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Woodworking

Blind Artisans Come out of the Woodwork, Choose Enchanted Hills for Annual Conference

Photo: A group of men stand around a large tree trunk meant for turning on a lathe.

At the end of this summer, Enchanted Hills Camp and Retreat hosted a small but dedicated international organization, Woodworking for the Blind, for its first-ever conference in Napa. Our newly completed DeLong-Sweet Tactile Arts Barn in the woods of Mt. Veeder provided the perfect setting for this group of a dozen blind and low vision woodworkers to hone their skills and reinvigorate their love for tactile craftsmanship. George Wurtzel, Enchanted Hills Construction Manager and blind woodworking guru, facilitated an overall unforgettable experience. He provided guidance, training and engagement as the group learned the ins and outs of our new workshop.

If any of this intrigues, we encourage you to sign up for either of our two upcoming woodworking workshops at Enchanted Hills:

Meanwhile: Jeff Thompson, creator of the Blind Abilities podcast, was present for the whole thing, and had great things to say in his debrief after the conference. Read his essay, below.

The following is by Jeff Thompson:

WW4B stands for Wood Working for the Blind and is a group of International woodworkers that were invited to attend the Enchanted Hills Camp in the newly renovated Arts Building. This event happened over a 3 day period August 24-26 where 14 top notch blind woodworkers descended upon the 311 acres located on Veeder Mountain above Napa Valley, California.

Although this was the 5th such gathering for WW4B, this time the LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco offered their facilities at Enchanted Hills Camp where George Wurtzel, Construction Supervisor, has brought his talents and knowledge and where many camp attendees will learn about wood working, the arts and mostly, gain confidence. With such a response from wood workers across the states and Canada, George invited me to assist with the event. Such an honor to be asked by George Wurtzel who I consider my guru in the area of wood working. George has done wood working his entire life and openly shares his experience with anybody willing to learn and listen.

I arrived 3 days in advance with my wife and was welcomed with open arms and some very nice people working at the camp. Caretakers Janet and Donnie and handyman Chris were inviting and made us feel comfortable from the get-go. The wood working area was huge and the new oak flooring was impressive. The Redwood deck and steps were fresh and were milled at the saw mill just up the mountain. Most of  Enchanted hills Camp is covered with Redwoods and when opportunity happens and a fallen tree is offered up by Mother Nature, the tree is traded for lumber already cut. Nice to have neighbors with a saw mill.

George and I went over the shop which consisted of 4 table saws, 3 lathes, a massive band saw, planers, jointers, full-face sanders and on and on. I realized that this shop could produce just about anything. George knew that the WW4B group would be a bit different than what he or I have been accustomed to in the past. Typically, we are teachers of those wanting to gain confidence and overcome fears by working with tools and accomplishing a goal. This group of blind wood workers were not new to wood working, they are some of the best wood workers out there. Blind or not, they are some of the best. George took the approach that the shop could handle just about anything they would want to learn and was encouraging anybody who knew more to step up and share.

This was a great opportunity for me to meet all these guys that I followed on-line, in emails and on audio over the last 10 years when I returned to wood working upon discovering the click-ruler measuring device. We did not build a project, we did not construct much at all, but we all shared ideas, experiences and how-to-do’s till just around midnight each night. We would rise for breakfast the staff prepared –  wonderful fruits and veggies, breakfast foods and most important, good coffee. Then off to the shop where each day another machine or three was the focus of discussion and discovery. Most of us had experience on the machines, however, just as the WW4B group shares emails, this moment was unique as there were 16 of us, all accomplished wood workers putting our heads and thoughts together.

The Dove-Tail Jig from Lee Valley was a new tool that was thought of as not being accessible to the Blind. We shot that notion down as a few of us went through the settings and after some trials and discoveries, we put that notion to rest. We achieved perfect dove-tails and the confidence that any one of us could use such a jig in the future.

Block gauges, centering bits, plunging routers, tapering jigs, planers and lathes were just part of the 3-day workshop.
Being open to what the wood workers wanted to do was brilliant because each one of the attendees brought something to the table and everybody took from each other. It was like being surrounded by wood encyclopedias that actually talked! I was assisting, yes, and I was soaking up as much information as I could.

The after dinner gathering was just as rewarding. Talks and discussions opened my mind to different ways of doing the same thing. And believe me, finding out a tip or trick that saves me time is a real value. Time is priceless. The WW4B took over one night and showed us some accessible devices that with a Raspberry Pie, a controller, one could use an Angle block or caliper and get audio feedback. This isn’t a produced package but this is something that these guys have cobbled together and made it work. I myself and George immediately saw the usefulness of the angle block for setting bevels and angle cuts on the compound-miter saws. We will each take one, please. Aagard Group manufactures top quality packaging automation machines used around the world, they will be helping package the work that the artisans make.

At the end of the day and at the end of the event, I was stuffed and overflowing with new information, links to check out, contacts to make and most of all, I am now part of a wood working community.

I would like to thank LightHouse for the Blind in San Francisco for their vision of Enchanted Hills Camp. Learning about how they manage and care for the 311 acres of Redwoods and the preservation of the land, water and trees is encouraging as they build the infrastructure at the camp to ensure the lasting impact that Enchanted Hills will be able to deliver in the future for years to come.

 

Our Popular Woodworking Workshop with George Wurtzel Returns in the New Year

Photo: Surrounded by woodworking tools and machinery, George Wurtzel works on a wooden bowl in the DeLong-Sweet Tactile Arts Barn at Enchanted Hills.

Join expert carpenter George Wurtzel at our popular workshop for both beginning and experienced woodworkers.

This class will cover wood turning, hand tool work and an introduction to power tools. We’ll learn how to measure accurately without sight, using click rules, gauge blocks, Vernier calipers and talking tape measures. We’ll talk about wood types and construction techniques and learn when to glue, when to nail and when to use screws. We’ll also touch on finishing techniques.

Who: Adults (ages 21 and older) who are blind or have low vision and are eager to learn woodworking
Where: Enchanted Hills Camp
When: Thursday, February 16 through Sunday, February 19, 2017
Cost: $300.00 plus $40.00 for transportation
Class is limited to six participants, so sign up now.

For questions and registration, please contact Taccarra Burrell at TBurrell@LightHouse-sf.org or call 415-694-7310.

Woodworking with George Wurtzel Returns in November

Image: Surrounded by woodworking tools and machinery, George Wurtzel works on a wooden bowl in the DeLong -Sweet Tactile Arts Barn at Enchanted Hills.

Join expert carpenter George Wurtzel at our popular workshop for both beginning and experienced woodworkers.

This class will cover wood turning, hand tool work and an introduction to power tools. We’ll learn how to measure accurately without sight, using click rules, gauge blocks, Vernier calipers and talking tape measures. We’ll talk about wood types and construction techniques and learn when to glue, when to nail and when to use screws. We’ll also touch on finishing techniques.

Who: Adults (ages 21 and older ) who are blind or have low vision and are eager to learn woodworking

Where: Enchanted Hills Camp

When: Thursday, November 10 through Sunday, November 13

Cost: $300.00 plus $40.00 for transportation

Class is limited to six participants, so sign up now.

To sign up for this special workshop, contact Camp Director Tony Fletcher at tfletcher@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7319 for an application or with any questions.

Spaces Filling up Fast for STEM, Woodworking, Horse Camp Sessions at Enchanted Hills Camp

Our special STEM, woodworking and horse camp sessions are returning this summer. Whether you’re a budding scientist, interested in creating artful objects from wood or ready to learn how to properly care for horses, we have the camp session for you.

To sign up for any of these sessions, contact Taccarra Burrell at tburrell@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7318 for an application or with any questions. You’ll also find descriptions of the sessions and online applications on our website.

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) for Youth
This year Enchanted Hills Camp is again offering a special STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program within our Youth Session at Enchanted Hills. The STEM program will run from July 13 to 16 and will provide students ages 11 to 15 with an unforgettable, hands-on learning experience in Science, Engineering and Technology and Math. More than education and fun, though, all participants will work with real-life blind scientists, chemists and engineers who will leave an unforgettable impression that adult science success is possible with little or no vision.

During the class, students will take part in hands-on, accessible and innovative activities including computing, rocket building, plant biology and chemistry. Students will also learn how to build their own accessible electronic devices using the popular Arduino systems and have the opportunity to take a field trip to the Exploratorium in San Francisco for some special hands-on instruction by Exploratorium scientists.

Parents and guardians who wish to register their children for the STEM program can do so on a supplemental section which is included with the Youth Session application.

  • Who: Youth ages 11 to 15
  • When: Wednesday, July 13 through Saturday, July 16
  • Cost: $60 Session Fee (free for those attending the youth session)

To sign up for this session, contact Taccarra Burrell at tburrell@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7318 for an application or with any questions.

Woodworking with George Wurtzel
Join expert carpenter George Wurtzel for a week long workshop designed for transition aged campers that are beginners and intermediate woodworkers.

This class will cover wood turning, hand tool work and an introduction to power tools. We’ll learn how to measure accurately without sight, using click rules, gauge blocks, Vernier calipers and talking tape measures. We’ll talk about wood types and construction techniques and learn when to glue, when to nail and when to use screws. We’ll also touch on finishing techniques.

  • Who: Youth ages 16 through 24
  • When: Monday, August 1 through Sunday, August 7, 2016
  • Cost: $300.00
  • Class is limited to 12 participants, so sign up now

To sign up for this special workshop, contact Taccarra Burrell at tburrell@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7318 for an application or with any questions.

Horse Camp with Diane Starin
Join us again for Horse Camp. Participants will have a chance to learn from avid horseback rider and wrangler, Diane Starin. Starin, who is blind, has owned, ridden, taught and cared for horses for more than 30 years. She has an Associates of Science degree in agricultural business, a Certificate in Horse Husbandry and is a certified Therapeutic Riding Instructor.

This camp session is for blind or visually impaired riders, ages 16 through 24. It is geared for those that have ridden before, but not a lot. Starin has a wealth of knowledge about the proper care of horses, and students will have a truly unique chance to learn from a blind professional how it’s done with little or no sight.

Diane told us, “Horses have been my passion since I was about two and I have wanted to teach a horse camp for as long as I can remember. This is especially important to me, because blind people don’t have as much of a chance to ride and handle horses.”

  • Who: Youth ages 16 through 24
  • When: Monday, August 1 through Sunday, August 7, 2016
  • Cost for each camper is $300.
  • Space is limited to six participants, so sign up while spaces are available. We expect this session to be very popular.

Besides riding lessons and instruction on horse care (including a visit with a farrier), scheduled outings include a tour of the UC Davis Veterinary Medical Center, driving a horse team at Rush Ranch, provided by Access Adventures. Started in 2005 by Mike Muir, the great grandson of environmentalist John Muir, Access Adventures will be providing an excellent opportunity for our campers to connect with nature through the horses.

A separate application is available for this session. Campers must have independent mobility skills.

Objectives for Horse Camp

  • Teach safety
  • Teach grooming
  • Teach tacking up
  • Teach good care and maintenance
  • Expand each camper’s knowledge of different kinds of equipment and their different applications
  • Riding and lessons as time and skill level allow

To sign up for this session, contact Taccarra Burrell at tburrell@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7318 for an application or with any questions.

Enchanted Hills to Host “Woodworking for the Blind” Annual Summer Workshop

Led by our own master woodworker, George Wurtzel, Enchanted Hills Camp for the Blind is excited to host the Woodworking for the Blind’s Fifth Annual Summer Workshop from August 23 through 27.

Woodworking for the Blind is a national organization of both novice and experienced blind woodworkers. The August Workshop features three full days of instruction at Enchanted Hills and will concentrate on various aspects of wood joinery including dovetails, mortise and tenons, box finger joints and lap and bridle joints. In addition there will be sessions on cutting curves with templates on both router and bandsaw, as well as woodturning techniques, coloring wood with dyes and stains, finishing guidelines and a presentation on developments in talking tools.

Although this workshop is full, George Wurtzel will be presenting another workshop training for blind woodworkers from November 10 thru the 13 at Enchanted Hills Camp. Applications for this special workshop will be available through the LightHouse website in August.

For further information, contact George Wurtzel at gwurtzel@lighthouse-sf.org.

George Wurtzel Profiled in Braille Monitor

“Except for those times when I didn’t want to work, I’ve had a job since I was thirteen years old, either working for myself or working for someone else. This is because I’ve developed a skillset that suits me well, and I’ve learned how to sell my skillset to people. When you run your own business, it’s like having a job interview every week because you have to go out and sell yourself, whether it’s to a company or a potential customer. You get a guy who wants to build five or six confectionary stores, and you want to build all of his cabinetry for him. You have to go out and convince him that you can build the product the way he wants it, give him the quality that he wants, and do it in the timeframe that he wants. You know, he looks at you as a blind person and says, ‘I don’t know how the guy gets across the street, so can he do all this stuff for me?’”

–Fred Wurtzel, A Hands-On Guy Doing Hands-On Work in the Information Age, Braille Monitor, May 2016

Enchanted Hills Camp Construction Manager George Wurtzel, who is also a highly regarded artist, was recently profiled by his brother, former NFB President Fred Wurtzel, in this article published by the Braille Monitor. You can read the entire article here.

Woodworking Intensive with George Wurtzel

George Wurtzel teaches student Brian Buhrow how to cut wood.Join expert carpenter George Wurtzel at an encore workshop for both beginners and experienced woodworkers.

This class will cover wood turning, hand tool work and an introduction to power tools. We’ll learn how to measure accurately without sight, using click rules, gauge blocks, Vernier calipers and talking tape measures. We’ll talk about wood types and construction techniques and learn when to glue, when to nail and when to use screws. We’ll also touch on finishing techniques.

Who: Adults 21 and older who are eager to learn woodworking
Where: Enchanted Hills Camp
When: Thursday, March 17 through Sunday, March 20, 2016
Cost: $300.00 plus $40.00 for transportation
Class is limited to six participants, so sign up now.

To sign up for this special workshop, contact Camp Director Tony Fletcher at tfletcher@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7319 for an application or with any questions.

Join Expert George Wurtzel for an Innovative Class in Woodworking

A photo montage of George Wurtzel working with wood and walking, white cane in hand, at Enchanted Hills

Deadline to sign up: November 5, 2015

Join expert George Wurtzel at our first workshop for both beginners and experienced woodworkers. This class will touch on wood turning, hand tool work and an introduction to power tools. We’ll learn how to measure accurately without sight, using click rules, gauge blocks, Vernier calipers and talking tape measures. We’ll talk about wood types and construction techniques. We will learn when to glue, when to nail and when to use screws. We’ll also touch on finishing techniques.

Who: Adults 21 and older who wish to learn about woodworking
Where: Enchanted Hills Camp
When: Thursday, November 12 through Sunday, November 15, 2015
Cost: $300.00 plus $40.00 for transportation

To sign up for this special workshop, contact Camp Director Tony Fletcher at tfletcher@lighthouse-sf.org or 415-694-7319 for an application or with any questions.

Please contact George in advance if you have something in particular you would like him to cover. We also encourage attendees to bring their ideas for a project in wood to the first class and think outside the box for some outrageous sculpture project. George can be reached at gwurtzel@lighthouse-sf.org. Future classes include leather working, ceramics (both slip style and wheel thrown) and sculpture using a variety of materials – wood, ceramics, metal, rock, Hydra stone and anything at hand.