Tom Bodett of NPR fame takes us to his community woodworking shop

Published: Sep. 25, 2023 at 6:41 AM EDT
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BRATTLEBORO, Vt. (WCAX) - You may not recognize his face, but you might know the name, and you almost definitely know the voice.

Tom Bodett spends a lot of time milling around Brattleboro. Because as much as you might associate him with radio, he’ll tell you he’s a woodworker.

“I have been a lifelong woodworker, but I got very serious about it about 30 years ago when I stopped drinking alcohol,” said Bodett.

With his new-found sobriety, he spent his Friday and Saturday nights tinkering around his workshop making furniture or knickknacks for kids. His woodworking foundation was already solid, having built houses out in Alaska.

“I got to Michigan State University as an English major and I hated it. I hated college, it was just awful. I couldn’t think of anything worse,” said Bodett.

Bodett, like many kids, was of the mindset that college was his only path forward. It’s a thought process he thinks is hurting the skilled trades and limiting opportunities to get into them. That’s part of the reason he opened HatchSpace, a community woodworking shop and school.

It didn’t start as a school, it started just as a workshop, having opened it in 2018 with his friend and co-founder, Greg Goodman. Eventually, people caught wind of the space and came.

“People came who didn’t know how to do anything and they said, ‘I wanna learn this.’ We weren’t prepared for that,” said Bodett.

Slowly, they began building resources.

“Within a year, every hour of the week was scheduled for our space. It either had classes in it or member time where people could come in and work freely,” said Bodett.

It became a lot to handle in a small space, just as COVID-19 shut everything down. Weighing the idea of closing up shop, they were presented with an opportunity to buy a new building, and they did. The historic downtown Brattleboro building houses several makerspaces in the community, with pottery, jewelry and photography, too. On the third floor, wood is the word.

More than just tables or charcuterie boards, community is the biggest thing being built in this shop.

“We have classes with the Boys and Girls Club. They come in here and make skateboards and leave understanding, ‘Wow, there’s another kind of thing you can do,’” said Bodett.

Presenting opportunities and skills for a possible career in the trade, they even have programs for people in recovery. The restorative power of woodworking, Bodett says, is something not to be taken lightly.

“I think that’s one of the most significant things that we do here, is giving people the pride of having made something and seeing it out in their community,” said Bodett.

While he’s had a successful radio career, the real success for Bodett was finding a home in Vermont and finding a community to share his craft with.

“For the first time in my life, I’m satisfied with where I am and what I’m doing, and that’s a surprise,” said Bodett.