As Kurt Klimko reflects on his 25 years as the adult woodworking instructor for the Orange Community Education and Recreation department in Pepper Pike, Ohio, he is reminded of the ever-increasing passion he’s seen from his students as the program grew from its humble beginnings.
The community woodworking program is held in a well-equipped 2,000-sq.-ft. shop at Orange High School of Pepper Pike, a suburb of Cleveland. Klimko, who runs a professional woodworking business, started the position in 1995 after teaching woodworking for a few years at nearby schools. He says the town is intent on keeping artistic programs alive to encourage area residents to explore personal growth.
“The Orange Community Ed and Rec called me several times to talk and made an offer to take over the program. Back then it was one night a week. Now, it’s held on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, along with some special classes on Wednesdays where we do assigned projects,” says Klimko.
“They have a very good community program here. It’s probably one of the best ones in the area. It brings in people from all over northeastern Ohio.”
The program has four sessions that run for about seven weeks each, with two in the fall, one in the winter and one in the spring. Each session has various classes with about eight to 10 students per class, for which they pay a fee. Some sessions have pre-determined projects while others are open sessions that encourage participants to bring their own project ideas. Klimko guides everyone on design, tool use and fabrication as needed. He sometimes has assistance from local retirees for various tasks.
Projects cover the gamut from small cutting boards to classical guitars, as well as furniture.
“I have everyone young and old, male and female. The age ranges from college students up to retirees. I’ve had judges and doctors as well as housewives and construction workers – all have some interest in woodworking. A lot of people have always had a desire to do it and they don’t have the know-how or equipment, or they need a little guidance. That’s where we come in.”
Klimko also offers classes for students with special needs.
Klimko makes Ohio-themed coasters, keychains, cutting boards and more, as well as live-edge tables and benches, sold through Cleveland-area boutique stores. He has been featured on This Old House, Bob Villa and the American Woodshop.
“I started woodworking at age 12. When I was asked what I wanted for Christmas it was power tools. I got a sander, drill, jigsaw, circular saw and started building things. I took a class similar to the one I run now at my old high school,” says Klimko.
This article originally appeared in the March 2020 issue.