Zander Doherty shows off his wining rocking chair at the AWFS Fair in Las Vegas  | Credit: Courtesy 

Dos Pueblos High School student Zander Doherty, age 17, has earned national recognition for his woodworking skills and is the first person in Santa Barbara history to qualify and compete in Freshwood at AWFS (Association of Woodworkers & Furnishings Suppliers). At the national competition, which took place at the Las Vegas Convention Center from July 25-28, Doherty’s rocking chair took first place in the seating category and was also the recipient of the highly competitive “People’s Choice Award.”

In the spring, the Santa Barbara District hosted a student woodworking competition, where Doherty built and submitted a rocking chair made from walnut as his main entry. That chair was awarded “Best in Show,” as well as several other awards, including opening the door to national competition — and, ultimately, bragging rights.

Freshwood at AWFS is the biggest woodworking fair in North America, and Doherty was one of 20 high schoolers in the country selected to compete. 

He first discovered woodworking in the beginning of the 7th grade, when he attended Santa Barbara Junior High and saw “wood shop” listed as an elective when selecting classes. “I had originally thought that we would simply be given a chisel and a mallet and would be carving,” said Doherty. “To my surprise, the shop was full of power tools and after building a couple small projects, I soon realized that I loved woodworking and I haven’t stopped building since.”

Doherty’s winning rocking chair | Credit: Courtesy 

Taking natural materials and using your imagination to shape them into whatever form you desire is Doherty’s favorite part about woodworking: the creativity. Being able to say “I built that” after finishing a project is another aspect of woodworking that Doherty enjoys.

“I love to solve problems that arise while building a project, or change parts as I go to improve on a design,” said Doherty.

With imagination also comes patience with woodworking. “You can have all the imagination in the world, but without hard work and patience, nothing can be created,” he said. He explained, “In order to build anything, you’ll need to have imagination, but you’ll also have to be able to look at a piece of wood and see all the possible projects that can be made from it. Not every part of a build is going to be fun, and you’ll need to work through the hard parts to get to the good ones.”

After high school, Doherty plans on finding the best trade school possible and learning all the woodworking knowledge and skills that he can. He then wants to continue to grow his business, Zander’s Woodworks, and make custom furniture pieces for years to come.

Doherty currently has his own small woodworking shop in Santa Barbara, and he sells works on his website along with custom orders.

Dos Pueblos student Zander Doherty (right) with his Construction Technology teacher Chris M. Mollkoy at the competition | Credit: Courtesy 


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