Today, our guest contributor is Allen Androkites of Pennridge High School in Pennsylvania. We cannot say enough good things about this woodworking program, nor about Allen and his fellow teacher’s development of an amazing Luthier program at Pennridge. We hope our readers will visit the Pennridge Facebook page to view some of their completed projects by clicking on the link below. Please visit the Bailey Wood Products Project Gallery for the extensive collection of furniture and musical instruments created by the students and their teachers.
Bailey Wood Products and Pennridge High School
Allen Androkites, Pennridge High School
The relationship between Bailey Wood Products and the Pennridge High School Woodworking Shop began around 2004-2005. I found out about Bailey’s through a woodworking magazine advertisement. What struck me the most on my first visit to Bailey’s, after the fire at the sawmill in the spring of 2006, was the look of the facility. I felt that I was walking around a lumber yard that had been there for decades. It was the coolest feeling; walking around and seeing board after board of great lumber. It hit me in the heart when I saw the damage that was done by the fire. My greatest hope was that they would rebuild and continue to produce quality lumber. If you are a woodworker, you definitely need to put a visit to Baileys on your bucket list of must visits.
My relationship with Jeffrey Schucker has been very positive over the years. Purchasing lumber is one thing, but the interest that he has in our program is very special to me. Jeffrey cares about woodworking and what is being done in our schools. I cannot overstate this – He cares about the woodworking being done in schools. It is not only about the sale of lumber. How often can you talk to the owner of a company, tell them what you want, then have that owner deliver it, and show his appreciation for your business? His goal is to sell you what you need and for you to be happy with the product.
At Pennridge High School, the most common wood species used is red oak. It is a local hardwood that is reasonably priced. Over 50% of the lumber we use is red oak. The other species that we tend to use are: Cherry, walnut, maple, quartersawn sycamore, poplar, and some exotics. It is unusual to find a sawmill that covers exotics, but Baileys does. Recently, we ordered some purpleheart, bubinga, yellowheart, and wenge that will be used to make fretboards for electric guitars and ukuleles. One of our more unusual purchases has been a some large catalpa boards for electric guitar bodies. I have never worked with catalpa, but the density and grain are fantastic, along with the unique scent of the wood.
My goal for our woodworking program is to have students learn to problem solve, develop their woodworking skills, and hone their interests in different aspects of woodworking. My hope is that they are producing pieces that will become family heirlooms. Most of our students excel in our program and develop great skills. I am proud to have sent what will be 27 students to Millersville University, keeping the Pennridge tradition alive.
The summer of 2015, Jim Rutkowski, Matt Peitzman and I attended a STEM Guitar building class at Butler Community College. The guitar bug hit us and things blossomed. Last year, we started an ukulele club and an electric guitar club. The learning experience was mind blowing. The energy and conversation were delightful. As a result, we have a semester course this year called Guitar Building, where a student can build an electric guitar or ukulele. In October, we were part of a school leadership conference representing a “classroom of the future”. At this conference, students were working on electric guitars and ukuleles. It was an unbelievable experience for everyone involved. Please click HERE to see what the students produced at the conference.
My passions in life, other than family, are woodworking and cooking. When you are cooking food, the two most important aspects of a successful meal are the freshness of the ingredients and your relationship with your butcher. The same idea can be applied to woodworking. What we are able to create at Pennridge has a lot to do with the quality of the wood we use and my relationship with our supplier, Jeffrey of Bailey Wood Products. Best of luck to all the woodworkers out there. Continue to do what makes you happy and creative.