I wanted to share this email from Eleanor M. Rust who wrote to say that community colleges in California are a great resource for makers who want to learn new skills.

I just bought my first copy of MAKE after being a CRAFT reader for a while, and I’m really enjoying it! But a remark made by a columnist prompted me to email you now:

My partner has been involved in two outstanding woodworking programs at community colleges in Southern California, first as a student and now as a teacher. For anyone in California wanting to pick up shop skills without spending a lot of money, community colleges are a great resource! MAKE seems to be especially friendly to auto-didacts and communal tip-sharing, but these classes are ideal for perfecting techniques without re-inventing the wheel, accessing large or expensive equipment and space, and connecting with other makers. The teachers tend to be true makers themselves with backgrounds in many different fields, and so lots of kinds of projects are possible.

As a new reader, I don’t know if these resources have been discussed before or if they fit with your interests. But just in case you’d like to get the word out, here are a few details about the two programs I’m familiar with. They are many others, I’m sure, and in other fields as well as woodworking.

Cerritos College

Norwalk CA (LA County)

Many of the teachers are professional woodworkers, and there is a strong interest in turn-of-the-century techniques and Arts and Crafts style furniture. They teach classes from basic woodworking skills to sophisticated furniture designing and building, as well as professional training on modern CNC production cabinet machinery, but also in using hand-tools, lathe-turning, and making Windsor chairs. One teacher, Tony Fortner, teaches a summer class in architectural and furniture history that involves touring important 19th and early 20th c. buildings around LA, many of which are not usually open to the public. The student body is a good mix of college-age students aspiring to the woodworking trades, and amateurs from college age to the long-retired, many just beginning to work with wood, and some serious hobbyists. Link: www.cerritos.edu/wood

Palomar College
San Marcos, CA (San Diego County)

This school has a similar range of classes as Cerritos, but it also includes guitar-making. There is a saw-mill on site that processes trees from San Diego’s urban forestry program, which means that students can cheaply buy local wood that has been culled responsibly. Every year, students visit woodworkers in Japan, and in return the school has been the site of one of very few Kezuru-kai competitions outside Japan, which draws champion woodworkers striving to make the longest, thinnest shavings (I swear!) Link: www.palomar.edu/woodworking.

Finally, the cost of taking classes in California’s community college system remains very reasonable, and considering the quality of equipment, instruction and general expertise available at both of these woodworking programs, they are an incredible bargain in these times.

Thanks, Eleanor. This year, for Maker Faire, we are working with Community Colleges in California (all 10 districts) through the Center for Applied Competitive Technologies. CACT’s tagline is Making It in California, which is the name of their website as well, MakingItInCalifornia.com. The Center is bringing over 100 high school teachers to Maker Faire.