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MsDebbieP's Company Tours #6: Roarockit (The Veneering System)

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Blog entry by MsDebbieP posted 08-28-2007 05:31 PM 2141 reads 0 times favorited 15 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 5: OMS Tool Company Part 6 of MsDebbieP's Company Tours series Part 7: Roarockit - Part II (Veneering Lesson) »

What a surprise I had when I started preparing for this interview and I found that the company is located in Toronto, Canada – not too far away from me! Yippee!

roarockit.com
(Thanks to Roarockit for the original image and to Douglas Bordner, our pixelator, for the photo editing to include MsDebbieP)

Ted Hunter and wife, Norah Jackson, started the Roarockit company not too long ago, in an effort to make veneering accessible to everyone.

The History
Norah and Ted, who has been teaching at the Ontario College of Art and Design for the past twenty years, were on vacation in Maui, eight years ago, when they happened upon the “Hui No’eau Visual Arts Center”, a non-profit gathering place for artists. While touring the grounds they noticed an old woodworking shop that had been abandoned and an idea started to form.

Ted volunteered to fix up the shop and to offer classes. Of course, this offer was well-received, but there was one catch: Ted and Norah would be teaching children and they hadn’t done that before. After some thought, Norah came up with the idea of teaching them how to build a skateboard deck. This project would be something the students would be interested in and so they’d have their full attention. And so the journey began.

Over the next six years, Ted and Norah facilitated many classes and students were each able to make their own skateboard in just a week’s time. The highlight, for Ted, was watching the look on the children’s faces as they watched the vacuum process work its magic.

After the success in the classes, the deck kit was born. Their goal was to take what they have created in Maui and make it accessible to everyone. The challenges included finding alternatives to using an electric vacuum pump and plaster for the molds, as these were costly and not convenient for shipping.

The Kit
The result of their brainstorming was a hand pump, which has the same vacuum power as an electric pump, and making a mold from foam rather than plaster.

These alternatives to the traditional veneering technique fulfilled their goal, and with the addition of the plastic bag, the sealing tape, and the breather netting, the Thin Air Press was born. The basic kit plus 1/16th inch Canadian Hard-Maple veneer provides everything one needs to build his/her own skateboard deck.

Their contact at Woodcraft was not only excited about this skateboard kit but quickly encouraged them to create a kit for woodworkers in general, which includes a two-foot square vacuum bag, opening up the building possibilities. From here, Roarockit really took flight.

Teaching
Following the success of the classes at the Art Centre in Maui, Ted and Norah are now working with OASIS, an alternative school in Toronto, and the No Child Left Behind program in Chicago. Here, the students once again learn woodworking skills through the guise of making their own skateboard, as well as develop the personal skills needed to complete such a project.

At OASIS, the students get credit for finishing the skateboard deck, an art credit if they add a design to their creation, and, now, they are able to build two decks, putting one for sale in their store. With the second deck, they not only see a profit but also receive an entrepreneur credit. The 90% + attendance rate is a clear sign of the program’s success.

A future goal for the program is to teach the older students how to pass on their skills by going to other alternative schools and student programs and teach others how to make their own skateboard deck. The benefits keep on multiplying.

The Future
In the plans for Roarockit, is the goal of increasing the availability of the kits, continuing to make them accessible to everyone. The kits are currently available through Lee Valley, Rockler, and Woodcraft and is also available through Carba-tec in Australia. (And, because the kits are available online, this makes them available to everyone around the world.)

Ted and Norah are also busy preparing for the opening of their school in Toronto, where they will be teaching children and adults how to work with their hands, creating skateboards. In one month’s time, Roarockit will be the world’s first professional skateboard deck making school!

But the goals do not stop there! No, Roarockit is always looking for new ideas for non-traditional methods of building. One idea to look for in the future is “freehand bending”. This is yet another way for Ted and Norah to draw people into the world of working with their hands.

Does it stop there? Not at all. Roarockit has developed a curriculum kit for schools; they want to provide seminars for teachers on professional development days; they want to pass on the arts of marquetry, bending furniture components, and bent wood sculptures all through the process of using the vacuum press; and they are seeking connections with Scouts and other boys & girls clubs to continue spreading the skill that will benefit children in so many ways and perhaps even use the skateboard decks as items to auction off for charities.

Other Resources
On the website there are a number of tutorials available. Visit the Roarockit tutorial site to learn how to use the Thin Air Press, how to make a foam mold, and many other skills.

The site also has two blogs: the Roarockit Blog and the Thin Air Press Blog.

Ted’s Favourite Product
When asked what his favourite product was, Ted was eager to say that the best moment is when a young student, having taken a class, orders some veneer to make something else. This is when Ted knows that they “get it” and have transferred the knowledge learned in the class to doing projects on their own. Although I was talking to Ted on the phone at the time, I’m sure I heard a smile!

Ted also is proud to say that the Roarockit kits makes the woodworking process accessible to all and many people wouldn’t have even tried it otherwise.

Clarifying Misconceptions
According to Ted and Norah there are a few misconceptions about the Roarockit: 1) they don’t know what it is and so disregard it, (The classes offered are definitely taking care of this) 2) the hand pump can’t possibly replace an electric pump; (it does!!) 3) the hand pump would take too long to use; (it takes less than one minute to pump out the air and create a vacuum) 4) the plastic bags will lose air before the process is complete. (Ted and Norah have returned from trips to Maui and the bags have not lost their pressure).

Many people think that the kit is too simple to believe – but believe it. The adaptations of electric pump to hand pump and plaster molds to foam have not lessened the effectiveness of the process. Just check out the blogs to see the end results.

Tips to the LumberJocks
This quick question got a quick response back. Ted’s tip is to “Keep It Simple!”

Thank You
I’d like to thank Ted and Norah, at Roarockit, for taking the time to talk to me about their company’s journey as well as for all the wonderful things they are doing to help our youth develop skills to build things on their own as well as personal skills such as responsibility and self-confidence.

-MsDebbieP

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)



15 comments so far

View mike's profile

mike

46 posts in 2998 days


#1 posted 08-28-2007 07:40 PM

Debbie

Great review. Just to add some emphasis for the Carpathian Elm Burl Mirror posted in my projects I used the Roarockit vacuum kit as my veering press.

Worked great and I have used it for several smaller veneering projects as well. For some one wishing
to experiment with veneering without the investment in a vacuum pump system – this can’t be beat.

Cheers
Mike

-- Mike, Maryland, www.thewoodenquill.com

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2849 days


#2 posted 08-28-2007 07:41 PM

excellent! Thanks Mike. It’s great to hear from first-hand experience.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Karson's profile

Karson

34891 posts in 3089 days


#3 posted 08-28-2007 07:47 PM

Thanks Debbie. I don’t remember where I first read about Roarockit but it was a while ago and It’s nice to know the whole story.

Congratulatuions to them. I might assist at David’s school for some woodworking projects. They would probably love a homemade skateboard.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware karson_morrison@bigfoot.com †

View Bob Babcock's profile

Bob Babcock

1804 posts in 2774 days


#4 posted 08-28-2007 08:03 PM

Deb….did you happen to talk to these folks after reading this? http://lumberjocks.com/topics/858 If not it’s a strange coincidence. I’ve been talking with a guy in Chicago that is using the roarockit to teach industrial arts in high schools and met Ted and Norah in Maui.

A little exerpt of our conversation.

”not sure if you are aware but the roarockit story had its humble beginnings less than a decade ago in hawaii. ted and norah hunter , avid wind surfers themselves, developed this accessible teaching program on maui to bring life to a hui wood shop that had gone into disuse. it was during our meeting out there last may that i was introduced to the recently revived activity of stand up paddle surfing. funny thing is that ted, norah and i discussed the pros and cons of their process and how it applies to paddle making over the phone a couple nights ago. imagine it… wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to assist with bringing this experience full circle and return something back to the people of the islands which the duke would be proud of?”

The roarockit looks like a great way to get into vacuum pressing relatively inexpensively.

-- Bob, Carver Massachusetts, Sawdust Maker http://www.capecodbaychallenge.org

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2849 days


#5 posted 08-28-2007 08:08 PM

coincidence—I actually saw their name on some other search that I had been doing.

That is so cool. stand-up paddles, skateboards…. it’s all coming together!! :)

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Don's profile

Don

2600 posts in 2865 days


#6 posted 08-29-2007 12:20 AM

Hey, Debbie, interesting article. I’ve been using this product for two years. See picture here.

Debbie, a correction to your article. Roarockit is available from Carba-tec in Australian and had been for some time.

By the way – in my opinion, this firm would do itself a big marketing favor if they changed the name of their product when marketing to woodworkers. Something like Manual Vacuum Veneer Press would be a good starting point.

-- CanuckDon "I just love small wooden boxes!" http://www.dpb-photos.com/

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2849 days


#7 posted 08-29-2007 02:13 AM

thanks for the correction Don.

I’ll change it in the original posting.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

3966 posts in 2752 days


#8 posted 08-29-2007 02:45 AM

Want one, want one, want one. Did I say that out loud?.
And I think I might actually have an established “Top Ten Excuse” for the new tool. Plus it seems eminently reasonable in price. Won’t have to resort to Mot’s Boxless Sneak.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2849 days


#9 posted 09-01-2007 11:36 AM

Yesterday I had the privilege of visiting Ted and Norah (thanks to my chauffeur, Jenn). What a wonderful experience this was. I’ll be writing about it as soon as I get the photos off of my camera.

Thank you Ted and Norah. What wonderful hosts!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Ted Hunter's profile

Ted Hunter

5 posts in 2609 days


#10 posted 09-01-2007 02:50 PM

We had a fun time with MsDebbie and Jenn. Thanks for dropping by and for letting us bend your ear about our kits and teaching our youth how to use their hands again.

Ted

-- http://www.roarockit.com

View Douglas Bordner's profile

Douglas Bordner

3966 posts in 2752 days


#11 posted 09-01-2007 03:13 PM

Ted-
Welcome to Lumberjocks. Nice avatar! Congratulations on a fine product and an even finer mission. I hope to soon be on the burgeoning list of woodworkers working veneers with a Roarockit.

-- "Bordnerizing" perfectly good lumber for over a decade.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2849 days


#12 posted 09-01-2007 10:57 PM

Hi Ted! !!!

It was all MY pleasure!! (and Jenn’s)
Start a conversation about kids and changing the world and, boy, I’m hooked!!! You are an inspiration.

and yes—nice avatar!
Douglas, you should see this piece of sculpture. Oh My Goodness!!!! ... What an artist.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View shapeshifter's profile

shapeshifter

25 posts in 2609 days


#13 posted 09-02-2007 05:43 AM

hi ted… hello debbie… hey now bob! small world isn’t it? i love it when circles join together and become enmeshed. just makes me feel all bubbly inside! this is gonna be a fun place to hang around.

hmmmm… wonder how hard it would be to get gary young to take a peek at what’s going on over here. maybe even join the party? i know that he’s been real busy getting his latest operation into gear. oh yeah, an invite is going out as we “speak”.

as i’ve posted in bob's thread on the roarockit vacuum system, the simplicity of the product is what endears it to the people who experience it’s application. for those determined to use their electrical pumps as opposed to the manual one provided… it is really easy to make a step-down converter to the bag’s valve using decreasing diameters of pvc pipe. i use this just to provide the apprentice programs with another option and to prove that there is no real difference in the pressure qualities between the two.

-- whoever invented the hole... knew nothing.

View MsDebbieP's profile

MsDebbieP

18615 posts in 2849 days


#14 posted 09-02-2007 10:50 AM

I didn’t know I was going to be so inspired by surfers :)

Gorgeous works of art.

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (https://www.facebook.com/DebbiePribeleENJOConsultant)

View Ted Hunter's profile

Ted Hunter

5 posts in 2609 days


#15 posted 09-02-2007 02:29 PM

Here is a ink to pictures of some of my work.
Enjoy

http://lumberjocks.com/jocks/TedfromRoarockit#comment-54817

-- http://www.roarockit.com

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