The Life of CFC Assistant

Written by Heide Martin on .

Furniture Intensive assistant Adam Howell shows off his essentials: ear protection, notepad, and (empty) cup of coffee. Our hardworking assistants are often graduates of our Furniture Comprehensive and Furniture Intensive courses, and their positions on campus give them the opportunity to share the skills they have with current students, as well as develop new ones. From changing a bandsaw blade to making a dovetailing jig to teaching an out-of-towner the best way to crack a lobster tail, the workday of an assistant is endlessly varied.

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Our current assistants include: Furniture Intensive assistant Adam Howell (graduate of our Furniture Comprehensive), Workshop assistant Eddie Orellana (graduate of our Furniture Intensive) and Workshop assistant Rowan Shaw-Jones.

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As the moniker “assistant” implies, their primary role is to assist instructors and, in so doing, ensure a high quality experience for students. Here, assistant Eddie Orellana works behind the scenes to prep a demo, while students listen to a lecture by instructor Mason McBrien.

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Assistants play a critical role in ensuring the safe use of tools and machines, particularly when students are new to our shop equipment. Here, assistant Adam Howell oversees proper use of the joiner. Below, 2016 assistant Nate Clark helps a student make a cut on the sliding table saw, and current assistant Rowan Shaw-Jones discusses how to safely approach a cut on the rip saw.

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Shop safety extends to proper shop maintenance, and assistants spend a lot of their time doing the “invisible” jobs that are necessary for this. Below, 2016 assistant Heide Martin organizes the clamp racks, and current assistant Eddie Orellana checks a table saw blade for square.

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The work of assistants extends far beyond proper machine use and shop safety. In the bench room, students rely on the skills of assistants just as they do those of instructors: assistants provide tips on everything from how to pare a dovetail and how to check a cut for square, to how to lay out hand-cut joinery and check for a good fit. Below: 2014 assistant Michaela Stone helps a student check the shoulder of a dovetail, Rowan Shaw-Jones demonstrates how to use the back of a chisel to check for true, 2014 assistant Lisa Kaliczak checks the fit of a joint, and 2017 assistant Ted Newman works with a student on his joinery.

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Assistants can learn a lot from teaching students, but sometimes they are also students themselves. Some classes require special skills that assistants may not have when coming into the class, and they often learn these directly from the instructors. For example, turning classes often utilize green wood, and assistants may be asked to process logs into turning blanks. Below, 2016 assistant Brendan Yi-Fu Tay gets tips on slicing up a log from instructor Mac Ray, and 2016 assistant Chelsea Van Voorhis discusses proper safety technique with instructor Mark Gardner.

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Sometimes the assistants also have the opportunity to participate in classes themselves during off-hours, and have valuable opportunities to ask questions from our expert instructors. Here, 2016 assistant Heide Martin receives advice from Garrett Hack on how to pare drawers for a perfect fit while assisting with his drawer making class, and 2016 assistant Chelsea Van Voorhis works on her own chair while assisting with a Windsor chair class. This type of experience is not only invaluable for the assistants themselves, but also allows them to be of greater assistance to the students in the class.

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The role of a workshop assistant extends beyond the classroom, and they help our staff in preparing for events like our weekly potlucks and faculty slideshows. An essential task in preparing for the weekly potlucks: preparing the croquet pitch! Generations of assistants have performed this noble task; pictured here are Brendan Yi-Fu Tay, Heide Martin, and Erik Curtis.

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Also not to be forgotten: the all-important job of picking up the week’s lobster order in Rockport and, of course, enjoying the potluck along with students, fellows, and staff!

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A sincere thank you to the many assistants who have passed through the doors of the Center for Furniture Craftsmanship: thank you for your hard work, your enthusiasm, and for the energy that you bring to our campus!

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