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Professional Carpenters Looking for Perfection at ACBA

By: Claudie Benjamin, Guest Writer

Even the most highly skilled professional carpenters know there's room to learn and perfect skills. There's always the moment when a long-time carpenter will take a very close look at a staircase, the sheen on a newly finished cabinetry facade or a corner of a 100 year-old window frame and think, "that's very beautiful, how was it done?" 

Addressing the questions of experienced carpenters among a group of peers, as well as proposing new challenges to consider, is just what Master Carpenter Markus Damwerth will be focusing on at his upcoming  three weekend sessions. The weekend courses are intended to be attractive to carpenters by accommodating work week schedules.

Damwerth is a full time teacher at the American College of Building Arts. Short courses offered to the public are usually open to participants with any level of experience. These however, are specifically for professionals who want to enhance their skills - for those who want to improve and challenge themselves, rather than those who feel they have to make changes.

Markus is a third generation carpenter. His grandfather started a carpentry business in 1930s Germany in the town where he and his wife lived and raised a family, and where Markus grew up. Always on track to be a carpenter, Markus was educated in the German system. It provides students rigorous academic preparation and training in a marketable trade at the same time.

He went on to internships and completed training mentored by a Master Carpenter before joining and eventually owning the family business. The company was well known for the architectural specialty of making windows, but Markus' training  gave him experience in all elements of carpentry.

About ten years ago, Markus' wife and three children came up with the idea of living for a while in the United States. "We had visited Charleston on a vacation and fell in love with the city."  Also, the city - with all its historical buildings - called out to him about a need for proper preservation skills. The family moved to North Charleston, with Markus continuing to live and manage his business in Germany, traveling to Charleston when he could.  After selling his business about two years ago Markus moved to live full-time in Charleston. The job at American College of Building Arts suits him to perfection and he also does consulting jobs for woodwork businesses, especially on technical solutions, workflow and organization.

Markus' enthusiasm for achieving excellence in carpentry is infectious.  Who knew there were so many aspects of the trade to explore?  The upcoming program is divided into three courses.

Each of the woodworking courses will last 30 hours and will be held over two weekends. The first class, taught Feb. 12/13 and 19/20, will be Curved Woodwork. The course will include a variety of techniques for cutting, shaping, laminating and blending solid wood. Participants will learn to curve items out of solid wood and wood-based materials. In addition to using professional grade machinery, students will gain experience in drawing, template-making and execution of the work.

Shop Setup will be offered March 19/20 and 26/27. Research shows that the average carpenter works at 55 percent efficiency during most regular workdays; 45 percent of time is lost to carrying materials through the shop, searching for tools, not having the right equipment, or symptoms of fatigue because of poor working conditions. This course covers the process of shop setup or improvements with mostly self-made equipment items and shop reorganization.

The last elective of the Spring 2021 semester will be Wood Finishing, offered April 9/10 and 16/17. This course will include different types of coating, safety, preparation of surfaces, and application techniques.

For more information or to register, call 843-577-5245.

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