I guess some of you are scratching your heads. What does this ivy league institution have to do with woodworking? Well, as it happened, Harvard, or more precisely Eliot House is supporting woodworking teaching as an extra curricular activity for its students and staff… and I had the privilege to launch this ten years ago. It all began in 2003 when Prof. Lino Pertile, then Master of Eliot House invited me to resurrect the last remaining student woodshop on campus. Eliot House is one of the twelve administrative subdivisions of the Harvard College. It is a home to more than 400 undergraduates who live there and receive supervision and guidance from a college of tutors, a dean, and a House Master who is a University professor. Lino is a world renown scholar of Romance Languages and Literature who loves and appreciates woodworking. In fact, he worked as an apprentice woodworker in England while studying there for his Ph.D.
When I arrived to Eliot House I found the old woodshop in complete disarray. Most of the remaining machinery was rusted, some of it was completely broken; the shop did not have proper furniture, dust system or even decent hand tools… so we had to build the shop from scratch.
Here are pictures of Eliot House and after it a few pictures of the basement woodwshop as we found it.
With the help of some enthusiastic students, a few staff members, and with the support of Master Lino, the renovation work began.
We began by organizing the space, then we built a "coop" for plywood sheets and MDF (left side of picture, under florescent light).
Then we built a few benches and installed then with vises. We repositioned and fixed the machines, got a dust collector and an ambient dust filter. I got us a small budget to buy clamps, sharpening equipment, and a few hand tools. We also built a few needed furniture and hardware storage bins and we repurposed and adopted lamps and other useful equipment that we got from the Harvard Surplus center:
I set up my own bench (found on the street of Cambridge after being discarded by a local school) at the corner of the room:
Here is a picture of one of the contraptions I built for the shop from a piece of equipment I found at the Harvard Surplus Center. What I found there was an adjustable hight table mechanism on wheels. I decided that it could be great for a sharpening station. Since our basement shop was so short in space a movable sharpening unit that could be hauled out of the way was a very useful thing to have. I installed to the found table an old coffee table top (including the two drawers) and voila: a state of the at grinding/sharpening station was born: