Going Against the Grain

While most schools have dropped woodshop in recent decades, Gilman offers a comprehensive design and woodworking program that begins in Prep-One and continues into Upper School. Along the way students learn about materials, develop their math skills, and are introduced to engineering and design principles.

All students take woodshop through 7th grade. Lower School boys learn the safe handling of tools as they build increasingly complex projects that strengthen their eye-hand coordination. In fourth grade boys build a birdhouse and design and create a marble maze. Fifth grade projects include a toolbox and a whirligig.


Middle School boys handle more advanced tools and take on more challenging projects, with more latitude in their design. Although they still follow templates while building a table, they modify the size and select from a choice of woods; some students customize their table with inlays they create with a router or laser engraver.

Upper School students may continue with elective courses in design and woodworking as well as sculpture. Elective classes are always filled. In sculpture, freshman set out to construct a perfect cube from a random size of plywood with as little scrap as possible. Once completed, groups work together to combine their cubes, altering the form of some of the boxes and creating a free standing sculpture. The results can be striking.

There are required projects in design and woodworking that teach basic concepts and other projects that can be selected by students, who can be rather creative in their work. Projects have included guitars and large pieces of furniture. One student is building a bamboo and carbon fiber bike. “We have some incredibly talented boys and I continue to be amazed at their level of ingenuity,” said Department Head A.J. Howard.

As a testament to the program, three senior woodworkers will be pursuing engineering degrees in the fall. Olin College of Engineering and UMBC are the lucky schools to welcome these talented students.


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