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Community collaboration

Maris Grove woodshop members partner with Newlin Grist Mill

Created date

July 6th, 2016
The grain bin made by members of Maris Grove’s woodshop.

Newlin Grist Mill Director Tony Shahan, second from left, admires the grain bin made by members of Maris Grove’s woodshop. From left are members Bob Sklar, Hal Marden, and Don Yost.

People move to Maris Grove, Erickson Living’s retirement community in Delaware County, Pa., for its amenities, its on-campus conveniences, and its more than 180 clubs and activities. 

The community’s up-to-date and well-equipped woodshop, in particular, attracts skilled woodworkers and newbies alike. Take, for example, Bob Sklar, who moved from Newark, Del.

Enamored of wood since age ten, Bob expanded and spent more time in his basement workshop after he retired from DuPont. “So it was very important to find a place where I could continue this interest,” he says. 

His wife’s choice of Maris Grove proved ideal because the Sklars live in Millers Run, the residence building where Maris Grove’s woodshop is located on the terrace level.

With some 70 members, the shop gets plenty of use as members work on individual projects, build items for use within Maris Grove, and repair furniture for their neighbors.

Educational collaboration

The club recently started collaborating with nearby Newlin Grist Mill, a 160-acre park anchored by a working mill built in 1704. 

For the mill’s educational programming, woodshop members have made items such as tree cookies—the thick crosscut slabs of tree trunks expose their rings so visitors can estimate a tree’s age. 

More impressively, club members are making reproductions of circa 1750s mill furnishings. Tony Shahan, Newlin Grist Mill’s director, wants to display furnishings that are as authentic as possible. 

The club’s first large project, a standing desk, was especially important to Shahan. He’d stipulated hand-cut dovetails to join the wood on the standing desk and on an apprentice desk; the apprentice desk is smaller and lacks the legs of the standing desk. 

Making hand-cut dovetails is a rare skill these days, but Bob Sklar knows how to do it. “Tony was very happy with the outcome,” Bob says.

A team approach

Safety, camaraderie, and teamwork are hallmarks of the woodshop. Three members teamed up on the mill projects.

Club cochair Hal Marden, a DuPont retiree who considers himself a frustrated architect, made the drawings for the desks.

Bob made the apprentice desk and the upper part of the standing desk; Don Yost turned the legs of the standing desk. 

Then Hal and Don constructed a third project, a grain bin. The mill’s on-site blacksmith shop forged the required hinges.

“Tony is as eager to continue using our services as we are eager to participate,” says Hal. 

That excitement and pride extends throughout Maris Grove. “We have tremendous support from our administration and Executive Director Maureen Heckler,” Bob says.

“Maureen is very happy we’ve established this connection,” adds Hal. “It’s good for Maris Grove to be involved in the larger community.”