Nina MacLaughlin: She’s a Hammer-toting Carpentrix

December 15 - On The Dot
FIRST THOUGHT: The Beauty of Timeless Materials

If you’ve been to a hip new bar or restaurant lately, chances are you’ve seen one particular building material in abundance: wood. From reclaimed-wood tabletops to exposed wood siding, this forest centerpiece is making a comeback in the décor world in a big way. Aside from its natural allure, wood—especially vintage wood—offers stellar benefits, from durability to renewability, not to mention its remarkable beauty. As you grab your morning latte, take a moment to gaze around the coffee shop to admire the splendor of this striking building staple and all the handcrafted wood embellishments and artistic furnishings that make your favorite café so cozy.


OK, so we all agree beautifully crafted reclaimed-wood décor is fabulous. But such furnishings and ornamental elements don’t craft themselves. It takes the skilled hands of a gifted carpenter to turn good, old-fashioned lumber into a work of art. And that’s why carpentry seems like it’d be a great fit for any number of crafty women. However, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, a mere 1.7 percent of working carpenters are women. One way to help get more talented women into this field involves marketing carpentry apprenticeships to women, and ensuring women have access to such apprenticeships. After all, just because carpentry may be a nontraditional career choice for women doesn’t mean some skilled ladies can’t excel at the trade.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Nina MacLaughlin, Carpenter and Author

Today, we’re talking about a carpenter who’s got it all nailed together. But her path to becoming an accomplished craftswoman took a little hammering out. Nina MacLaughlin long knew she wanted to be a writer, and she more than excelled at the pursuit, first majoring in English and classical studies during college and later working as a journalist for the Boston Phoenix, an alternative newspaper in Massachusetts. While Nina’s job was essential, at times, it was incredibly tedious, and after about eight years, she felt burnout settling in.

So, this ambitious creative did what any listless employee does: She quit her desk job and began scouring Craigslist in search of some career-change inspiration. She found her calling in a job post for a carpenter’s assistant. And since the listing encouraged women to apply, Nina jumped at the opportunity, eager to use her hands to create something that would last in the physical realm. With no carpentry experience to speak of, Nina got the job and got busy learning the hands-on business of carpentry.

Nine years later, Nina has become a full-fledged carpenter, but she hasn’t given up her love of writing, combining her passions with her 2016 book, Hammer Head: the Making of a Carpenter. In this inspiring memoir, Nina details her career journey, highlighting the frustration and the bliss of creating things with her hands as she learned to remodel kitchens, build walls and renovate homes, all while studying the intricacies of wood type and discovering the history associated with her valued tools.

Nina also introduces readers to her faithful mentor, Mary, who sought out a female apprentice in an industry in which there’s more sawdust than ladies, and passed along her extensive knowledge to Nina in an effort to invigorate the next generation of female carpenters.

Throughout the book, Nina’s literary prowess and classics background emerge, resulting in an energizing read that highlights the value of finding real meaning in work and life. Nina is living proof that changing career paths and taking on a male-dominated industry is well worth the effort for any woman who’s willing to hammer it home.


Today’s quote comes from writer Nancy Rathburn:

“A strong woman understands that the gifts such as logic, decisiveness and strength are just as feminine as intuition and emotional connection. She values and uses all of her gifts.”

This is Melinda Garvey signing off until next time. Remember, ladies, empowered women empower other women. Share On the Dot so more women can have a voice. Thanks for getting ready with us.

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