Woodworking saws and sanders begin to hum, the sounds of wood being cut, smoothed and detailed echo throughout the room.

Dust begins to accumulate in the air as students use sleds to shape their projects. For construction technology students, it’s just another school day.

The Construction Technology Building is an area on campus that allows students to express their creativity through woodworking, creating, and finishing unlimited types of projects.

Construction technology teacher Jack Selph has taught full-time at El Camino for 22 years, mentoring and mentoring students in their projects. Currently, Selph teaches five carpentry courses.

“I’m really lucky because I don’t have to move them. My biggest thing is not getting them here, not getting them to work, but getting them home at the end of school, they don’t want to leave, they want to stay late,” Selph said.

Harbor City’s Ron Sesco carves designs into the wood he works with at El Camino College’s carpentry class on Saturday, March 26 in Torrance, Calif. Sesco took up woodworking in his youth and planned to become a contractor. “But I had kids and plans changed,” he said. Sesco now owns Distinctive Edge, an art gallery in Rancho Palos Verdes. He thinks the walnut and cherry wood pens and other things he’s learning to make in class might sell in his store. “Once you’ve taken this course, you want to do more and more things,” says Sesco. “People think they don’t have artistic talent, but once you start woodworking, anything is possible.” (Kim McGill | The Union)

When creating projects for the class, students can purchase lumber and other supplies to create their ideas. However, while working on these projects, Selph wants students to focus specifically on themselves.

“I don’t want them to compete to see who can build the biggest or the most because that creates [a] security issue trying to rush and it affects the quality,” Selph said. “I just want to see them grow, move forward, do everything as safely as possible, that’s key in this industry.”

Besides creating projects, Selph holds lectures an hour before lab time and shows students how to create certain cabinets depending on the specific course they are in.

In about a week or two we’ll start building a basic residential kitchen cabinet and I’ll be going through every step of that for the rest of the semester,” Selph said. “In the course of the afternoon, we will do the upper cabinet.”

Trisha Nguyen of Huntington Beach sands pieces of beech wood to make a table in the carpentry class at El Camino College on Saturday, March 26 in Torrance, Calif. “I heard about this class of
the other people. It’s a good wood program,” says Nguyen. “It’s flexible. You can work on any project you need, not just simple doll-sized stuff like you do in most classes. I can’t learn by making doll furniture. In this course, you learn how to make things that you can actually use,” Nguyen adds. She is building a sewing table for her home where she has a small space that needs a custom fit. She has two children and regularly makes clothes, as well as curtains, quilts and upholstery when needed. She made a lot of masks during the pandemic. (Kim McGill | The Union)

While students learn the fundamentals of machine operation as well as safety precautions as part of the curriculum, courses like Construction Technology do more than teach, they allow students to creatively explore. who they are.

Ernesto Sanchez, 31, a construction technology specialist and former editor of El Camino College’s student publication, The Union, has been learning woodworking since the spring 2021 semester and credits the pandemic for giving him more free time to participate in these courses.

“I love doing all of this, and it was a class I always wanted to take, but never got to because I was always busy,” Sanchez said.

In the fall of 2018, Sanchez worked at The Union in many different editor positions, in addition to editor-in-chief. Sanchez said that although he returned in the spring of 2019 as editor and managing editor, events in his life such as planning a wedding and running a martial arts school left him led to not returning in fall 2019.

“It’s a moment in my life that I will never forget,” Sanchez said.

Jorvy Amaya of Compton cuts blocks of walnut and cherry wood in preparation for creating pens in the carpentry class at El Camino College on Saturday, March 26 in Torrance, Calif. “Last week I made pens just for fun, but when I got home my parents took them. And then my grandparents and my brother wanted one too. An entrepreneur recommended that ‘Amaya is studying at ECC. Amaya wants to work in construction and eventually become a contractor renovating homes. (Kim McGill | The Union)

From learning different construction processes to learning the safety precautions that need to be taken in the classroom, those lessons stayed with Sanchez, eventually leading him to find a paid apprenticeship.

“He [Selph] sent me an email saying “I don’t know if you’ll like it”, and from there I tried and the same day I got the job.

The architectural woodworking company Sanchez works for, Aleksandar, Inc., allows him to work on projects for companies like Netflix and Disney, while giving him experience in areas other than woodworking.

“I do things ranging from sweeping floors, cleaning, organizing, loading and unloading trucks, delivering trucks. In my apprenticeship title, I’m a carpenter, assistant carpenter, painter, assistant painter, metalworker, all that crazy cool stuff,” Sanchez said.

Inglewood’s Kabe Mohamadou builds an end table for his living room in El Camino College’s carpentry class on Saturday, March 26 in Torrance, Calif. Mohamadou works as an aircraft mechanic at LAX. “Woodworking is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time, but with COVID I temporarily stopped working, so it was a great time to learn some skills,” he says.
(Kim McGill | The Union)

While some students may find these opportunities, others, like Sabrina Mar, an El Camino student working toward a furniture-making certification, are focused on perfecting their craft.

“I started woodworking because I was working on TV and working on a home improvement show,” Mar said. “I spent whole days watching carpenters and joiners build furniture for these houses we build on this TV show and I fell in love with the process.”

For ten years, Mar took carpentry classes at El Camino College, taking long breaks between sessions, but continued to attend classes. because of his passion for woodworking.

Gardena’s Brian Buu scrapes the glue off the top of the large table he’s building so it doesn’t get “gummed up” when he runs it through the planer in El Camino College’s carpentry class on Saturday March 26 in Torrance, Calif. The planer is a woodworking machine used to cut boards to a consistent thickness throughout their length. “This is my fifth or sixth lesson with Jack,” Buu said, referring to carpentry teacher Jack Selph. “This is my fifth table. I made cutting boards and a low cabinet. Jack is probably fed up with me,” Buu says with a smile. “I’ve been going to ECC for many years. At $46 unit is a goldmine. This semester I am also taking art on Mondays and Wednesdays and on Tuesdays I have piano. During the pandemic when most classes were only ‘online, I was still able to come here and learn about plumbing electricity. I’d rather come here and learn something new than be at home watching Netflix with my dog,’ Buu adds. He graduated from ECC “many years ago” in electrical engineering and now designs printed circuit boards for the defense industry. “I left ECC with all my math and of physics. I probably have five AA degrees,” Buu laughs. (Kim McGill | The Union)

“It really opened up my world fundamentally and not just my eyes, but I just didn’t expect to have the satisfaction of a hobby, and it really fulfilled a lot of the artistic needs I had at the time. era,” said Mar.

Woodworking has also allowed Mar to open an Etsy shop where she sells her projects and pieces. Although television production is her career, Mar said she plans to work on woodworking for the rest of her life.

“I get a lot of satisfaction from building things with my hands and seeing my vision come to fruition…the process is really therapeutic,” Mar said.

While students now move freely around the classroom to complete projects and interact with each other, this freedom was not complete during the pandemic.

Selph said that at the start of the pandemic, building technology paused for about half a semester, but reopened as an essential class for on-campus learning, albeit in a slightly modified way.

Professor Jack Selph carries a drill from the tool room of El Camino College’s carpentry class to help a student with his project Saturday, March 26 in Torrance, Calif. “I’ve been working with wood forever,” says Selph. He has been teaching at the ECC for 22 years. (Kim McGill | The Union)

“They reduced registrations a bit to help with social distancing,” Selph said. “We’re back to full registration now, and on that note I mean the students you can see are very cooperative, everyone is wearing a mask, they’re checking in, they’re doing everything.”

With everything going on in his classes, Selph said he loves what he does and helps others through the woodworking process.

“The [students] which are really rewarding [in teaching] are the ones who are brand new and have never seen the inside of a carpentry shop and they really want to learn,” Selph said.

In the workshop filled with planks of wood and wood shavings, students enjoy what Selph has done for the classroom and the opportunity to grow as woodworking creatives.

“He’s such a lovely nurturer. He really takes his time and holds these kids’ hands, including mine,” Mar said. “I’m not a kid anymore, but he holds your hand when you build these projects and it makes it so much less intimidating.”