Wood Finishers in the Field

Alumni provide students with top-drawer service-learning and professional development opportunities

DCTC Wood Finishing Technology students during service-learning project at HOM Furniture

Students in Instructor Mitch Kohanek’s Wood Finishing Technology program benefit from numerous field trips thanks to the program’s legacy and a vast network of graduates who have built strong careers in the field.

“One of the best ways for my students to learn is to go on location where wood finishing expertise and techniques are tested daily in the real world,” Kohanek said. “Because our program has so many graduates working in the profession—many for decades, we have an amazing knowledge pool. The National Wood Finishing Institute on our main campus in Rosemount is connected to professionals throughout the industry and across the country.”

Wood finishing authorities make a point to visit Kohanek’s labs to deliver workshops and seminars to his students. Don Williams, senior furniture conservator at the Smithsonian Institution’s Center for Materials Research and Education, and Tredway Childress, a 1998 graduate of the program and the senior restoration specialist and finisher for the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., are two examples of established experts who contribute to the higher learning process, giving students an insider’s look at the science of wood finishing at the highest levels.

An acknowledged authority in his own right, Kohanek is on the board of directors of WoodLINKS USA, a not-for-profit organization committed to providing the wood industry with the skilled workers needed to sustain and advance a competitive entry-level and middle management workforce. WoodLINKS recently recognized Kohanek with a certificate of appreciation for his work supporting wood shops in high schools.

Mitch Kohanek & Mark Smith, WoodLINKS National Director

“Students in high school wood shops learn the hands-on technical skills invaluable to future success in the wood industry,”  said Kohanek, who delivered a presentation on wood finishing education at the 2010 International Woodworking Fair in Atlanta, Ga. “WoodLINKS works with schools to keep such programs active and growing.”

Wood Finishing Technology Field Trips Gallery

Fort Snelling Veterans Memorial Chapel Restoration and Conservation Project (March 2010)

Students brought their knowledge and tools of the trade onsite to Fort Snelling Veterans Memorial Chapel, built in 1927, to conserve and restore the wood furnishings of the historic location, which was almost demolished in the 1960s to make way for a highway system.

Minneapolis Institute of Arts Annual Volunteer Event (Sept. 2010)

For the past 31 years, students from the program have served as furniture porters for an important annual exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. “This field trip is one of the most fun even though it’s hard work,” Kohanek said. “Our students are trusted to handle extremely expensive pieces because the institute’s curator and staff know we care about fine furniture. The students exchange knowledge with experts working on the exhibit, which is one of the best aspects of the trip.”

Schneiderman’s Furniture Warehouse Field Trip (Oct. 2010)

Kathy Morse is the lead repair person at the Schneiderman’s Furniture Warehouse in Burnsville. Morse is also an alumna of the DCTC program. In charge of quality control, she oversees a team of repair specialists that restore damaged pieces before they head for the showroom floor. DCTC students took part in an annual warehouse tour, which features veteran repair specialists demonstrating techniques proven successful in a fast-paced, working environment.

HOM Furniture Working Tour (Oct. 2010)

HOM Furniture in Coon Rapids is home to seven Wood Finishing Technology grads—including two master technicians, each with more than 30 years of experience on the job. For an entire day, students got the chance to perform real-live repairs on damaged furniture destined for the scratch-and-dent graveyard. Virtually every piece worked on by the students made it to the showroom floor. HOM employees take time out of their workday to give demos on techniques they  picked up during their years working in their profession.

Minneapolis Club Service-Learning Project (Oct. 2010)

Frank Weber, a 2008 graduate of the DCTC program, works as the maintenance chief at the Minneapolis Club, a five-star platinum club with a clubhouse dating back to 1908. Students took on the job of restoring the club’s furniture, including dining room chairs, desks, tables and a pool table. The service-learning project was Weber’s idea. He remembered from his college days how important field trips were to his professional development.

For more information about the DCTC Wood Finishing Technology program, contact:
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Wood Finishing student working at Fort Snelling Veterans Memorial Chapel