If you want to see how far I can roll my eyes to the back of my head, ask me this question:
“How can we get young people into woodworking?”
Despite all the hand-wringing about the loss of shop classes in public schools, I am not at all worried about the future of woodworking. Wood is the most important renewable building material on the planet, and the history (past and future) of humanity cannot be written without it.
Truth is, woodworking as we know it might die out. People might lose interest in building reproductions of old stuff. Instead, the craft might look like something like you would find at Maker Faire. (Attend one of those fairs and then try to complain that young people don’t want to build stuff.)
If you want additional encouraging news, listen to this. Half of the students in the classes I teach are in their 20s and 30s. That was not the case 10 years ago when the average age was in the late 50s. Yes, I think this has something to do with the growth of handwork, but the full explanation is too long for a blog entry.
Oh, and after I roll my eyes back into their proper position, here is what I suggest. Don’t complain. Try these things.
1. Give away tools. This is a cue I learned from Carl Bilderback and Fred West. When you meet a young person interested in woodworking, give them your excess tools. Most of the tools I got rid of in my great purge four years ago were given away. Yup. Lie-Nielsen planes. Infills. Saws galore. Tools that were set up and performing brilliantly.
2. Donate money. I’ve given away a lot of money to the Roger Cliffe Memorial Scholarship, which funds students attending the Marc Adams School of Woodworking. Most of these students are fresh out of high school, trade school or college and cannot afford the tools or tuition to take classes. This tax-deductible fund does wonders.
3. Teach. Open your shop door to the neighborhood. Offer to demonstrate stuff at “career day” at school. Next year, I’m doing a series of classes aimed at younger woodworkers who cannot afford to take a week off of work (or family) to take a class. The tuition will be negligible and we’re going to find cheap lodging for them, too.
These things work much better than worrying about the problem at your local guild. If you expect the government or some benevolent corporation to solve the problem for you, I think you are going to be disappointed.
— Christopher Schwarz