BLIND Woodworking School Brings Workshop Projects to Blind Students
posted on August 1, 2011 by Joanna Takes
George Wurtzel Woodworking School Instructor George Wurtzel has developed a unique program which brings the intensely vision driven art of woodworking to blind students.

Trouble telling the difference between birch and maple? A hint from shop teacher George Wurtzel: “They smell different.”

That’s one of the things George has learned over 50 years as a blind woodworker. He’s now teaching students of all ages at BLIND, Inc., a Minneapolis training center.

BLIND Program Student Kayla Weathers BLIND Woodworking School Student Kayla Weathers has found a new passion thanks to the program and its instructor, who is also blind.

“Having a teacher who’s blind helps a lot,” says Kayla Weathers of Trenton, Georgia.

George added, “If you have somebody normal, they may not believe 100 percent in their heart of hearts that you can be successful at doing it.” George, on the other hand, wants his students to be comfortable “doing something that in their wildest dreams they never thought they’d be doing.”

BLIND Student Xai Lor BLIND Woodworking class attendees like Xai Lor, who still have some vision, wear shades to block the rest of their sight to put them on par with their peers.

His class is required of all students at BLIND, Inc., and they all do woodworking in complete blindness. People who have some vision wear sleep shades to create total occlusion. The reasoning, George explained, is that most people’s vision problems will become worse; if they’ve received training in total blindness, they won’t have to relearn everything later.

George starts every student out with hand tools to learn how tools work and how to position their bodies when using them. “With a hand miter saw, you have to keep your body square to get it to work right. So when you go over to the power miter saw, you already know that.”

Cedar Box Built by BLIND Students The woodworking school student's first project is this cedar box, which they must build almost entirely without specialty blind woodworking tools.

After completion of the first class project, a cedar box George has designed to be deliberately confusing — several parts are the same size but must fit together in a certain pattern — each student chooses an individual project.

Kimberly Kiser of Kaukana, Wisconsin, is building an occasional table with a butterfly-shaped top. She’ll shape the legs with a router. “So much of that is touch and listen,” George said. “It if starts to climb grain, you’ll hear a bad noise, and you know you’ve got to slow down.”

Blind Measuring Tool Students in the BLIND program are allowed only one blind specialty tool, a click measuring device which allows them to measure panels out by sound.

The only “specialty” tool George and his students use is a click rule measuring device. A nut marked on one side slides along a threaded rod equipped with a spring-loaded ball bearing that drops into the side of the threads, making clicking noises at every 1/16 of an inch and locking into place at the desired measurement.

“The guy wearing trifocals who can’t see well enough to set the saw at 3/32" doesn’t know this tool exists,” George said. “He can come here and learn.”

After the course, Kayla said, “I’ll know I can do something that a lot of people think blind people can’t do.”

For more information about BLIND, Inc. call 800-597-9558 or visit blindinc.org.

posted on August 1, 2011 by Joanna Takes
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Comments

3 thoughts on “BLIND Woodworking School Brings Workshop Projects to Blind Students”

  • Jim Boyle

    I have a blind male Parishioner who would like to build a guitar using the fork of a tree. Do you know of any suppliers with wood from the fork of a tree?

    Thanks,
    Jim Boyle
    Director of Social Concerns
    Saint Francis of Assisi Catholic Church
    4000 W. Tidewater Ln
    Madison, MS 39110

  • Dennis Stapley
    Dennis Stapley March 10, 2014 at 9:34 am

    For over six years, I taught blind students woodworking. I too am totally blind, relying on my fingers and my nose to see what I am doing and working with, weather it is walnut, Paduka or bloodwood. Over the past Three years, I have made three acoustical guitars. The first guitar I made was entered in the Utah State fair and won best of show in 2013. I guess, that you can make an acoustical guitar out of a fork of a tree if it is properly dried and large enough to be cut up into 4 thin strips of wood, 2 strips measuring only 3/32 " x 4" x 30" long And another two pieces 3/32 x 7.5" x 21".

    By this time next year I should have a book written on the subject, detailed enough for a blind wood worker to use the information printed there in, to make a classical guitar of their own. In the mean time if your friend wants to get underway Robert O'Brien has some great CD's that will detail the process, almost good enough for a very imaginative woodworker to use to make acoustical guitars.

    ON the other hand if he wants to make a electric guitar, I suggest that he take a class on the subject or find someone to teach him. IN eater case the minimum it will cost him is more than $500 before it is completed.

    Thanks, Dennis Stapley

  • shahzad zaidi

    Hi.all
    This is very nice efforts for blind people.
    Please visit my website I have developed some hand made ractile products for the blind people.

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