July 20, 2013 – Eureka, CA

“I have found it!,” I mean we’ve arrived in Eureka, CA. We were here about 5 years ago and one of the best things that we did was to go to the Blue Ox Millworks. It’s still the best thing to do. Eric Hollenbeck is the proprietor and driver behind the force that is the custom millworks, historical park and high school for kids at risk. There are only 11 custom millwork shops left in the U.S. Five years ago he gave us a personal tour and he was just as gracious this time. The tour starts by a demonstration of hand driven machines.

The buildings at the Blue Ox Millworks are pretty rundown but the woodworking is fabulous
The buildings at the Blue Ox Millworks are pretty rundown but the woodworking is fabulous

Eric Hollenbeck operating the foot pedal scroll saw.
Eric Hollenbeck operating the foot pedal scroll saw.

Eric operating a table saw with another saw in the foreground
Eric operating a table saw with another saw in the foreground

The school that he runs at the Blue Ox is the school of last resort for kids who have not been able to manage traditional high school. They go to two hours of class and then spend the rest of the day at the Blue Ox learning different skills. There is, of course, woodworking and carpentry but also blacksmithing, photography, spinning and textiles, and printing. There was a reunion of the past 5 years of graduates recently and 55 former students attended. All of them had made something of themselves and some had even managed to buy houses. Eric is very proud.
John in the workshop
John in the workshop

The lathe shop
The lathe shop

The printing press
The printing press

Type set. The kids set, print and bind their own yearbooks
Type set. The kids set, print and bind their own yearbooks

An old treadle sewing machine
An old treadle sewing machine

The newest machine in the shop is from 1948. Most of the machines are manually operated. Although the place is still really rundown, we can see advancements over the past five years.

Maybe in another five years John will grow tall enough to reach Paul Bunyan's belt
Maybe in another five years John will grow tall enough to reach Paul Bunyan’s belt

After our visit we stop at the Lost Coast Brewery Brewpub for a little refreshment.

The offerings
The offerings

John in his traditional pose
John in his traditional pose

Refreshed, we make our way to the Broadway cinema and enjoy a movie. We see The Lone Ranger which has been thoroughly panned. This means we will like it. Yes, the tone of the movie is a little jumbled and the story is hard to follow at times but JOHNNY DEPP!!!
We have dinner at the hotel because there is really nowhere else to eat in Ferndale and have an early night.

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