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Mike Quantrell, who runs the woodworking crafts shop on Kelley Barracks, shows a safety class the proper way to use a table saw. For more than 20 years, Quantrell has been teaching people in the Stuttgart military community how to make beds, chairs, tables and other woodworking projects.

Mike Quantrell, who runs the woodworking crafts shop on Kelley Barracks, shows a safety class the proper way to use a table saw. For more than 20 years, Quantrell has been teaching people in the Stuttgart military community how to make beds, chairs, tables and other woodworking projects. (David Josar / S&S)

STUTTGART, Germany — Michael Quantrell is absolutely philosophical when he talks about woodworking and teaching people how to turn pieces of wood into what some consider works of art.

“This is about patience,” said the 55-year-old Quantrell, who has been working for more than two decades on Kelley Barracks. “You really need patience for everything in life, just like you do this. You have to think. You have to take your time. You have to be careful.”

On a recent Wednesday, Quantrell was waiting for the half-dozen or so people who make up his weekly wood shop safety course. The walls of the shop are plastered with photos and plaques to commemorate the handiwork of Quantrell’s students.

Before coming to Germany, Quantrell worked as an industrial arts instructor in England, teaching woodworking and metal craft.

As a teen, Quantrell said he was unsure of what he wanted to do for a career until he met a master woodworker who engaged him with what he could create with his own hands.

A personal romance lured him to Stuttgart from his hometown of Norwich, England, and he hasn’t left.

“This is a wonderful job, a wonderful place, but it’s not what I’m going to end up doing,” he said.

Quantrell’s other love is climbing, a hobby he would someday like to make his full-time passion. He has gone rock climbing all over Europe.

There are similarities between woodworking and rock climbing, he said. In woodworking, a person must learn to not use too much strength and power — such as when swinging a hammer — and instead rely on technique and skill.

“If you use too much power, you don’t have enough control,” he said.

When he rock-climbs, he added, he never uses all of his strength, because then he would have none left if he gets into trouble on the mountain face.

“You use your skill and finesse,” he said.

Quantrell is not all wood shop and rock climbing. He is the father of four children, ages 10 to 19, and likes to talk about when he played Jacob Marley in a Kelley Theater production of “A Christmas Carol.” He wants to try his hand at more productions, he said, but finding time is tricky.

Quantrell runs his wood shop slightly differently from wood shops on other installations.

He charges a one-time $30 fee for the safety class, and then those who earn a safety certificate have free rein of the shop.

Some shops charge the users by the hour.

“I don’t want anyone to rush,” he said. “When you take your time, you are more patient, you are more careful.”

For the first-time woodworker, Quantrell invests the most time, demonstrating different techniques and being patient as the person learns to operate every power tool safely and efficiently.

“I give more guidance in the beginning. … It’s easier for me in the long run because they become more independent,” he said.

His greatest triumphs come after spending several years working with someone, and that person gains and uses skills that last a lifetime.

Some people come to the shop with an idea of what they want to make, while others just want to work with wood.

The shop has seen a recent rush of self-made beds, which often turn into money-saving projects for their creators.

Quantrell said one Special Forces soldier recently crafted a bed for several hundred dollars in material that would cost about $6,000 in a store. Another woodworker completed a mahogany bed that would retail for $12,000.

Much of the purchase cost of an expensive piece of furniture is for labor, Quantrell said, so a person willing to invest the time can make something valuable.

“I know all over the world there are family heirlooms that were built here,” he said.

The ideas and skills that are developed in the wood shop also have a benefit in the workplace, Quantrell said, especially in the military.

“We are working creatively, and I think that can lead to being a better soldier,” he said.

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