BALTIMORE — The hum of the automated cutting machines fills the basement of Open Works. The machines are carefully carving out the design of a desk that will eventually make its way into the home of a student in Baltimore City.
"It takes us about 14 to 15 minutes to cut one set out," said Zach Adams, the contract fabrication manager at Open Works.
These machines will be busy for quite awhile. Open Works is looking to create 1,000 free, easy-to-assemble desks at its shop to give to students in Baltimore who don't have their own space to learn at home.
"We wanted to put the call out to see what the actual need was and it was a little disturbing how many students needed a place to call their own to work," said Tiersa Sullivan, the office manager at Open Works.
Sullivan said they received interest from 70 communities and schools, representing about 4,400 individuals looking for a desk.
They quickly got to work designing the desks that would be easy to put together and not require any tools, nails or screws. The desk comes in five pieces and the stool comes in three, with wooden wedges and cable ties to hold it all together.
"It’s been important to us to make sure a kid could assemble this themselves, get the experience of doing it themselves," said Adams. "The gratification of 'I made this desk, now I’m going to work at it.'"
Several local companies are helping with the desk-making venture, be it funding, supplies or man-power, including Stanley Black and Decker, C.L. McCoy Framing, the National Aquarium and ShopBot.
Sullivan said they would like to make this an annual event of building and giving out desks to students at the beginning of the school year, even as students slowly start to return to the classroom for hybrid learning.
"It’s not coincidence that we are in the heart of Baltimore City. We want to be a valuable resource to everyone," she said. "Baltimore City use to be a main hub for manufacturing and we just want to bring that back."
"We feel like we’ve demonstrated a need for desks here and our goal is just to fulfill that need as best we can," Adams said. "It looks like we can do 1,000 desks and I hope we can do more. If we can that’s great."
Open Works continues to take donations so they can fulfill more requests for desks. They are also looking for volunteers to help sand and finish the desk and stool pieces, as well as volunteers to help deliver desks on February 12 and 13 (weather permitting).