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Woodworking, ceramics and fabrication in Truckee

Why buy something when you can make it? And why limit yourself to the things you think you can create?

The Truckee Roundhouse is generating creativity among Truckee’s locals as a place where ceramic, wood, metal, fabric and countless other ingenious projects handcrafted from an array of mediums come to life each day.

Morgan Goodwin wears several hats, namely serving as the mayor of Truckee, who is also a founding board member of the Truckee Roundhouse and works as an instructor for woodworking projects using the CNC wood laser in the workshop.

“All of the board members, instructors and volunteers are united by the belief that access to these tools is an asset benefitting the community,” Goodwin said.

The Roundhouse is a community makerspace welcoming people from different backgrounds to connect over various projects. They offer classes and workshops to familiarize people with the different tools, and ensure safety while guests are working.

Claire Lawrenson, who volunteers for the front desk and runs social media for the Roundhouse, recently participated in a Woodworking 101 class she said was an educational and rewarding experience.

“It was really great, I had no woodshop experience and was intimidated a bit by the saws and equipment, but our instructor, Chuck, is patient and made the process less intimidating,” she said.

By the end of their lesson, Lawrenson said she and the other students had built storage boxes with lids, an impressive project for a first-timer.

Other scheduled workshops include textile shop, basic machine sewing, basic welding and fabrication skills, and the popular laser class.

The wood laser was the first tool donated to the makerspace two years ago. It works by engraving or even cutting through various types of wood to create all kinds of art – from inlays to souvenirs to business signage, the laser cutter can be programmed to burn virtually any vector image whose lines are clearly defined within the software program.

“There is no experience required to learn this machine,” Goodwin said. “One thing I love about this tool is that it’s easy to learn with impressive results. We’ve done everything from ‘thank you’ signs to donors to the chess set you might’ve seen in downtown Truckee.”

Lawrenson was creating handmade wood tags to accompany wedding announcements on Friday, April 28, when gave a tutorial before a 5 p.m. woodworking class.

She chose a thin veneer to have the announcement tags burned onto, including two trees and the date of the ceremony in her round image.

Within minutes, she loaded the design onto the computer, told the laser to outline the perimeter of the image she wanted to burn onto the veneer, made sure the laser was set to the right distance from her project, and hit “print”.

In one minute or less, the printer had perfectly etched the design into the wood grain, cut two perfect holes for attaching the tag to the wedding announcement, cut a perfect edge around the tag and was re-homed, ready to print another.

“The laser is sensitive to the depth it needs to cut the wood,” Goodwin explained during the process. “The different colored lines in the computer software tell the printer what to burn lightly and what to cut all the way through, that’s how you get your shading, depth or a straight cut.”

He pulled example after example of pieces created with the laser cutter – signs they’d burned sponsor logos into, a model airplane he built in 20 minutes of printing and two hours of gluing, acrylic cutouts of Lake Tahoe, even a rock with a perfectly engraved circle – it’s easy to see the limitless of the tool.

Anyone is welcome to participate in class sessions, which are listed on the website’s calendar. In just two hours with the Beginner Laser class, people can learn all they need to know to operate the laser cutter and can use it freely with an expert in the building.

Each of the Truckee Roundhouse’s workshops is designed to offer something unique to any individual.

In one end of the workshop, a ceramics studio brings people wheels to throw, drying racks, a kiln to fire and glazes resulting in beautiful pottery handmade by you, from start-to-finish.

The makerspace flows into a woodshop where a CNC router is available for more 3D-looking wood projects, alongside workbenches that were being used to provide a workshop on building critter-proof garden beds in conjunction with Slow Food Tahoe and using wood from Truckee Tahoe Lumber Co.

One shop volunteer, Peggy Messner, said she enjoys helping with the front desk while her husband, Chuck Messner, teaches woodworking 101 and lathe classes.

“My husband was a shop and industrial art teacher,” she said. “He just loves working with people; and this way he still gets to show off all that he can do.”

With few places such as this to connect with likeminded people in a creative way, the Truckee Roundhouse is a hub of craftsmanship and celebrates people trying new things, learning what they like and honing new skills.

Artists and the Roundhouse team are excitedly anticipating the third annual Maker Show 2017, which will be hosted by Truckee Tahoe Lumber Co. in downtown Truckee on Sunday, June 11.

The show will celebrate interactive and diverse creations from makers of all walks of life: hobbyists, vendors and artists, by displaying their unique pieces.

Pre-registered guests will delight in a custom, wooden ticket crafted with the laser cutter. Tickets are available through the Truckee Roundhouse, Riverside Studios and Sierra College.

Cassandra Walker is a features and entertainment reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at cwalker@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2654 or @snow1cass.