Engineering was a terrifying idea.
When I first walked into the doors and saw all of the tools and the wood and the finished projects of the seniors, in the back of my mind I was greatly intimidated. How in the world am I going to pull this off? I know nothing about building anything!
The first project we are working on this year is spoons. Building houses and walls out of wood makes sense! It’s just putting pre-cut wood together with nails, right? (No.) But spoons!? Tiny, delicate, detailed spoons? Ms. Oropallo showed us an example of one of the pervious student’s spoon, and it was gorgeous. I thought she must have had a gift of some sort—a woodworking miracle talent.
I started getting reassured however when we started working with the tools hands-on. There were little stations set up, and Ms. Oropallo carefully explained each tool: how to use them, what not to do, and how to not cut our fingers off. The first tool I used was the coping saw. I drew a curvy line on the piece of scrap wood, secured it, remembered the instructions, and sure enough, I was cutting right along the line. I went to other stations, practiced some more tools, got the hang of each one and thought, “This isn’t so bad.” I even went back to the first saw and cut a heart out of one of the wood pieces.
Now it was time to design our spoons. First, we sketched out two different designs, and chose our favorite. Our final drawing had to be to scale with the size of our future spoon creation. Using strictly rulers and stencils, no free-hand drawing, Ms. Oropallo glued our perfectly measured two-dimensional illustrations to the top and side of our gorgeous block of European Beachwood (which we had cut ourselves, of course).
The anticipation was over–It was time to chisel.
Ms. Oropallo had demonstrated the chiseling technique, and we were now able to put our new learned skills to work. It works by securing the wood to the table, lining the chisel up against the outer rim of the soon-to-be bowl, and pounding the end of the tool with a mallet or hammer. Chiseling the bowl of the spoon was much easier than I expected; except for the few times that I missed the end of the chisel and hammered my finger. When the desired depth was achieved, I took a magical electric buffering device and smoothed out the crescent until the wood was ripple-less, fluent, flowing, and polished to perfection.
At school next week, I will explore the tools in more depth as I start shaping the spoon handle. So far, so good.
By Ana Paula and Julietta