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Willmar Community Center woodshop is 'hidden gem'

The woodshop at the Willmar Community Center is available for anyone to use for their own projects, and provides a warm, well-equipped shop in which to work during the winter, in addition to a cost-effective way of exploring a potential new hobby that gets people building something with their hands.

Dan Drevlow demonstrates how a piece of equipment is used at the Willmar Community Center's woodshop
Dan Drevlow demonstrates how a piece of equipment is used at the Willmar Community Center's woodshop on Jan. 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — Tucked away on the far side of the Willmar Community Center, there’s a secret room where magic happens.

Britta Diem poses for a portrait outside the Willmar Community Center.
Britta Diem serves as the coordinator of the Willmar Community Center.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
More Information:

Willmar Community
Center Woodshop

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, 5 to 7 p.m. Monday (RSVP required by 4 p.m. on Friday)

Call: 320-262-5288

Passes: $5/one-day, $25/three-month, $60/yearly membership

Location: 624 US Business Highway 71, Willmar

With the intoxicating smell of good wood in the air, a collection of sturdy wood-cutting, wood-planing, wood-jointing and wood-sanding equipment is waiting to be used.

“We call this our hidden gem,” Community Center Coordinator Britta Diem said of the facility’s woodshop, which is available for anyone to use for their own projects.

For a minimal fee — options include a one-day pass for $5, a three-month pass for $25 and a year-long membership for $60 — the woodshop is available to people who enjoy working with wood or want to learn how to work with wood but don’t have their own equipment.

Built at least 15 years ago as an addition to the Community Center, located at 624 US Business Highway 71, the woodshop initially had just some basic equipment — a jigsaw, band saw and table saw — for people to putter on projects.

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After an update in 2014, the number of pieces of specialty woodworking equipment has steadily expanded to include items like a jointer saw, scroll saw, spindle sander, router, drill press and planer, giving more opportunities for people who may want to make just one project, or those that come regularly to make multiple projects.

The intention of the woodshop is to provide a place for people of all ages to “come in and work on their projects” if they didn’t have their own equipment at home, Diem said.

Dan Drevlow stands in the Willmar Community Center woodshop Jan. 28, 2022
Dan Drevlow stands in the Willmar Community Center woodshop Jan. 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

The woodshop is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

It’s also open Monday nights from 5 to 7 p.m. to individuals who reserve a spot by 4 p.m. on Friday by calling 320-262-5288 .

First-time visitors are asked to get a tutorial on how to operate the equipment and safety procedures before beginning a project. They are encouraged to call ahead to make sure volunteers are available to provide the training.

“I wish more people would take advantage of it,” said George Christensen, who, along with Dan Drevlow, can be found in the woodshop most days, teaching newcomers how to use the equipment and providing assistance when someone hits a snag on a project.

Drevlow, who taught woodworking to high school students in the past, said having a warm, clean place to work on projects with a variety of equipment that “most people don’t have in their homes” is a great opportunity for people to explore woodworking.

Dan Drevlow cuts a piece of wood at the Willmar Community Center woodshop Jan. 28, 2022.
Dan Drevlow cuts a piece of wood at the Willmar Community Center woodshop Jan. 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

“We want to get people involved with woodworking,” said Drevlow.

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Daryl Hoogeveen certainly takes advantage of the woodshop.

“I’m here a lot,” said Hoogeveen, who works as a registered nurse in the evenings and goes to the woodshop two to three days a week.

“It’s a good environment. It encourages people to use their artistic abilities,” said Hoogeveen, who uses raw wood with interesting patterns to make things like treasure chests for his grandchildren, jewelry boxes, urns, bookshelves and small tables. “A little bit of everything,” he said.

The camaraderie of others who use the woodshop — and having a warm, well-equipped shop in which to work during the winter — provides a positive place to make things for his family.

“It’s enjoyable,” he said. “It takes your mind off of things going on in the world and allows you to be artistic.”

Hoogeveen, who has a yearly membership, said he tells others about the woodshop and encourages them to “give it a try.”

Stacks of wood wait for future projects at the Willmar Community Center
Stacks of wood wait for future projects at the Willmar Community Center on Jan. 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune
Woodworking literature sits on a shelf at the Willmar Community Center woodshop
Woodworking literature sits on a shelf at the Willmar Community Center woodshop Jan. 28, 2022.
Macy Moore / West Central Tribune

Having access to equipment in the woodshop is a cost-effective way of exploring a potential new hobby that gets people building something with their hands, Drevlow said.

“People can get a lot of satisfaction by making something to take home,” he said. “There’s a lot of pleasure in making something.”

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After getting trained on the equipment, the next most important part of the process is having a plan for a project. It can be a sketch on the back of a napkin or a complete drawing with dimensions, said Drevlow, who emphasizes that the shop is available for people to work on their own projects with their own wood that they bring — it’s not a place where someone else makes a project for you.

Volunteer help is often available, however, and occasional classes for specific projects — like one coming up this month on making a charcuterie board — are held.

Diem said woodshop users are encouraged to make projects that can be completed in a relatively short time frame. Because of limited space, she said it’s not intended for large projects that take months to complete.

“We don’t have a lot of space to store things,” she said. “We want to keep it clean and make sure there’s space for others to work on their projects.”

Drevlow said he would like to see additional specialty pieces of equipment donated and would like to see the woodshop open on more evenings or Saturdays to accommodate working families.

Staffing after hours is the hold-up, however. Drevlow said maybe in the future businesses could sponsor woodshop nights and provide funds for personnel and building materials for family events that could end up inspiring a new generation of woodworking enthusiasts.

Carolyn Lange is a features writer at the West Central Tribune. She can be reached at clange@wctrib.com or 320-894-9750
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