Craftsmen look to build on an idea of Alton "Doc" Blake.

CANANDAIGUA — Alice Nichols proudly shares a story of the last woodworking project she carried out with her father.

The pair found a photograph online of a table that Nichols thought was particularly appealing. So they gathered up some wood and they got to work. 

“With no plans and just a photograph, we were able to build a table,” the Fairport resident said. 

Tables of any size and shape, birdhouses, grandfather clocks, even an addition to a house — if it was made out of wood, Alton “Doc” Blake, Nichols’ father, could build it. 

Woodworking is a craft that Blake, a longtime Canandaigua seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher, felt was precious and one that more people should have the opportunity to pursue, Nichols said.

According to his friend and fellow woodworker Jim Kennedy, with that concept in mind, Blake pitched the idea of developing a woodshop in Canandaigua that would be open to the community. 

The concept included the development of a woodworking space where everyone from children to professional craftsmen could get involved. 

Last year, at the age of 86, Blake passed away before the project got off the ground. But with the seed planted, Kennedy began working with Nichols to see if anyone else would be interested in bringing a community woodshop to the area.

“It’s just a concept right now,” Kennedy said. 

On Saturday, inside the fittingly named Wood Library, Kennedy, Nichols, and a handful of other interested people from around the community met to explore Blake’s concept.  

During the meeting, fliers, with “Canandaigua Community Woodshop” written on the top, were handed out to attendees. The mission: To provide a common workplace and educational opportunities pertinent to the craft of woodworking.

Community woodshops, both nonprofit and for profit, have popped up in places across the nation, Kennedy said. He pointed out that he has reached out to a few of these locations and found that they are garnering interest and success. 

Their presence is following the trend of a movement Kennedy identified as “makerspace.”

“It’s a national movement based on the philosophy that we need to teach people how to work with materials and create products,” said Kennedy, who for 25 years taught industrial arts. 

As it is imagined, the Canandaigua Community Woodshop would provide the necessary machines and tools for a variety of products.

“People would just need to bring their ideas, their materials and they can create what they want,” Kennedy said. 

Among the first questions identified during Saturday’s meeting was where to place a shop. 

Kennedy pointed out that he has reached out to the owner of the former Lisk manufacturing building. Inside the structure is 2,000 square feet of space that is being considered, but the group marked down the need to keep searching and exploring other options.

As the idea is currently laid out, it would be a nonprofit structure that offers classes and a possible gallery. 

Bob Locke of Canandaigua was one of several woodworkers on hand for the gathering. He recalled working with his daughters to build theater sets years ago.

“Most of us in this room grew up having woodshop in middle school or high school — they don’t do that anymore,” Locke said. “There’s a lot of practical experience that’s been lacking. How to operate a screw gun or a drill is foreign to a lot of people. The ability to create something — that’s a lot of satisfaction that people are missing.”

To get involved

If you are interested in the Canandaigua Community Woodshop, email Jim Kennedy at