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Community shop thrives in Philly

Community woodshops are regaining popularity in cities throughout the country. And Philadelphia is no exception. Philadelphia Woodworks opened in April in the northwest neighborhood of Manayunk.

Philadelphia Woodworks is an 8,000-sq.-ft. community workshop offering access to professional-grade tools, training, on-site lumber, storage facilities and gallery space.

Shop president Michael Vogel is the entrepreneur behind the organization. A woodworker himself, he realized years ago that a number of local craftspeople would benefit from the shop in many ways, such as being around others in the craft community and having costs of the machinery covered. Within a month of opening, the membership count reached 1,400 people and it continues to climb.

“Philadelphia is a culturally rich place with a long history of woodworking. It’s got a dense population and a lot of small houses, townhouses, apartments and condos. People are constantly looking to enrich their lives. We have everything from pottery to glass-blowing, but nothing for woodworking. I thought that if I’d be willing to pay every month to be part of an organization like this, then other people would be as well,” says Vogel.

The 8,000-sq.-ft. shop features $100,000 worth of equipment, which Vogel initially financed and says has already paid for itself. The selection includes table saws, planers, jointers, band saws, drill presses, miter saws, lathes, power sanders, router tables and hand tools. The center is fully staffed with employees prepared to help members in any way they can and also to conduct safety certifications required for using the machinery.

Membership options range from unlimited access throughout the week to pay-per-use. A monthly membership for unlimited access is $129. The fee does not include skill and project classes for which a curriculum is in the works. The shop also offers a full-service lumberyard, an in-house art and furniture gallery, and a library of woodworking books.

“We’re filling up with members,” says Vogel. “We probably won’t have a problem with congestion because half of the members come here during the day and the rest come at night. We have people within walking distance and those who drive up to an hour to get here.”

Contact: Philadelphia Woodworks, 4901 Umbria St., Philadelphia, PA 19128. Tel: 267-331-5880.

This article originally appeared in the July 2012 issue.

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