Sunday, June 1, 2014

JOTMOST: Every Wednesday Is Veterans Day

Captain Joseph O. Thornton, USMC.

For the last several years I've been hearing a series of disturbing news reports on NPR. These concern the difficulties US veterans face when returning home: unemployment compounded by severe injuries, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and difficulty getting care.

Whatever your politics, whatever your feelings for or against the policies or actions of one administration or another, it's important to remember that these are the people who have put themselves in harm's way for us, sometimes at great cost to themselves. These are the boots on the ground, on the sea and in the air.

They've done their part, and it's our responsibility as a society to take care of them. This is my contribution to that. It's also my way of saying thanks and showing my appreciation.

JOTMOST is the Joseph O. Thornton Memorial Open Shop Time, in memory of my father-in-law, Captain Joseph O. Thornton, USMC.

If you're a US military veteran, any service, any era, or active duty, you can come and take free hand tool woodworking lessons or work on your own with the tools, every Wednesday night from 7PM-9:30PM at my basement workshop in Ayer, MA.

The student workspace, two benches on the left...

This is similar to my private lessons, but at no charge. I have room for up to 4 people at a time. For full details about my workshop and student area, see my Hand Tool Instruction page. I provide all the necessary instruction, tools, and materials.

...and two more on the right,...

...with enough hand tools for 4 people.

You can treat this as occupational therapy, or vocational training, or a new hobby, or just a fun way to spend some time. You can follow my standard curriculum, focus on some specific skills, work on a project, or just enjoy the simple pleasure of turning a piece of wood into a pile of shavings.

If you have injuries, we'll improvise, adapt, and overcome. The only limitation is that my basement is not wheelchair accessible, but if you can make it up and down the stairs we'll figure something out.

This also fits in with another news thread, that employers looking for employees with hands-on skills are having difficulty finding people. There's been such an emphasis on the high-tech information-based economy, with concomitant emphasis on college education, that vocational training has all but disappeared.

The result is that according to some sources, some 3 million good jobs are going unfilled, and non-IT US manufacturing companies are having trouble competing. Some of these jobs are just as high-tech as the information economy, building things like specialized parts for aircraft and submarines.

An unemployed workforce and unfilled jobs? What's wrong with this picture? These need to meet in the middle.

I'll let the policy wonks debate the relative merits of one job versus another, with all the political overtones (these issues are so loaded with politics it's a wonder anything gets accomplished). Meanwhile, this is hands-on training. Maybe not building jet engines, but I would argue that building stuff is building stuff.

Whether building out of wood with hand tools or machining titanium with the latest high-tech equipment, it all involves many of the same vocational hand and cognitive skills.

You have to understand the properties and limitations of your materials, and how to perform the production steps. You have to be able to visualize how the parts are joined to form subassemblies, and how subassemblies are assembled into the whole. You have to take and evaluate measurements and tolerances. You have to be able to deal with problems that arise. You have to keep the tools in working order.

If you'd like to join in, send me an email at, or leave a message at 978-772-0030.


I don't remember exactly when I started hearing about these issues, but here's just a tiny sampling of the news stories and related links in no particular order:

Skilled Worker Shortage And Vocational Training:


  1. That is a very commendable action you're taking. Having served in the US Navy for 20 years, I appreciate what you are doing for the veterans.

  2. Second! 8 years in the Army and a veteran of Iraq, I appreciate your gesture, too!

  3. I just found your blog, Steve, and I must say, as an old Marine veteran, this is one of the nicest things I have seen done for veterans. Most of the time when speaking of "serving your country", military service is assumed. I don't see it that way. There are many ways to serve your country and you, sir, are doing just that. God bless you and Semper Fi!


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