Summer Campers Build Benches

building benches

When one arrives at 4-H Camp Overlook during the week, they are guaranteed to be met by two things: a counselor out of breath from running to greet the incoming vehicle and, a wall of noise.  Depending on the time of day, the cacophony could be laughter, singing, gleeful shouting, or, at least for this week, the pleasant sound of kids busily scraping, chopping, and boring wood.  As part of a series of specialty classes offered at Camp Overlook this summer, campers of Week 5 can take part in an Adirondack bench making class.

Led by wood artisan and longtime camp supporter Bill Layman, participants in Overlook’s “Build a Bench” class spend several hours each day learning the art of woodcraft using basic, effective tools such as files, bores, and handheld planes.  Mr. Layman and the camp’s maintenance crew take care of all “modern tech,” doing the necessary power-tool work beforehand which includes cutting timber for the benches themselves and notching limbs to be used for legs.  The tough work of shaving, filing, and sanding the allotted materials, boring leg holes, and finishing the products falls on the soon to be calloused hands of the campers.

Each day, students of Mr. Layman work diligently to shape and smooth the seats and legs of their benches, many of them not arriving at the point of applying finish until the day before departure.  Through the guidance of their teacher and each other, participants discover their ability to create something both strong and beautiful.  The fruits of their hard labor first go on display at the end of the week during camp’s closing ceremony and then travel home with their accomplished builders.

Build a bench is one of four specialty classes offered at camp during the 2013 camping season.  Returning from retirement, past director Jim Tuggey and his wife Linda came back to Overlook for a week this year to instruct campers in First Aid and pillow quilting, respectively.  Former camper, counselor, and long-time kitchen assistant Lisa Buchanon also returned, this year to teach a very popular cooking class in which students learned basic recipes as well as how to operate kitchen tools and measurements.

Serving well over 700 campers and with one week still remaining, 4-H Camp Overlook has had one of its busiest years to date.  Now in its 68th year of operation, the camp is proud of its reputation as a summertime tradition of the North Country that remains an affordable place for youth of any age to come and experience all that the Adirondacks have to offer.  As well as the aforementioned specialty series, Overlook also introduced “Wilderness Survival” to its ever-adapting curriculum this summer.  In this class, students gain useful and lifesaving skills that prepare them as much for a backcountry emergency as a camping adventure with friends.  Participants of the class learn how to build shelters out of natural materials, start fires in any condition, how to collect water with few supplies, and basic survival methods and theories.

For more information on the summer camp at 4-H Camp Overlook or how to rent the facility for your own event, please contact the Cornell Cooperative Extension office of Franklin County at 518-483-4769 or visit

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