Base wood skills shops help Airmen split cost

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- It's just another chip off the old block as a woodworker steadily pulls down on a lever of the hollow chisel mortise.

James Nowicki, 56th Services Squadron Wood Skills Shop wood crafter, is using the machine to make square holes for a table he is helping a customer build from a hand-drawn design.

Despite the lack of air conditioning, the abundance of craft material and the endless supply of tools regularly draw Airmen to the shop.

Richard Cairns, a retired lieutenant colonel from the Air Force Reserves, frequents the wood shop to work on projects ranging from repairing an attic stair ladder to building a dresser.

"I come to the hobby shop several times a month, more like once a week, because they have everything I need to repair just about any kind of wood pieces," said Mr. Cairns.

Not only do customers get the satisfaction of making their own wood craft, but the money they save is another bonus.

"I'm currently working on an antiquestyle dresser that my wife, Mar, and I are building from scratch to give to our grandson," said Tom Kanaley, 21st Fighter Squadron life support technician. "We've seen a similar dresser selling for $1,500, but built with inferior material. I spent less than $500 in material to build this dresser."

The project not only saved the Kanaleys money, but turned out to be a good way to spend quality time together.

"We come out here every three of four weekends," Mr. Kanaley said. "It's a great outing for my wife and I. This allows us to be away from everyone else. My wife helps me sand the wood and prep it for oil, while I make all the measurements and cuts."

According to Mr. Nowicki, it's possible to build just about anything at the wood shop -- as long as the project will fit through the doors. He recalls the most bizarre item he'd seen built at the wood shop was a 66-inch boat.

"A retired Air Force member came in and built a small boat that he successfully sailed across the Pacific Ocean from California to Hawaii," said Mr. Nowicki. "Other items I typically see are shadow boxes, plaques and specialty award cases.

The wood skills shop is located in Building 248, across from the auto hobby shop and honor guard. The facility is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday, except for holidays. For more information, call (623) 856-6566.