Finely Tuned Machines: a peek behind the scenes

Written by Heide Martin on .

With our workshop season swinging into full gear this week, campus is bustling with new students and visitors and activities, like our weekly potlucks and faculty slideshows. With so much happening this time of year it may be easy to overlook how much work goes on behind the scenes to keep the workshops humming. This blog post is dedicated to our highly skilled and hardworking facilities staff, who go above and beyond all year long to keep the shops tidy, the machines running smoothly, and the buildings and grounds looking their finest.

First, let us introduce our incredible facilities staff, who you will see every day here on our campus. You will often find facilities Manager Mason McBrien in one of his favorite spots on campus – the lumber room.


Digital Fabrication and Assistant Facilities Manager, Mark Juliana, is always ready for a glue up! 


Facilities Assistant Mary Ellen Hitt enjoying touching up the paint on our iconic red buildings on a sunny day.


Our campus is comprised of four buildings, three of which include a fully equipped machine room and bench room each, in addition to a lumber room, turning studio, and finishing room. The fourth building on campus houses the Messler Gallery, the Fine Woodworking Library, and our administrative offices. You can learn more about our facilities here.

One of the first things visitors notice when walking through our workshop buildings is the impressive scale of our machine rooms, which are fully equipped with well-tuned machines and shop-built fixtures. From rotating helical heads to building router tables to fine-tuning bandsaw wheels, our facilities staff is working hard all year long to keep these machine rooms safe and pleasurable to use.


One of the newest additions to our tool collection is a CNC router, which is managed by Mark Juliana. Here, Mark is helping a group of students run the machine, and is helping another learn the CNC software.


Our selection of hand tools is similarly maintained. Organization is key: below are a set of photos used as a reminder for what goes where!


This same level of organization can be seen throughout campus, even inside the tool drawers.


Over the course of a year we offer dozens of classes and programs, and each of these has a unique set of requirements. Specialty tools, custom jigs and fixtures, teaching aids, pre-milled lumber, green wood, rare timber…you name it. Instructors and students often have special requests, and work directly with Mason, Mark, and Mary Ellen to meet these needs.


This attention to detail and materials does not go unnoticed. Students and visitors alike note that our lumber selection is of the highest quality, and for good reason: our facilities manager, Mason, hand selects each piece in person. Below, Mason teaches a group of students and fellows what to look for in lumber selection.


Our facilities manager also works directly with local sawyers to source wood for our turning classes and other green wood projects. Here, Mason cuts green wood for a student’s Windsor chair project.


On sunny summer days, it is easy to forget that Maine sometimes sees generous amounts of snow in the winter months. On snowy mornings, we all pitch in to clear the paths, but our facilities staff track weather patterns in order to know when to plow, when to salt and sand, and when to tell the rest of us to just stay home! Thank you for this Mason, Mark, and Mary Ellen, and thank you for all that you do.