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West Jordan Journal

Woodworking wonder woman

Aug 31, 2017 05:40PM ● By Jana Klopsch

From her win in Las Vegas, Sarah Provard received $1,750 prize money, several job offers and information about educational opportunities to further her skills. (David Terry/Fresh Wood)

By Jet Burnham | [email protected]

Five years ago, Sarah Provard took a required woodshop class for seventh-graders. She liked it just enough to take it again the next year. Now she is a nationally recognized woodworker.

“I kind of fell in love with it,” said Provard, who recently graduated from West Jordan High School. “I loved the fact that I could think up something and I could build it.”  

Provard’s armoire, entitled “Musically Inclined,” won both first place and the People’s Choice awards in the Fresh Wood Show, a biannual competition for high school and post-secondary woodworking students. She is the first student from Jordan School District to be accepted into the prestigious national competition, held this July in Las Vegas. 

“You just have to make it ‘wow’ enough to get in,” said Provard. 

Provard had already “wowed” judges at Utah’s Talent in Wood student woodworking competition, where she has earned the top awards for the last two years.

Last year, she earned the People’s Choice, Best of Show and Grand Prize for her oak executive desk. Given six measurements and a 3-D drawing, she figured out how to build the piece herself. Her schematics are now what students use to build executive desks in the WJHS woodshop.

Her armoire took First Place, Best of Show and People’s Choice in the Talent In Wood competition this year. Judges didn’t even count the ballots for People’s Choice because Provard received an obvious majority of the votes.

Provard took over a year to design and build her piece, an armoire with six drawers and two cabinets with shelving. The musical accents, piano keys and music notes are what make it stand out. The accents are one-sixteenth-inch inlayed veneer of two types of rosewood, displaying the hymn “I Know That My Redeemer Lives,” a song she chose because of its meaning and visual appeal.

“I couldn’t believe that I made my project,” said Provard, who has taken 14 woodworking classes as well as choir, madrigals and marching band. Her woodworking and music skills combined naturally into her piece. 

A total of 1,000 hours, $750 worth of materials and nine types of wood went into the project. She used new techniques and advanced woodworking skills. A laser cutter was used for precisely shaping the music notes and staff. The curve in her piece was created by gluing two pieces of bendy-board (thin plywood) together, vacuum-sealing it in a bag, which was then clamped to a rounded mold she had made. 

Provard said during the building process there were both disasters and miracles. 

“It’s kind of bad to be a perfectionist and a woodworker because things go wrong,” she said. She turned mistakes around, like when she rescued her handles from a miss-cut on the carving machine. 

Provard used Madagascar rosewood, a surprise from an acquaintance that came home from the island with his belongings unknowingly stored in crates made from the rare wood.

She has been offered up to $8,000 for her piece, but she doesn’t think she could ever sell it. 

“It’s a part of me,” she said. “it’s so personal; it is my child. I will put it in my living room so it’s the first thing people see when they walk into the house.” 

Provard said there usually aren’t many girls in woodworking classes, and teachers often thought they needed extra help. 

“I realized that I loved workshop so much, I wanted to build stuff on my own,” she said. “My teacher tried to butt in as much as possible but I told him ‘Step away, I can do this!’ He saw I could, stepped back and watched me work—he liked the outcome.”

Provard thinks it’s hard for girls to assert themselves in the woodshop. It was difficult for her until she got to know her teachers better. She said she earned respect from the boys in her class by the quality of her projects. They respected her leadership position, even though she was the smallest person in the class, she said. Provard was class president, the President of the CTE-based Skills USA club and president of the woodshop chapter of the club her senior year.

Now she has the respect from woodworkers across the country. She met with many of them at the competition in Las Vegas.

“I loved seeing all the surprised faces and having all the woodworkers come up to me and say ‘Wow! You built this?’” she said.

Provard plans to enter “Musically Inclined” into the Utah State Fair this fall.