Air Force Woodshop | Popular Woodworking Magazine

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Lieutenant Jon Sward builds furniture during his off hours. Military joinery is open to all military and women.

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the May 2008 issue of American Woodworker

I share my seminar with about 12,000 others. It is the military joinery of Offutt Air Base (AFB), Nebraska. Military joinery exists on large bases and locations around the world. They are open to all military personnel (including employees and retirees) on a pay-per-use basis.

Offutt AFB is home to the “Fightin ’55th” combat wing and STRATCOM (Strategic Command). Offutt’s joinery occupies part of the basement of the “bomber building”, where the Martin B-17, B-26 and B-29 bombers were produced during World War II. In another building across the runway, the Enola Gay and Bockscar B-29 bombers were prepared for their historic missions over Japan.

The Offutt carpentry has large workstations and duplicates of all the main fixed tools. You can disconnect routers, sanders, and other portable tools for in-store use. The shop has a separate finishing room and an extensive library of woodworking books and magazines. Large stocks of lumber and plywood are maintained and offered for sale.

The Offutt Air Force Base joinery is located in the historic Martin Bomber building.

When my wife and I first got married, we couldn’t afford to buy furniture. So, as a young aviator, I spent every evening at the base’s carpentry. We slept on the floor until I made a bed, we sat on the floor until I made a sofa and so on. We have been married for more than 25 years and I still make most of our furniture. I also volunteer as a teacher at the basic carpentry.

The Offutt shop attracts many young aviators who are new to woodworking, so we offer courses on basic woodworking and the use of tools. Completion of a store security class is required. More advanced classes include cabinet making and wood turning. Military items are popular designs, of course (plaques, ceremonial flag boxes, shadow boxes for retirees, squadron purses, etc.). The largest object built here was a houseboat, which almost couldn’t get through the wide open bay door!

The commemorative flag boxes are a popular design.

One thing that is certain about the army is that we move often! And when we move, things break. When I was stationed in Germany, we offered antique furniture and repairs through the woodworking shop, and it was a thriving business. We are planning to add furniture repair to our Offutt services in the near future, as making woodworking economically self-sufficient is one of our primary goals. – Jeff Bruce

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