Cluster Workbench Area

Today I worked to declutter what is the area I’m setting aside for teaching autists and support workers, teachers and so on. Currently, it’s as much my research area as my apprentice’s workshop but it will be nice to have everything set up and clearly designated. I’ve set up the area where a cluster of workbenches, clamp rack, and sharpening station will sit more permanently from now on. It’s an interim step until we can raise the finances to take care of the structural changes we yet need. The important thing is that any autist who comes to learn and apprentice with me will feel a sense of belonging and a level of permanence they might not get otherwise elsewhere. Belonging brings ownership and ownership security and safety. If I can remove uncertainty from the equation I think the settledness deeded to pursue creativity will flourish all the more.

I see projects being completed every week these days. A box, a wall shelf, table and such. Imagine how the first half a dozen autists will feel when their projects come into being working at the workbenches. I have seen it happening for some time now and it is so inspiring.

Because different people work in the space on a regular basis there is no sense setting up separate sharpening facilities every time to sharpen, so I put together a central sharpening station to take care of the need. It works well for everyone including me. This one is 34″ high and measures 24″ by 20″. I had a leftover laminated top for ten years since I built the school workbenches which is ideal, and if you recall the collapsable assembly table we made for woodworking masterclasses years ago, well I just adopted the legs for that and it works perfectly to give a little heft to the whole thing. I ultimately want to build six more of the plywood workbenches and then use the tools I accumulated for the woodworking school when I first began teaching here in the UK. I want to provide a full set of tools for any student that cannot afford tools and the tools will become theirs to own at the end of their 2 years.

Part of the plan is to install a mezzanine floor above the existing workshop area to take care of storage that we currently have down below. Then we can start thinking about break room, computer area, and rest area all nearby. There’s no hurry on replacing the benches as we have six to use already. What’s important is developing the space and customising it for each autist to grow into. What is nice is having the benefit of the building to be in. It’s very nice. We have an electrician booked to install additional lighting which again will need customising to suit each individual by their benches.

I’ll keep you updated on progress.


  1. “The important thing is that any autist who comes to learn and apprentice with me will feel a sense of belonging and a level of permanence they might not get otherwise elsewhere.”
    That is excellent.
    Unfortunately in many institutions, activity is only seen as a way to keep people busy with no other goal and is organised here and there if it doesn’t disturb the management of the institution. The benefit, if any, is then limited.

  2. Hi Paul, Is there any way I could get the plans to build that nice doll house (2nd picture) for my great grand daughter ?

  3. Hello from Texas!
    My wife has been a special education teacher for 25 years and over that time she has taught several autistic students. When I told her about you working with autistic students she thought that was a fantastic idea. Several times during her career I have made things to help her students feel better while they were in her room. I have seen the look in those kid’s eyes light up when they felt they were loved. I pray you can touch the lives of these kids that are kicked to the curb by many people because they are different.

  4. I cannot agree more with the sense of confidence and belonging that comes from having a space to call your own, especially in a group of people who are so misunderstood and classified much like “pallet wood” as if a lesser value. People, no matter what they are doing need and long to be comfortable and to feel a part of the group, company, class whatever it might be. The sense of ownership and comfort my shop and my tools bring to me is very important to my person. I was removed from my profession due to injury and disability and it is my shop that brings me a sense of purpose.

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