On Paying it Forward - West Wind Hardwood
north island college joinery program

North Island College (NIC) – Furniture Design and Joinery

One of West Wind Hardwood’s mandates is to “Foster appreciation of fine woodworking skills, from novice to master craftsman.” 

And one of our goals is to share knowledge.  “We offer a combined 200+ years of custom woodworking, boat building and appreciation of wood. Our accumulated knowledge is invaluable and should be shared, with our customers AND our employees.  Danny Schaftlein, Milling Manager completed his Joinery Apprenticeship in November 2014. Joel, Tyler, Jordan and Dustin have since followed in his footsteps!”

We take pride in our passion for wood.  And as such, we are always happy when schools – of any level – reach out to us for support.

Beyond offering his skills to NIC, Nigel Atkin is an intuitive carver.  I suggest you visit his Instagram here.  Check out his bevy of otters ?

Additionally, check out NIC’s site to better understand what the college offers.

The following is submitted by Nigel Atkin, a carver and substitute instructor at North Island College in Port Alberni. We are grateful for his support of West Wind Hardwood and his willingness to share his knowledge with all with an interest and appreciation of wood.


Terms like “paying it forward” are popular in North American culture. One hears it in several trades and professional fields, in many sports and charities. Mentors and philanthropists understand the power of often unseen generosity exercised in anonymity. Paying it forward is a popular theme in television series and movies, and in business.

The concept is also deeply ingrained in all areas of the wood industry, from marine joinery in boat and shipbuilding to the arts and crafts community, fine furniture woodworking, lumber wholesalers, and retail stores.

As well, nowhere in society is the concept of investing in the future more important than in our schools and other institutions of higher learning, those that train students to respect the source of raw material and the final quality product of their own making or in industrial production.

Mentoring through apprenticeship and practice is all a part of paying it forward.

Reciprocity is akin, a close cousin to paying it forward, whereby groups give each other similar advantages often to mutual benefit. Reciprocity in global economics often referred to the term in trade between nations. In more local business marketing, an economic goal of an organization is always to influence and develop future customer relations.

In more recent times, those now involve greater awareness of environmental issues such as vital sustainable practices and the devastating consequences. – the droughts, floods, and other storms of the climate crisis – paying it forward and reciprocity with the earth itself are driving behavioural change in all our communities.

Recently, West Wind Hardwood was asked to support North Island College students in the Furniture Design and Joinery Certificate Program in Port Alberni and was pleased to do so.

“The student economy – restricted budgets, general inflation, and the significant increases in hardwood prices – leads me to seek small donations from a number of sources…Specifically, we are seeking any hardwood that students can use to make a range of products – tables and chairs, small boxes and cabinets. There might be some 6 to 8-foot lengths of various types you can spare or otherwise move on. Anything will be appreciated – poplar, butternut, cherry, walnut, beech, maple, any hardwood you can spare,” read the email.

The email mentioned “West Wind has a good variety of hardwood offcuts. A few years ago, I bought a couple of large bulk bundles of oak and ash which have subsequently been given to students for smaller products.” From these offcuts, students made numerous family and community gifts for their Christmas season, including toys, oak cheese and baguette boards, jewelry, and other wooden gifts for friends.

In NIC’s 36-week foundation program, they not only learn to design, construct, finish, and repair high-quality wood products – fine cabinets, furniture, and other fixtures – they are learning sustainable practices, the gift of wood, and how not to waste a valuable commodity.

They are also rippling the good practices of generosity forward. Most of us have directly benefited from others helping us as our careers develop – the formal and informal apprenticeships, the kind sometimes sharp words needed for greater quality and for teaching us safer practices.

Many of us have been given wood and have had tools passed down to encourage our developing passion for woodworking, and the potential joiners, carpenters, and artists we might become.

As graduates prepare for careers in furniture building, marine joinery, residential carpentry finishing, a variety of sales positions, millwork, or as self-employed artisans, they also become beneficiaries and protagonists in a continuous chain of goodness within the community of woodworkers.

by Nigel Atkin, a carver and substitute instructor at North Island College in Port Alberni.

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