As the fine woodworking program students at Selkirk College’s Silver King campus reach the finishing stages of their projects, they eye up nine months of work done alongside two new instructors guiding the program into a new era.
David Ringheim and David Stryck took over from Michael Grace and David Fraser who retired at the end of the 2015 school year. Grace and Fraser had been carving out a stalwart program at the college for about two decades each.
While new to teaching on campus, Ringheim and Stryck have deep roots in the fine woodworking program.
“I took the program to get a jump start in the industry, but I had no idea how life changing it would really be,” says Ringheim. “The opportunities I have received as a direct result of coming to Selkirk College, the people I had a chance to work with in the industry and my eventual return to where it all started has been a blessing.”
Stryck was a student in the same shop more than 30 years ago when he studied under John Barton, the original instructor of the program. The fine woodworking program began in the late 1970s; the original shop set up in Barton’s Bonnington home, before Selkirk College welcomed it to the Silver King campus.
“I still remember his business card. It said superlative craftsman,” said Stryck.
A reputation that delivers results
Superlative crafters are what the program has been turning out since those early years. It’s why word of mouth is its own best recruiter. Stryck, tree planter turned carpenter, heard about the program from his cousin.
Ringheim, from Creston, heard about the program from a colleague working with him at a Calgary wood shop.
Ringheim has a degree in international Studies from Alberta Bible College and his education took him overseas to Peru, Poland and then Africa. He then returned to Canada where he settled in Calgary as his wife was establishing herself as an architectural technologist.
It was there he discovered a new passion and a new career, inspired while reading Fine Woodworking magazine.
“I was attracted to woodworking because it meant being able to see what I’ve actually accomplished at the end of the day,” he says. “I loved linguistics, but sitting at a desk wore on me. I needed to be up and doing hands-on work.”
He began looking for an apprentice position and found one with a cabinetmaker in Calgary. His colleague working at the shop had just finished the program at Selkirk College and Ringheim’s interest was piqued. At the time, there was a three-year wait list to get in. Not letting that deter him, he was pleased to enroll in 2007 and there was no looking back.
“It changed where we were going with our lives as a family,” he says. “We were planning to go back to Calgary, but we ended up falling in love with Nelson, staying here and having kids. I got a job here. The program gave me lots of opportunities to do the things I love out in the industry.”
The job Ringheim is talking about was with Stryck and the two have a solid history of building together. Ringheim worked for Stryck starting part-time while he attended school and then full-time after graduation for six years until Stryck retired in 2013.
“I would take students from the program, one or two every year,” says Stryck. “David was the best. The instructors recommended him based on the quality of work he did.”
Stryck also studied carpentry at Pacific Vocational Institute, and took wood products design at Kootenay School of the Arts before it entered into the Selkirk College portfolio.
He went on to establish Stryck Design Studio in Nelson, a small shop with a big reputation of polished work. Stryck hired Selkirk College grads almost exclusively and his team has done custom work through Canada and the United States. His work is featured at the boutique Hotel Arts in Calgary. On home turf Stryck is behind recognizable projects like the new doors on the historic Capitol Theatre, woodwork at Oso Negro, the Hume Hotel, Touchstones Nelson and features on the Osprey 2000 ferry.
When Stryck retired, Ringheim took over the shop, its employees and it became Ringheim Custom Woodworks. Then, the two reunited in the Silver King shop.
“And now I get to do this,” Ringheim says. “I enjoyed running a business, it was sad to say goodbye to it, but now I get to teach people the really high-end finer points of what I love to do every day. I like passing on the things I’m confident doing.”
Students challenged to become the best
Students come to the fine woodworking program from all over Canada, all ages, genders and walks of life. The Industry Training Authority program that incorporates a design element is always full and often has a wait list.
What attracts students is the one-on-one time instructors give each student as they work toward a design of their choosing.
“This program gives you an opportunity to figure out what kind of woodworker you are. Because there’s so much one-on-one, we can really challenge you individually,” says Ringheim. “There’s not the generic everybody does the same thing. If you really want to build skills and better yourself, you can do that here.”
And the program is challenging.
“They cut wood all day but then they go home and do computer-aided drafting, design, a quiz or read 30 pages. They do a lot on the weekends and nights so when they get here they can build,” says Ringheim.
But students come ready to delve in and as the school year wraps up, Ringheim is thrilled with his first group of woodworkers.
“They came with energy and a genuine interest to learn and carried that through the whole year,” he says. “From where they started with the absolute basics, to the finished products they are producing now, they have learned so much.”
Stryck has always appreciated the expertise his employees coming from Selkirk College bring to the job. Their ability to think outside the box and get a job done well sets them apart. Now, he helps students become these skilled workers. Watching them develop is the best part of teaching, he says.
“When somebody lights up and they get it — when they actually have accomplished a task they didn’t think they could do, you can see it. They just glow from head to foot,” Stryck says.
The fine woodworking program has become renowned for its year-end show that attracts community members in droves eager to see the students’ final projects. This year’s show will be held at the Nelson Trading Company on Baker St. on Saturday and Sunday.