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Innovator of the Month: Master Carpenter Charles Riddick

By Sarah Loyola

Join me in congratulating maintenance technician and master carpenter Charles Riddick, who has been named Ravenscroft’s January 2019 Innovator of the Month.

Riddick is a valuable and innovative member of both the Buildings & Grounds Department and our school community. In addition to being creative and highly skilled in his craft, he is considered by those who know him to be kind, thoughtful, caring and humble. Colleen Ramsden, assistant head of school for academic affairs, calls him an “unsung hero doing things behind the scenes and helping others without asking for anything in return.”

He is best known for his creative and artistic solutions to building and maintenance projects, including the sliding barn door of the Middle School MakerSpace, the Outdoor Learning Center and the elegant trim for the Embrace Possibility donor wall in Pugh Lobby. He also helped design and build 100 Towers of Hanoi for Lead From Here collaboration activities.

But Riddick has gone well beyond the call of duty in working with students in hands-on, experiential activities. For example, he has guided students in the Middle School Think It, Design It, Make It (TDM) course in building their custom-designed Little Free Libraries and worked with the DADs group and Lower School students to build garbage receptacles.

Riddick answered the following questions so that our community could hear about his work from his own perspective:

When did you come to Ravenscroft? From where?

I started at Ravenscroft in 2013. I was self-employed doing upper-end residential trim work in custom homes, primarily in Raleigh

Briefly describe where/how you developed your abilities as a master craftsman.

I like to think that I got most of my experience from my Dad. He was an excellent carpenter who had his own business as a general contractor doing residential and commercial construction. Through the years I was fortunate to work with many great craftsmen that helped guide and teach me many of the tricks of the trade. I have worked from the coast to the mountains of North Carolina as a self-employed contractor. I have also had the good fortune to work with some of the best contractors in North Carolina doing a variety of unique projects.

How do you feel technology has impacted your career?

I am a really old-school carpenter. Today, I restore old beautiful pieces of furniture and create new projects with my years of experience using a combination of old technology and the new technology of today. When I came along, we had circular saws and other electric tools but they were corded. I did not have the freedom of the cordless saws and drills that we have today. Through the years, I had to adapt to use new technology such as compressors with pneumatic nail guns, chop saws, cordless drills and saws, biscuit joiners, laser levels, and so forth. While I could build the same house with the old tools as with the new technology, the biggest difference was the time savings the new technology provides. Some examples: I used a brace and bit to drill holes in wood, and now I use a cordless drill that will do it quicker and will last all day. I still have my old hand planes for shaping wood, and now, also, we have electric routers and planers.

Please give us a brief summary of the project you have done on campus that has most inspired you.

… I think the projects that have given me the most joy are the ones where I have been able to work with the DADS group and with the Middle School students and staff. I have enjoyed working with Dr. Chris Harper, Janet Vande Berg, and Melissa Spainhour down at the shop. I enjoy showing some of our young Ravens how to use the tools and teaching them how to be safe as well as the understanding of how things go together. I find it very gratifying to show students how to use tools they have never used before and possibly never seen.  

What do you most love about being a Raven?  

My mother used to say, “If you put your mind to it you can do it.” She spent a lifetime helping others. What I love most about being a Raven is the ability to work at a place that is encouraging and supportive. Ravenscroft has given me the opportunity to share some of my gifts to help others enjoy the trade I have loved all my life. I couldn’t do what I do without the freedom and support of Chris Farrow, director of Buildings & Grounds, and Woody Davis, the maintenance supervisor. Lead From Here represents the values that I was raised on, and that my mother and father instilled in me. I am glad to be working at a place that is infusing these same values into the young people of this generation. In our break room it says on our wall, Every Raven, Every Day. I love being a part of a community that is dedicated to lifting up and supporting Every Raven, Every Day.

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