Sawmilling and Woodworking for Education in Wisconsin
By Olivia Eaker, Wood-Mizer
Located in Northern Wisconsin, in the small town of Antigo, Travis Allen and Logan Wells have dedicated their talents to teaching sawmilling and woodworking at Northcentral Technical College (NTC). In doing so, Travis and Logan have set their sights on educating and preparing the next generation of woodworkers and forest products professionals.
NTC instructors Travis and Logan have decades of experience in the wood products industry. From the East to the West coast, “I’ve been heavily involved with the forest products industry, whether that be on the primary end…or the secondary wood products manufacturing industry,” shared Travis.
In addition, Logan started in the forest products industry while still in high school. “I loved being in the woods and woodworking with my dad,” shared Logan. This interest inspired Logan to purchase a Wood-Mizer LT15 portable sawmill and start his own sawmill business before earning his degree in Forest Management at the University of Wisconsin - Madison and studying Hardwood Lumber Grading as a graduate student at Purdue University.
Laying Down Roots
Travis came to Northcentral Technical College as an instructor around 2010 and was an integral part in developing their Wood Technology Center of Excellence. Travis explained that the purpose of the center is to help train the incumbent work force which he described as, “Employees that are currently employed with the forest products industry and also college students coming through our wood science program.”
Antigo was clearly the perfect place for the Wood Technology Center, as Wisconsin is a large contributor in the forest products industry, and in 2006, Northcentral Technical College’s Wood Training Program was born.
The Wood Technology Center of Excellence is home to the training facility for those looking to enter and grow in the forest products industry. Both Travis and Logan stressed the importance of hands-on opportunities and learning and how it plays into their program. “All the students coming through our program are hands-on learners,” said Travis. “So, to be able to have an affordable sawmill for students to work on and learn firsthand is just an excellent opportunity.”
Northcentral Technical College strives to prepare its students for the industry with a multitude of different woodworking equipment including a portable sawmill, CNC machines, wood drying kilns, and more. This is not your typical woodworking program that focuses on one specialty alone. “What makes this program unique is that students get to discover what area of the industry they enjoy,” said Logan.
Choosing a Career in the Wood Products Industry
Second-year Wood Science Program student, Brandon Nilles, explained that this program really helped him discover where he wanted to go in his career path. “When I first signed up for this program, I really had no goals, I had no idea what I was going to do. I just knew I liked woodworking,” shared Brandon. Brandon’s story, like many other students attending the program, is a common journey.
“As they get started, they know they like trees, they know they like making things with their hands and then they can kind of discover the path that’s right for them,” said Logan. Northcentral Technical College strives to inspire their students to discover their own paths by introducing them to all the possibilities the wood products industry has to offer.
Hands-On Opportunities and Continuing Education
Logan clarified that getting the opportunity to work hands-on with woodworking equipment in a safe and supervised environment alongside industry professionals helps to engage students. Travis and Logan get the chance to not only teach them how to use the equipment but also how to troubleshoot any problems they may come across.
Brandon admitted that going into the program he did not know what to expect, but the abundance of woodworking equipment offered at The Wood Technology Center was able to open his eyes to the endless career possibilities in the forest products industry.
The program is dedicated to highlighting sawing, edging, and trimming, and to do so NTC partnered with Wood-Mizer to purchase an LT40 electric hydraulic sawmill as well as an EG200 twin-blade board edger. “We use this equipment for our students so they can learn how to apply NHLA standard grading rules while they are breaking down a log into lumber to maximize the profit of that log,” shared Travis.
The Wood Technology Center is truly dedicated to making sure their students are well informed and experience all aspects of the forest products industry. “Aside from our college classes that we offer, we have a lot of continuing education classes. We offer classes on log grading and scaling, manufacturing lumber, setting up a moulder, as well as fine woodworking,” shared Logan.
With access to state-of-the-art equipment and experienced instructors like Travis and Logan, Northcentral Technical College is dedicated to continuing to help students find their own path in the woodworking and forest products industry.