Friday, October 2, 2009

Profile: Woodworker and Teacher: Dan West

West WoodWorks
Cherry Valley, New York

With a Bachelor's degree in Industrial Arts and Technology and a Masters in Education, Dan West began his career as a woodworking teacher at Oppenheim Ephratah Central School over 20 years ago. After completing 16 years in teaching, Dan entered the agriculture industry under the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), and the New York State Department of Labor. For 9 years he traveled throughout the Northeastern United States teaching machinery safety programs, while also authoring a number of articles for national magazines and various publications about safe operation and maintenance of agriculture equipment.

Throughout his teaching career Dan always maintained woodworking as a hobby. Five years ago he made the decision to turn this hobby into a business and West WoodWorks was born. Using local wood materials, Dan designs and custom crafts each piece to fit his customers specifications, from simple benches to intricate armoires.

Being a teacher all his life, it was natural for Dan to develop an educational component to West WoodWorks. Two years ago he began offering a monthly class in his woodworking shop. Course topics varied from requests by individuals to subjects Dan thought students would find interesting. The response from both beginning woodworkers and "do it yourselfers" to more advanced students was so successful that Dan expanded the number of class offerings and began developing "series" courses in which students were taken through a progression of classes relating to a particular topic.

Currently, Dan is in the process of shaping these educational services into a woodworking school. To be known as the "Leatherstocking Region School of Woodworking", the formalized program will allow Dan to instruct students on professional quality machinery and enable learners to operate equipment and build pieces of their own.

In addition to forming his woodworking school, Dan continues to improve his services at West WoodWorks. His latest acquisition is a Computer Numerically Controlled (CNC) router. Dan uses this tabletop router to create custom wood signs. The router fits a piece of wood 1 foot wide by 2 feet long. Dan types his sign into a computer program (similar to a word processing program) and chooses the size and style of the lettering. He then imports this information into the automated router and the sign is cut.
CNC technology, like Dan's router, offers woodworkers the ability to automate woodworking equipment through the use of computers. Woodworkers enter their design into a computer program, which translates the information and sends motion instructions to automated woodworking equipment. The woodworking equipment then generates the woodworkers design into a functional piece. This technology gives woodworkers the ability to create accurate and detailed pieces in a short amount of time. CNC is also popular in shops where precise and often repeated patterns must be created - cabinet shops are a good example. A cabinet maker will load specifications into CNC equipment to cut all parts for the cabinet from large pieces of wood or plywood. This ensures accurately cut, repeated parts in a short amount of time, with minimal waste.

If you are interested in seeing how CNC technology works, and meeting Dan of West WoodWorks, stop in to Wightman's Annual Open House on Saturday October 10th. Dan will be demonstrating his CNC router throughout the day and answering any questions about CNC technology, West WoodWorks, or any general questions about his life-long pursuits: teaching and woodworking! To learn more about West WoodWorks and Dan West please visit:
West WoodWorks, or contact Dan at, 607.264.3217.