Pennsylvania Man Wins a Shop
High school woodworking teacher takes home $5,000 in tools for his essay on why he deserves a new shop
Ask Tim Carroll about the joys of teaching woodshop in an inner-city high school and he will talk about kids who run to class with excitement, about kids who say woodshop is the reason they are graduating.
He will recall a visit to a student’s home in which he found a newly completed class project–an Adirondack chair–in an unlikely place of pride.
“It’s a chair that’s designed to go out in the yard,” Carroll says. “Well, I visit them at their house, and their Adirondack chair is sitting right in the living room.” The entire living room, in fact, was given over to displaying their woodworking projects–a chess board, a clock, and other pieces.
“It’s an important thing to these kids,” Carroll says, “and it’s nice to know that you’re making such an impact in their lives.”
Head of the class. Tim Carroll poses with students at the Harrisburg Career and Technology Academy where he teaches woodworking and cabinetry.
In 18 years at the Harrisburg Career and Technology Academy in Harrisburg, Penn., Carroll has had many such moments. But the biggest thrill for him and his students recently was learning in late March that Carroll had won Fine Woodworking’s win-a-shop contest. His winning essay–chosen from among 9,000 entries–made clear his passion for woodworking and for passing on his knowledge to others. It also made clear that he was a good candidate for a shop full of new tools.
“One of the hazards of my job is my own tools, materials, and money has a way of ending up at school for my students to use,” he wrote in the essay.
About 70 percent of Carroll’s students are minorities and many are from low-income homes. The dropout rate is high, but many of those who graduate go on to college or to a nearby technical school. Others land jobs with local builders or cabinetmakers right after graduation, he says. During the summer, Carroll runs a free woodworking program for disadvantaged kids. He also takes his students on an annual summer trip that includes stops such as Colonial Williamsburg to further their woodworking education.
After graduating from high school, Carroll worked 12 years at an architectural millwork firm, advancing from beginning cabinetmaker to shop foreman before entering the classroom in the late 1980s.
He says he was “totally shocked” to be named the contest winner: “I can’t believe that I was chosen. It feels like Christmas with all these tools coming.”
A dream come true.Fine Woodworking author Roland Johnson (right) helps Tim Carroll (left) set up his new shop full of tools.
Carroll says the tools will be put to good use in his retirement. While he doesn’t plan to retire anytime soon, he has begun getting ready. He and his son have built a 24×32 foot shop building on his property which he said in his essay he is ready to begin filling with tools.
“I can use the tools at school, but when I retire I won’t have that anymore,” he said. “To set this up is like a dream.”
Steve Scott is an associate editor with Fine Woodworking.
THE WINNING ESSAY:
I was a cabinetmaker for 12 years, and I loved my job. Eighteen years ago I traded a job I loved for a job I love even more. I became a carpentry and cabinetmaking teacher in an urban high school. There is nothing more fulfilling than seeing a student sprint down the hall, because he/she can’t wait to get to class and start working. But one of the hazards of my job is: my own tools, materials, and money have a way of ending up at school for my students to use. I am not in a hurry to leave the classroom, but I am starting to think of retirement. Woodworking will be a big part of my retirement years. My son and I have built a 24-ft by 32-ft. detached garage that will never see a car. I am ready to fill my new shop with tools. – Tim Carrol, Dillsburg, Pennsylvania
Three years ago, my wife and I needed a bookshelf and I decided to take on the project. I set to work in our one-light-bulb basement, armed with a borrowed router and a battery-powered circular saw. Since then, I’ve become obsessed. When I read about this contest, I couldn’t believe it! I was already planning to leave my current job on to start my own furniture making business with a leased shop space and a few tools temporarily borrowed from good natured friends who want to see my dream fulfilled. My wife and I don’t have much money, but she’s behind my dream 100% because she understands that woodworking has become a part of who I am. At 25 years old, I have the passion, vision, and support from my family; I just don’t have the tools. That’s why I deserve a new shop. Please. – Jesse O’Hara, Lancaster, Pennsylvania
I am a pastor of a local church too small to pay full time. My wife stays home with our three small children, so I turned to woodworking to supplement our income, using wood from local barns to make furniture. The joy I receive from working with my hands has been tremendous and it is increased by using salvaged wood from old barns which would otherwise be left to rot. I am just now having lumber milled at a friend’s place in hopes of putting up a barn next to our house for a woodshop. I cannot say “I deserve” the new tools, but boy, I could use them. I am presently working with old tools in need of repair and am saving slowly but surely for a new piece here and there. With these tools I hope to pass my love for woodworking on to my boys. – Bill Spanjer, Pine Bush, New York
I do not need a shop, but would like to enter my father, Frank Hyson. My dad has built everything from a Murphy bed and kitchen cabinets for my mother, to helping me with my first woodworking project, a 6-ft. mahogany desk. Recently, he has beaten lymphoma twice, once with a transplant of his own stem cells. Finally able to focus on issues other than health, my parents are building a shop in the backyard that should be complete in the next month. Your recent issue #188 seemed to be written for him. A couple of weeks ago, however, they received a notice that their health insurance premium was increasing to $1,000 a month. Being unable to work due to his medical history and with this new expense, my father cannot equip his dream shop. My father has always helped me, now I would like to help him. – Mark Hyson, Warrenton, Virginia
My grandfather (as odd as this may sound) gave away our entire woodworking shop when I was 14 and we (one woodworker, my father and I) were making furniture (prie-dieus, pews, tables, cabinets, etc). Since then I have gone to college, been through jobs, and am now trying to start my own little company. I can not get loans or lines of credit, as I am in south Lousiana in between where Rita and Katrina hit, and money is very tough to come by here. All I have is the same old shop and two tools, one of which is in need of a new motor. I have been making cabinets with what I have (three handplanes, one handsaw) for three years now, but can not keep up with demand due to the lack of tools in my shop. I would use the new shop tools on a daily basis. – Robert Minvielle, New Iberia, Louisiana