Sawdustmakers in Action
By Paulette Arsenault and Mike Wyatt
The Miramichi Senior Sawdustmakers (MSSI) are an active group of retired persons who have a goal: to provide a venue where senior men and women can safely pursue activity that is stimulating mentally, physically, and socially, by working with wood.
The non-profit organization provides a workshop with the space and tools for a wide variety of woodworking activities such as carving, turning, cabinetry, and carpentry.
The MSSI was approached by the Miramichi Cross-Country Ski Club to make a new sign for their trail-head, and they accepted the challenge. After they laid up the materials, Philippe Gauthier, a man with a passion and expertise in woodcarving, was chosen for the task of carving.
The computer-assisted lettering was applied to the 10-foot and 6-foot Miramichi white pine boards that were glued up, planed, sanded, and chamfered for the job.
Carving the letters involved more than 40 hours of strenuous work demanding great physical finesse by Philippe. The finished product is of professional quality, using local sourced wood, that will enhance the community.
The Sawdustmakers shop is a cheerful place where a retired person can get out of the house, enjoy a woodworking activity, a cup of coffee, and meet others with similar interests.
The shop is always being utilized by members, and offers supervision, safety, and training for the equipment on hand. They have some sophisticated tools that many people cannot afford on their own. The club has one of the best equipped shops in the Miramichi area.
Members include seniors who were born and raised on the river and who have come from across Canada, choosing to settle in Miramichi for their retirement. The common denominator is an interest in woodworking and an appreciation for the value of volunteerism.
The group’s founder, the late Reg Hare, saw that now that they were not working every day, there was a lack of things to do for himself and his retired friends who missed the social aspect of a regular job.
Having heard of a similar woodworking group in Fredericton, he thought it would be a good idea to try the same sort of thing here on the river.
One of Reg’s favorite axioms was, “Try to learn two new things every day.”
It is a goal that the members, who range in abilities from novice to expert, keep in mind as they come together in the shop.
“The club is always looking for new members”, says club president Mike Wyatt. “This is all about having a common interest in woodwork, but you do not have to be a woodworker to belong to the club. The whole idea is to teach, learn, and socialize in a safe and well-appointed space, especially over the course of a long winter. We make sure there is a nice balance between personal, club, and community projects. We are also in the process of expanding our shop to include a storage and warehouse facility,”
The Sawdustmakers started out with a small shop through the generosity of another of the groups founding members who offered his garage as workspace. Now, with the patronage of a federal grant under the New Horizons for Seniors Program and the generosity of the City of Miramichi, they have a new shop.
It is a well-lit and upbeat venue that enhances the social well-being and vitality of this community of seniors.
“It’s the communal aspect that is the most satisfying for me; learning and sharing information and techniques with a common interest. I was new to the area, a couple of years ago, and I immediately felt welcome.”
The shop is open every weekday at 9am, at 222 Wellington Street, behind the WS Loggie House, Miramichi.
There is always another member there to provide assistance if needed. They also have a meeting of the membership on the first Monday of every month, except over the summer.
The club has been involved in several community projects including Tiny Libraries, birdhouses, raised-garden boxes, and other projects on behalf of local non-profit organizations.
Keep up to date with all their activities at www.facebook.com/sawdustmakers
This article originally appeared in the 2019 Summer Issue of Giv’er Miramichi magazine.