Store draws hundreds to informational sessions intended to educate — for free.
LAKE TWP. Your home improvement project might not start until spring, but that doesn't mean you can't improve your skills beforehand by learning something new.
Some free classes offered by local hardware stores are a big draw for do-it-yourselfers.
About 500 people attended free sessions on woodworking and tools when Hartville Hardware held its tool sale last month, said Katherine Merkle, marketing director for the business at 1315 Edison St. NW.
Hartville Hardware brought in three specialists: Alex Snodgrass of Michigan; Asa Christiana of Portland, Ore.; and Eric Conover, who is from this area.
A professional woodworker, Snodgrass conducted four presentations, the most popular of which involved a bandsaw. In addition to teaching his audience how to perform a tune-up on the equipment, "he did scroll-cutting and in less than 30 seconds made wooden reindeer. He made hundreds of them in the two days that he was here and he gave them away," Merkle said.
Christiana, former editor of Fine Woodworking and author of a new book, "Build Stuff with Wood," talked about how only three pieces of equipment are necessary to get started in woodworking. "He also did a session on scraping versus sanding," Merkle said.
Conover, a veteran woodworker, talked about proper gluing and clamping techniques. Merkle said Conover, who has authored nine books and written hundreds of articles about woodworking, also talked to the crowd about the basic structure of wood and the advantages and disadvantages of various types of glue.
Bruce Ralyon, power and hand tool department manager, said more than 60 vendors also took part in the tool show and demonstrations.
"We'll have another tool sale in February, and we'll have industry experts again," Merkle promised.
The tool department hosts demonstrations each Saturday. The schedule is posted at HartvilleHardware.com.
Grilling classes start in April.
"We have a grill expert on staff who teaches how to use the grill," Merkle said. For that class, however, there's a $25 fee, which includes everything each participant will need: an apron, the food and everything that goes with it.
The store has conducted classes on everything from how to make your own laundry soap to pickling and canning.
"As we lead into our home and garden expo, we'll start to do things more in that category," Merkle said. "We try to time (the demonstrations) to the season."
On Saturday morning, James and Cathy Heaston of Dover watched as George Corley of the store's power and hand tools department used a 3-D carving machine to turn a block of wood into the shape of the state of Ohio.
"It's always great to see the stuff they have and what they do," James Heaston said. "The cabinet shop I work at, we have a big one. It's great people have the opportunity to see how these work. People just don't realize the intricacies of these things."
Corley readily answered questions as he worked.
Derek Kilgore of Copley also stopped by to watch with his son, Hunter Kilgore. Although at the age of 1½, Hunter is far too young to use such a machine, Derek Kilgore said he is "getting him some exposure to the hardware store." He used his cellphone to take a picture of the toddler with Corley at work in the background, an image he shared with his wife, who was shopping in Columbus with their daughters. "They're having a girls day out; we're having boys day."
An engineer, Kilgore said he is considering building or buying a machine like the one on which Corley was working.
"I figure that when (Hunter) is older, that stuff is going to be all over the place," he said.
Doug Benzin of North Royalton also stopped to watch Corley work at the machine.
"When they have the tool shows, I come down for that," Benzin said.
Home Depot also offers weekly and monthly classes. The classes are posted on the store's website and most are well attended, according to a store employee. Children's programs in December can bring in as many as 200 youngsters, she said.
The next workshop, scheduled for Jan. 6, also involves children. Parents are invited to bring children to create a block calendar to kick off the new year, according to Home Depot's website.
A woman answering the phone at Menard's said the big-box store doesn't provide classes.
Reach Lori at 330-580-8309 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter: @lsteineckREP