Junction Workshop is a place passionate wood makers can teach their craft to others. Owned by Heidi Earnshaw and Carey Jernigan, the studio and workshop on Sterling Road offers a variety of classes including shorter 3-hour ones as well as those that are 10 weeks long.
I join for their Hot Pipe Bending class ($145/3 hours), where we learn how to bend wood and make our own salad tongs. We also learn about the properties that go into bending wood, and the many uses for the novelty product.
Backs of chairs, canoes, curved table legs, you name it - someone had to bend it. And while we learn there are a few techniques to bending wood, in this class, we’re doing it with a propane torch and a pipe (all items that can conveniently be found at your local hardware store).
This particular workshop is led by Peter Coolican, founder and principal designer of Coolican and Company, and Toronto-based furniture maker and designer, Nathan Clarke. Their resumes are impressive, and there’s seemingly no hierarchy of talents - these guys all know wood.
We make our way to the back of the shop to a workbench where we’ll start bending as a group. I’m with a group of 8, and classes are typically filled with 8-10 students per class.
The small class size is intentional, and lends well to collaboration and learning, ensuring each student gets plenty of one-on-one time with an instructor.
We learn all about the what, why and how involved in bending wood. These guys are passionate, and eagerly answer all our questions.
The class is filled with a variety of ages and talents - some having never worked with wood previously and others with a bit more knowledge.
We partner up, and take turns on a test piece of wood to get comfortable with how quickly you need to move the wood along the pipe, and the amount of pressure and moisture needed to yield a successful bend.
When we move onto the piece of wood we’ll use for our finished product, it turns out to be a bit more delicate practise than we initially thought.
The final piece is slightly thicker, and we quickly learn there’s a specific art to the amount of water you have on the piece and the speed in which you move it along. Similar to ironing a shirt, if you leave it in one place too long, it’ll burn.
Coolican and Clarke culminate the lesson with a generous offer, “the lesson doesn’t stop here, you can always email us.” True to their word, they followed up with an email asking if anyone had any questions.
I certainly left with a newfound appreciation of the patience and skill that goes into curved wood, and a sudden desire to practise more bending.