Emotion, wood abound at high school show

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The roar of the bandsaw, the whine of the plane, and the hours upon hours of meticulous work can be seen in every curve of Eric Hess's grandfather clock, and felt in every grain of its walnut.

From the gooseneck molding that adorns the top of the clock, to its German clockworks, which took Hess 10 hours to install the clock is more than furniture it's emotion.

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curiosity photo/craig conrad Graduated senior Eric Hess stands next to the grandfather clock which took him eight months to build. In his hand Hess displays the Best of Show plaque he won with the clock.

The emotion that the clock elicited from Hess on graduation weekend was sheer triumph, after the grandfather clock won him Best of Show at the Moffat County High School Woodwork Show, sponsored by shop teacher Craig Conrad and the Brothers Wood.

"The plaque I received for Best of Show means to me what a state championship would mean to our baseball or football team," Hess said. "It represents the hours of work, along with everything else that I had to put into building this clock."

There is no exaggeration to the use of the word "hours" in Hess's comment, in fact "months" is more befitting.

Two weeks after the start of the last school year is when Hess received the plans for his senior project the clock. From that point, he worked on the clock until the day before the show.

In the eight-month span, the senior worked up to three hours a day, utilizing a position as Conrad's teachers aide, and using off-periods to put in extra work.

"It was a stressful and took a lot of time, but it is something that I am glad to have experienced," he said.

The experience, not a blue ribbon, is what Hess' woodshop instructor was hoping for.

While Conrad sees the show's competition as healthy, and a driving force for his students, he does not view it as the end-all as far as the ultimate goal.

The experience and knowledge gained in the shop are the paramount awards Conrad hopes his students have captured on their own.

"I tell the kids not to get hung up on what place they get, because the project itself means so much more then just a ribbon," Conrad said. "Even more than the projects that we build, it's the knowledge that the kids gain from the class, that's the real award. If you asked any of my students if they could rebuild their projects, all of them would answer 'yes', and they would probably tell you that the second time they'd do it better."

The show is judged completely by Conrad's former, woodshop students, a group with a true understanding of what the projects are, and the amount of work that goes into them. But, just because the judges walked down the same path as the show participants, doesn't render the task of picking a winner any easier.

The judges use two, different stipulations when appraising a piece: the quality of workmanship and the degree of difficulty that the piece presents.

Armed with only those two stipulations, the judges will mull through beds, canoes, lamps, and the occasional grandfather clock, to find their winner.

"The way we run our competition is the judges will go around an award the pieces that they feel are of blue ribbon quality, down to third place quality," Conrad said. "After all the awards are giving away in the first round, the piece then competes against those in its award category for Best of Show. That means blue ribbons compete against blue ribbons and red ribbons compete against red ribbons."

The competition is now over, the awards all handed-out, and slowly fade into the background memories of Conrad's students high-school lives, although may not realize it right now.

What will remain, no matter what place a project takes, is the sense of accomplishment the students will have for what they created from mere blocks of wood.

Along with a piece of furniture that will stand in a student's house forever, it will also serve as a daily reminder to what can be created with perseverance and emotion.

"My first year of woods, I would have never thought that I could have made something like a grandfather clock, but I didn't have a second thought when I took it on my senior year," Hess said. "The clock will be something that stands in my house for as long as I live."

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