Making It in California’s Community Colleges


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:

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:

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, The Center is bringing over 100 high school teachers to Maker Faire.

4 thoughts on “Making It in California’s Community Colleges

  1. TD says:

    When I lived in the bay area I never missed the monthly electronic swapmeet at Foothill College. You could get almost anything there, even a whale’s pancreas, or a human toe with a painted nail. Maker’s should not miss it!

  2. Anonymous says:

    El Camino College in Torrance has a telescope making class in which students grind their own mirror into the perfect shape and make a stand for it. Even if you’re a math dummy, like I am, you can take this class and make a 6-inch Newtonian reflector. It’s fantastic.

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DALE DOUGHERTY is the leading advocate of the Maker Movement. He founded Make: Magazine 2005, which first used the term “makers” to describe people who enjoyed “hands-on” work and play. He started Maker Faire in the San Francisco Bay Area in 2006, and this event has spread to nearly 200 locations in 40 countries, with over 1.5M attendees annually. He is President of Make:Community, which produces Make: and Maker Faire.

In 2011 Dougherty was honored at the White House as a “Champion of Change” through an initiative that honors Americans who are “doing extraordinary things in their communities to out-innovate, out-educate and out-build the rest of the world.” At the 2014 White House Maker Faire he was introduced by President Obama as an American innovator making significant contributions to the fields of education and business. He believes that the Maker Movement has the potential to transform the educational experience of students and introduce them to the practice of innovation through play and tinkering.

Dougherty is the author of “Free to Make: How the Maker Movement Is Changing our Jobs, Schools and Minds” with Adriane Conrad. He is co-author of "Maker City: A Practical Guide for Reinventing American Cities" with Peter Hirshberg and Marcia Kadanoff.

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