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Woodworking Class a Family Affair

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
August 17, 2011

Debbie and Harry Mueller’s children have been attending summer camps at UNH for a couple of years now. This year, they decided to make it a family affair. Together but separate.

For two nights a week during the month of August, the Durham couple has been taking a woodworking class with daughters Sara and Leah. Harry Mueller and Leah attend the Monday-Wednesday class while Debbie Mueller and Sara go on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The classes are part of those offered through the Museum of Art’s summer art program.

“I was looking at camps for Sara and when I saw the evening sessions for woodworking, I thought it would be great for us,” says Debbie Mueller, a local obstetrician. “Anyone with a bunch of kids knows how special one-on-one time is.”

The Mueller’s bunch also includes a third daughter. Sara and Leah have attended UNH science, music and dance camps and Engineeristas, an engineering camp for girls.

Debbie and Sara Mueller attend the class taught by UNH woodshop technician Nathan Hansen. Joshua Torbick, who graduated in May with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in furniture design, teaches the class taken by Harry and Leah Mueller. Sara Mueller also took a day class taught by Torbick.

“They certainly have gone all in for woodworking this summer,” Torbick says of the family. “Leah has become expert at sanding by hand and with an orbital sander.  They have learned how to join wood with a tongue-and-groove joint and learned when a dado is appropriate and when biscuits will help hold a miter joint together.”

Leah and Harry Mueller are making two matching cabinets sized to fit under Leah's bed and contain spare bedding. Torbick says they have excelled quickly, learning how to design and plan ahead for cuts and assembly and how to use a miter saw, band saw, table saw, dado saw, panel saw, and radial arm saw.

“I think classes like this offer an opportunity to create something tangible and lasting. The students in both classes get to have an increasingly rare experience,” Hansen says. “They have an idea and then physically create or define that idea into a tangible object. The burden of creating their idea is wholly placed on their shoulders and when the work is completed the students’ confidence seems to have expanded to match the burden they have overcome.”

Catherine Mazur, educational program coordinator for the Museum of Art, decided to run the evening woodworking classes to give families the opportunity to connect with each other.

“I believe that as we become more and more globalized and social, we are forgetting to consider how to be generational. Our parents, grandparents, and relatives have knowledge and levels of craftsmanship skills that need to be shared and learned,” Mazur says. “We can benefit so much from learning what our next generation has to say by working next to them and listening to what they have to say.”

Mazur has been taking Hansen’s class with her granddaughter, Raquel.

“Working alongside my granddaughter has been a complete joy. Her ways of approaching, solving problems and coming up with creative solutions has been a joy to discover. I have so much to learn from her!” Mazur says.


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