technology at the school. Last year, he
was recognized as national Educator of
the Year in the Woodworking Machinery Industry Association Wooden
Globe Awards program.
While Larson would like to eventually add CNC manufacturing to the
program, today the school’s 5,500
square feet is equipped much like a
similar size conventional cabinet shop.
There is a machine room, a couple
of bench rooms and small finishing
room, including a spray booth, where
only water-based finishes are used.
Students sign up for an intensive
five-month term, working eight hours a
day. The program typically starts with
each of the 11 students constructing a
small cabinet, and then the entire class
works together to build a kitchen or
similar large built-in cabinet project.
Students learn to build to exacting
AWI standards, just as in a professional
shop. Of course, students don’t always
get it right on the first try, but Larson
says that’s an important part of the
learning experience. “I can’t teach as
well if there weren’t mistakes,” he said.
Students learn that there are often
multiple ways to solve a problem or to
build a certain cabinet, and because
the kitchens the school builds are truly
custom, there are always new features
to provide additional lessons for the
students. For example, the kitchen
project this term included a cabinet
with a veneered curved panel.
On a recent visit to the school, talk-
ing with the students paints a diverse
picture. One woman is in a career
change from being a yoga instructor.
A man has come to the school after a
career in residential construction and
remodeling, saying he wants to “get
away from ladders and heavy work.” He
says it has been a challenge to adjust to
the requirements of shop work vs. field-
work. Other students include a former
pharmacist, former caterer, former
elementary school math teacher, and
even a self-described “directionless
This kitchen was built by NESAW students in 2017. Each five-month program culminates in a
big project done for paying customers.
NESAW’s machine room is well equipped with professional grade conventional machines, but
the school would eventually like to add a CNC router.