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Photo courtesy of the Ottawa City Woodshop

Ottawa City Woodshop inspired by Ottawa’s lumber town legacy

By Ryan Saxby Hill on June 30, 2015

Are you longing for the smell of sawdust and the sounds of a drill press, but worried that your one-bedroom-plus-den rental may not be the best home to re-start that woodworking project? The Ottawa City Woodshop launched last month and has been quickly attracting interest from members. You can join the woodshop with a monthly fee and get access to the space and discounts on courses. They have intro classes starting in both July and August for the uninitiated to ease their way into the joys of woodworking.

We caught up with one of the founders of the woodshop, Mike Grigoriey to find out how things were going and some of the reasons why he thinks woodworking is a good next frontier for shared maker-spaces.

Apt613: What was the motivation for creating the Ottawa City Woodshop?

Mike Grigoriev: Motivation initially came from a real need for access to tools and space, as well as a desire to make woodworking accessible to people. Woodworking wasn’t really possible for anyone living in the city and since it wasn’t on the radar for any current or proposed maker spaces it was something we felt we needed to take on. Culturally it was the right time to do something like this and we knew there was enough interest from current and future woodworkers wanting opportunities for space, education and community building. Once we started learning more about Ottawa’s incredible history as a lumber town (one of the largest industrial operations in the world!) we knew this was something that meant a lot to us and we needed to act.

Apt613: The greater acceptance we’re seeing for the sharing economy and the maker culture must be part of what’s making this project possible. What are the larger trends in shared spaces, DIY, maker spaces or other more global movements that your project is speaking to?

MG: Culturally, I believe we are seeing somewhat of a renaissance for a desire to create things ourselves and be more self-sufficient. That directly influences a growing appreciation for local, hand-made quality goods and authenticity. People want to use their hands again, and they want to have a bigger say in the products they buy and the objects they use.

The Ottawa City Woodshop strikes a chord with people because of the focus on craftsmanship, local manufacturing and enabling people to create things on their own. While it shares values with these growing sharing and maker trends, in our case, we see a lot of value beyond the obvious that comes from sharing tools and space. By having some of the city’s best woodworkers educate and inspire others about the craft, we hope that the emerging community and learning will make the OCW not just the practical home but the cultural home for woodworking in the city and beyond.

Apt613: What do you need now to make this a success?

MG: While we’ve seen a lot of early interest through workshop and membership sales as well as support from many local organizations, we definitely have some things we need to work on to help the OCW realize its full potential.

Firstly, while we’re a fully functional shop with some good pieces, we would love to increase the number and quality of available tools and machinery. We’re always looking to upgrade what we have or bring in some great pieces so we’re actively exploring sponsorship and donation opportunities.

Secondly, for the OCW to maximize its impact, we need the core community to grow. This includes continuing to build a strong initial core of founding members that support the idea, are eager to use the space and want to contribute to the bigger picture of making woodworking accessible in the city. It also means uncovering and reaching out to different woodworkers doing great things who could potentially teach others. Courses are a big component of what we’re offering and we want to have a great diversity of available education.

Apt613: Why do you think this project will resonate for Ottawa’s DIY community?

MG: While the term DIY often has connotations for renovations around the home, we think that our dedication to the craft of woodworking and high quality workmanship using sustainable local materials will definitely resonate with those interested in using their hands and building things.

By having one of Canada’s top woodworking instructors – Vic Tesolin – help develop our education curriculum, we’re seeing that the mix of project and skill based courses are enabling people to get involved with woodworking for the very first time, or sharpen their existing skills and knowledge. When paired with this city’s history, we think that an easily accessible urban woodshop offering space, tools, and education will interest many in town.

The Ottawa City Woodshop is located at the City Centre building, above Art is In Bakery. They are open evenings and weekends. Memberships are $120 a month, with discounts available for longer commitments. All the details are online at ottawacitywoodshop.com.


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