Making bookcases

Eighth-graders Jakob Holzer, left, and Collin Mills construct a bookshelf during wood shop class Friday at Strickland Middle School. With fellow student Jacob Fritz, they’ve created 30 bookcases to donate to surrounding apartment and mobile-home park recreation rooms.

Collin Mills and Jakob Holzer built bookcases with the single-minded focus of craftsmen early Friday morning.

Along with Jacob Fritz, who was absent Friday, the young carpenters were responsible for building 30 sets of bookshelves for the Ryan Zone Book Drive, which seeks to donate miniature libraries to surrounding apartment and mobile-home park recreation rooms.

Collin and Jakob, both eighth-graders at Strickland Middle School, were working to finish their final creation, personally commissioned by their wood shop teacher, with what wood was left.

Sawdust hung in the air while the grinding whir of an air compressor powered a nail gun held by Jakob. With steady squeezes of the trigger, he secured the bookcase’s walls and shelves as Collin helped to steady the plywood.

Within minutes, the pair had pieced together the framework for another bookcase, but it wasn’t always that smooth.

Collin estimated the first few took them a day or two to complete.

“Just to get the hang of it,” Jakob added. “Once we got it down, we were doing about three, four, five a day, and we would sometimes come down in second period and get another three done.”

Painting the shelves

Strickland Middle School students Dylan Thornell, left, Emily Cheverria and Samuel Castaneda stand behind the bookcases they painted during art class Friday. The wood shop class at the school created 30 bookcases to donate to apartment and mobile-home recreation rooms, and donations will help the school stock the shelves with books.

The students cut the plywood panels to size with a table saw and a radial arm saw, and pieced them together with both nail and staple guns.

Once the young artisans have driven the last nail and squared the last plank, the bookcases move on to the school’s art classes for painting.

Layers of blue and red, the school colors for Ryan High School, cover the stripes and grain on the plywood cases.

With many shelves left to paint, Samuel Castaneda, Dylan Thornell and Emily Cheverria took time out of their art class to lend a hand.

“Right now, we’re responsible for painting all of them because no one else is doing it, so we might as well,” Samuel said.

“Yeah, so that’s our project,” Dylan said.

When the paint is dry, some artists pick out quotes to cover the side panels of each bookcase.

Like good workers on commission, neither the woodworkers nor the painters knew exactly why they were building so many bookcases.

“We were just told that it was a project for our principal, so we got supplies, the materials and we just got the job done, I guess,” Jakob said.

After a chuckle, Principal Kathleen Carmona explained that the bookcases are part of the zone’s literacy project to provide free libraries in rec rooms throughout the area.

Both Jakob and Collin have been in wood shop classes since sixth grade.

“It’s our favorite class,” Collin said. “Mr. [Earl LeRoy] Rowe is a really good teacher.”

“We’re really blessed to have this class because we’re both antsy kids, so we like to get our work in,” Jakob added.

They’ve previously made parts of sets for the school’s theater department, storage boxes, and holders for pencil sharpeners, among other projects. They’ve been contracted several times to make minor repairs around the school.

Currently, their class is working on small wooden cars that eventually will be fitted with carbon dioxide canisters for racing.

Throughout March, donations of new or gently used books will be accepted at Strickland, Ryan and 10 other participating schools. Books also can be dropped off in the lobby of the Denton ISD Central Services Building at 1307 N. Locust St.

For more information, contact Teresa Becker at or 940-369-0079.

MARSHALL REID can be reached at 940-566-6862 and via Twitter at @MarshallKReid.

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