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Hammerstone Carpentry School builds inclusivity into trade work

The school is located in Trumansburg, NY, 20 minutes outside of downtown Ithaca/Source: Syd Pierre
The Hammerstone Carpentry School for Women has been helping women and queer folks in the Ithaca community to learn carpentry skills for almost 10 years, with the goal of creating more inclusion in the trade work industry.

Mission of the school: 

The goal of Hammerstone is to empower women to learn and be involved in trade work through a supportive, safe environment that is for women-only. 

Sarah Grunberg, a teaching assistant at Hammerstone, said that she feels strongly about the philosophy behind having a space that is designated for people who have historically not been encouraged to work in the trades. 

“Whether that’s women, trans folks, non-binary individuals, queer people — I’ve seen and met people from all different backgrounds taking these classes,” Grunberg said. “And a lot of them share similar stories of being discouraged from touching the tool or not, or just not necessarily feeling like they ever had an opportunity to try something like this.” 

Fewer than 4% of construction trade workers are women, according to a 2022 study conducted by the Institute for Women’s Policy Research

The school offers classes on woodworking, carpentry skills and more intensive courses, like a two-day intro to roofing course. 

Why students get involved:  

Kelly Cobb, a student and teaching assistant at Hammerstone, said she started taking classes because she wanted to be able to do her own home projects in her unfinished basement without hiring a contractor. 

“When I moved to Ithaca, I had never done any DIY projects,” Cobb said. “I had never used a circular saw or a drill driver. I was holding a lot of flashlights in projects that other people were doing. But now I’m excited that I can do my own projects and help other people learn how to do projects as well.”

Katherine Herleman, a student at Hammerstone, said they got interested in the school because of the LGBTQ+ classes they offer during Pride Month. 

“I’ve been looking for a few years, and I was really grateful to see they offered an LGBTQ specific class during pride month,” Herleman said. “And that really made me think, ‘hmm, you know, maybe I can do this.’ So I feel like it’s a good environment. And that’s what brought me out this past summer.” 

The school offers LGBTQ+ classes during pride month and is focused on creating a safe, supportive environment for students/Source: Syd Pierre

Herleman said she enjoyed how the instructors at Hammerstone work to build confidence within their students. 

“You’re not just building a building box, you’re building your confidence,” Herleman said. “And that’s what I really like best about it.”

They said a fellow student in the fundamentals of table saw class they took came into the course very afraid of the saw, but was empowered by the rest of the students throughout the afternoon course.

“It was just really nice to see her confidence grow through the class, and I think we all felt it too,” Herleman said. 

Students in the Fundamentals of Table Saw class construct their apple crates/Source: Syd Pierre

Grunberg said that she got involved with Hammerstone because she wanted to learn something new. 

“I’ve always been really excited about getting really good at things,” Grunberg said. “I like being challenged, so this was another opportunity to be challenged. And I didn’t realize at the time, how impactful it would be to be challenged in this kind of space and I’ve been through many different kinds of learning environments. But nothing ever like this. And so that was the reason why I kept coming to classes.”

Tiny houses & a 10-year anniversary: 

Hammerstone, founded by Maria Klemperer Johnson in 2013, is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. 

Grunberg said that the school has been celebrating everything that’s been accomplished so far and is planning a larger, official celebration. This year, she said they have been focused on growing their staff and looking for more grant opportunities, which they will use to provide more classes and winterize the shop where classes are held.

The building on the left is where classes are held and a tiny house under construction is on the right/Source: Syd Pierre

One specific course that Hammerstone relies heavily on grants for is its tiny house course series, where participants build a tiny house for a community member who sponsors the project and collaborates with Hammerstone. The school is currently accepting applications for its 2024 season. 

We’ve been so amazed and thrilled by the support we have gotten from companies like Wolverine and Dewalt, as well as the local community which has also provided us with grants to continue the work we do,” Grundberg said. “It’s wonderful to see that they value our mission to empower women and trans folks in hopes of making the trades a more representative and equitable industry.”

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