Commentary: The Woodshop – The Intricate Parts That We Make

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By David Bomber

You can always tell when the woodshop begins its operations for the day. For one, there is always that distinct sound of the motor turning over and activating their filtration system, bringing the woodshop to life. Secondly, about the same time, there is an unmistakable troop of about 90 inmates spilling out of the buildings at the Nottoway Correctional center—all of whom are heading towards the workshop to report to work.

Besides the dust that seems to permeate the air, there is definitely an atmosphere to the woodshop. Every person, whether they are an inmate or staff, plays a role and has certain duties which they are expected to carry out.

Take Tim for example, who is one of the floor supervisors. One of his functions in the morning is to hand out essential items such as gloves and tape, as well as keys. It is fair to say that he is an outgoing fellow who always greets all of us workers first thing in the morning, just like Jill does. When it comes to her, she just so happens to be the plant manager, therefore it is her job to make sure that the place is run like a well-oiled machine. And it is.

There is no doubt that both Jill and Tim do their part, as do Christi, Julia, and Steve. However, when it comes to these particular staff members they are merely spokes in the wheel that makes up the woodshop. For the most part, it is the inmates that make up the intricate parts in the woodshop.

Every part that gets made (which we refer to as jobs), has to go through the job processing dept., which is run by Jesse. It just so happened that he is the clerk as well as a fellow inmate.

“Jesse, how many jobs do we have on the floor?” one of the supervisors asks him from time to time.

When it comes to Jesse, he is a pretty smart individual. It would only take a split second for you to realize this once you get to talking with him. The other thing that you’ll notice is that he has a professional demeanor about himself and that he takes his job very seriously. After positioning the mouse in the appropriate place and a couple clicks later, he’ll have the answer for you.

Depending on what the part is, depends on what department it goes to. For the envision line, things like panels, tops, and the like that make up desks, cabinets, etc. go to the Scheer saw to be cut. This department is run by an old man named Hunt, who calls himself the “Wood Doctor.” For parts on the Piedmont and Commonwealth lines they go to the Komo machines to be cut. These departments are run by Puff and Sincere, also fellow inmates. As far as that goes, every department has a lead man. In effect, this particular inmate is ultimately responsible for not only the jobs that come through his department, but also the work that the other inmates perform in the department.

Typically, parts that come from these departments make their way to the Edgeband department, where they receive Edgeband when required, hence the name. If it happens to be an envision product then it makes its way to my department, the vertical bore machine. There it is up to me and my coworker to drill different sized holes into each part so that it may be fitted to other parts.

Eventually every part has to go through QC or the quality control department to be measured and inspected for quality assurance.

Besides the departments that were mentioned, there are many others with each having their own set of functions. These include: assembly, auto CAD, raw materials, rough woodland the SA department, just to name a few.

To say the least, there are a lot of things being produced within the woodshop at the Nottoway Correctional center. Chances are, if you have visited any state agency such as the DMV or pretty much any state college in Virginia, you’ve seen a chair, desk, tabletop or the like that came from the workshop here.

About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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