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Midvale Journal

Canyons School District’s woodworking contest spotlights talent, craftsmanship

May 07, 2024 04:02PM ● By Julie Slama

Canyons School District woodworking students compete in a four-hour woodworking contest making tool boxes. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Twenty-five woodworking students—five from each of Canyons School District’s five comprehensive high schools—had their tools ready to begin. 

Only they didn’t know what they were creating in the four-hour block of time.

Welcome to Canyons woodworking and turning contests.

At the given time, the plans and materials to make a toolbox with a rounded handle were distributed and students began as their woodworking teachers looked on.

In a second room, additional woodturning students started on making a three-legged stool on lathes.

“The projects change every year,” said Ben Poulsen, Corner Canyon High’s career and technical education coordinator. “Last year, it was an end table. The year before, a chessboard with a drawer.”

The competition has been going on since before the District formed 15 years ago, when it was Jordan School District.

“It was an event that was always well attended by the schools on the east side so naturally, we continued it when we became Canyons,” he said. “It sets students up for the Skills USA woodworking contest, which also has students figure out how to build the project on their own. That’s why this is set up the same way; it give students an opportunity to compete and to hone their skills. It prepares them for the state competition.”

While state is limited to one student per school, this experience also allows more students that level of competition, Poulsen said.

“The one at state is more of a cabinetmaking competition, which is a box-building activity. Here, we do more of a furniture type level, which involves joinery, and that’s more difficult than box-making so we give them more of a deeper experience to learn from,” he said.

In the woodworking contest, students are given wood for them to cut to size for the toolbox.

“If they mess up and they cut something too small, they have to work with what they were given. They can’t get any more lumber. It’s one of those measure four times to cut once,” Poulsen said. “They may make the overall project smaller than what was on the plans or glue boards back together. You may still see the glue line to make it the original size, but it can look really nice because their excellent craftsmanship. These students just don’t give up.”

That was the experience of Hillcrest High senior Fischer Coleman, who said he was calm and thinking logically, when the miter saw wasn’t fully locked in.

“I have a good memory and that usually allows me to get ahead of my competition, but this time, I messed up,” he said. “The miter saw slipped. I’d have to unglue everything to make it smaller and at this point, I’d rather help my friends. I’ve done this contest twice before and finished in the top three last year so now, the best thing I can do is be a good teammate and help them. I love the fact we can use teamwork; the best way to help your friends is for them to learn from my mistakes. Honestly, I’d rather them win than for me to do OK trying to undo it to fix my mistake. Helping them is the best part of this competition.”

Coleman even offered tools and advice to a student from another school.

“I don’t really care about winning. I would rather everyone has a fun time doing it and see them perform really well,” he said.

Paulsen said that businesses support students, from Intermountain Wood giving a 50% discount on the contest wood to industry professionals judging students works awarding them with donated tools or gift certificates. λ