BY BARB BERGGOETZ
A professional woodworker and furniture maker, James Bradley was tired of working alone in his home woodworking shop and having to drive to Indianapolis to buy furniture-grade wood that couldn’t be found locally.
To help others avoid the same frustrations, Bradley, 33, started a unique co-op business in Bloomington that saves local woodworkers time, money, and effort, and where he provides instruction to novices and less-experienced woodworkers.
In November, Bradley opened Bloomington WoodWorks, located at 415 W. 4th St. It offers people a safe, clean building in which to work on projects, and access to industrial-grade power tools and high-quality wood.
“It’s just something I had wanted when I was still working at home,” says Bradley. “I opened it, hoping others would want the same thing.”
Bradley, who took woodworking classes at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in Franklin, Indiana, says creating the co-op was a financial leap for him. The shop came together when he saw equipment from an entire woodshop for sale on Craigslist and soon after noticed the previous occupant of the shop’s space intended to move. He pounced on both opportunities.
The co-op conducts classes in basic woodworking for beginners or those wanting to brush up on their woodworking skills. People can buy a day pass for $15 or become members for $40 per month, giving them discounts on wood and classes and access to the shop during community shop times.
The 900-square-foot shop is fully equipped with the tools woodworkers need for large-scale projects, including a 14-inch band saw, 15-inch planer, and a 10-inch cabinetmaker’s table saw. The shop also has a wide assortment of hand tools.
Jessika Griffin, 24, had no woodworking experience when she signed up on a whim for a class last fall, but she successfully made a cutting board.
“Working with wood is a natural thing and you don’t always know how it’s going to turn out,” she says. Now, she’s inspired to make a nightstand. “It’s nice to be around other woodworkers and not have to work in my garage.”
Bradley, who also does extensive gardening with his wife Susan Brackney, says co-ops can contribute to the sustainability movement. “We can share tools and knowledge and we can all live better lives with less money if we work together,” he says.