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“This has to be the coolest shop class in the world!”
“This has to be the coolest shop class in the world!”
Posted on 07/27/2022
Chris Davis with Ty PenningtonEmmy award winner and Extreme Home Makeover star Ty Pennington didn’t waste any time putting his new paddle board to work after having it hand delivered by Henry Ford II woodworking teacher Chris Davis.

Pennington – the latest international celebrity to personally order the new eco-friendly paddle board from the Utica Community Schools students – put the woodworking project right in the water outside his Florida home.  

“This looks so good – I can’t believe your students made this,” he told Davis before testing out the board. “That has to be the coolest shop in the country, I would say.”

The students created the board from scratch after the Pennington specifically made the request. He provided the basic design idea that students incorporated into their project. 

“The students did a fantastic job with the design of Ty’s paddle board,” Davis said. “Every year they continue to raise the bar. I am excited to see what the future holds for the UCS woodworking programs.”

Pennington was originally featured as a carpenter on TLC home improvement reality show Trading Spaces and moved on to host the ABC reality series Extreme Makeover: Home Edition where he won two Primetime Emmy Awards.

Since introducing the program four years ago, Davis and his students have honored requests from Virgin Records founder Sir Richard Branson, Cabin Reno HGTV star Kristy Petrillo, Varsity Blues actress Amy Smart and Trading Places husband Carter Oosterhouse, and Spanx founder Sara Blakely and husband entrepreneur Jesse Itzler. 

Next up are requests for 11-time world surf champ Kelly Slater and tv personality Chip Gaines, who co-hosts HGTV’s Fixer Upper with his wife Joanna.  Joanna and Chip Gaines also own the Magnolia Network (formerly DYI). 

For each project, students develop their marketing skills by researching each celebrity and creating designs that reflect their personalities and lifestyle. 

Once designed, students then went step by step to build the board by scratch – cutting the materials, building multiple layers and sanding the board, and applying the epoxy.

Their international attention stems from the unique woodworking process that is used by only a handful of builders internationally. 

“These boards are unique because they are completely custom and hollow,” Davis said. “We do not use any foam on the insides of the board. Materials are handpicked to match the desired design. The boards are also eco-friendly - they will never end up in a landfill like foam boards.”

The designs are based on the work of Jason Thelen and his Little Bay Boards business in Petoskey. Thelen has become a mentor to students in the program.

More information on the woodworking program and its growth can be found on its Instagram page - @henryfordiiwoodworking.