Woodworking at Michael’s | St. Lawrence University Adirondack Semester

Woodworking at Michael’s

by: Cleo Mueller
Spencer Rundquist

For the second half of the semester, the Arcadians have been working with local woodworker Michael Frenette.  On Mondays and Tuesdays, we wake early to make the trip into Tupper, to work with Michael in his workshop.  In order to maximize our time working, we pack breakfast and eat it while we work.  Michael and his assistant Tori treat us to doughnuts, and make coffee and tea.  The atmosphere is casual, and warm.

On the first day, we arrived eager and expecting to get right to work, but Michael had different plans.  With a Zen-like patience, he proclaimed, “It’s my job to make you guys slow down.  Not only in life, but you guys need to be calm when using the big power tools.”  Finally, after many cups of tea and lively conversation, he asked us individually what we wanted to make, and we got to work.  Unlike woodworking with Everett Smith the first half of the semester, we now have the choice to create a project of our choosing.

Given this much freedom, and a shed full of beautiful wood, it’s difficult to make a decision of what to make.  So we wander around the shop aimlessly, where some past Adirondack Semester students’ unfinished projects – not yet sanded head board, a strip of curly maple labeled “cutting boards” – are laid to rest.  Some find inspiration immediately dashing off with pieces of cherry to sand into cutting boards with maple leaves wood burned on the top.  Others have talked to Micheal beforehand and settle down to make projects they’ve dreamed about the entire semester.  Ian for example, sits down to throw a wood bowl.

Others are determined to make beautiful, hand-carved Christmas gifts – a birdhouse, sunflower box, or picture frame.

By the second class, all the students have settled into the rhythm of sawing, and sanding.  Michael has equipped them with the knowledge to work on their own, occasionally asking him questions.  Monday and Tuesday mornings are the jolliest time of the week, and Adirondack Semester students can’t wait to bring home the projects they have crafted with love.