, such as Halifax Tool Library and Halifax Makerspace, if there was a place for locals who don’t have access to woodworking tools and supplies.

“My initial thought was that maybe this existed and I just didn’t know about it,” said Zwicker. “But most of these groups would say, ‘it doesn’t exist, and we wish it did’.”

The first of its kind, Hands-On Halifax runs weekly classes and drop-in nights. A group of volunteers keeps the space open during weekday evenings and weekend afternoons.

The holiday workshop series, taught by Zwicker, is similar to a beginner carpentry class. The same tools are explained and used, but the goal is putting information into practice. People leave with something they can give as a gift or keep for themselves.

“I feel like this is a different way to learn,” said Zwicker, who took a part-time carpentry program at NSCC. “This is a lot more trial-and-error, asking questions, and experimenting.”

Zwicker said people like that they’re not only learning new skills, but they’re making something tangible.

For others, the workshop is more than just a place to learn and build.

David Clearwater’s experience has been both practical and emotional. Clearwater’s father died two years ago in December. He was a carpentry hobbyist and owned his own workshop.

“His birthday is coming up,” said Clearwater. “I’m having a rough week, and this was a good therapy session.”

The holiday series will continue for four more weeks and costs $50 per workshop. Next week is sold out, but during the remaining three workshops Zwicker will show how to make wine holders, storage crates, and lazy Susans.