Lead. Learn. Change.

George Wurtzel - Woodworker, Teacher, Athlete, Visionary

Episode Summary

Enjoy this conversation with George Wurtzel, a master craftsman, exemplary teacher, competitive skier, and true visionary. George shares his insights about teaching and learning, adapting to change, rebuilding confidence, and the value of sharing one’s knowledge with others. Whether envisioning possibilities in his mind’s eye, noticing the potential in a piece of wood, an open space, or in the skills and talents of others, George is always ready to learn and to connect with those who want to take the next step in whatever venture they are pursuing. George Wurtzel is a remarkable man who has made a huge difference in the lives of many people, blind and sighted, and he continues to look for ways to make an impact for good with the work that he does. You will be telling others about this episode. Don’t forget to look at the show notes for some great resources and information.

Episode Notes


(2:30) Biscuits vs. bread pudding

(3:00) Bio 

(4:25) George reminds the audience that he is blind

(5:10) Writing desk project

(5:30) Ten years and now ready to bring the idea to fruition

(7:30) Finding the right desk for the project

(9:30) The dream – collaborating with 100+ blind and deaf-blind craftsmen

(10:00) Donation to a fund established by Helen Keller

(11:25) Residential school for the blind – 200 miles from home

(12:00) Skills, talents and abilities are based on who you are, not on your blindness

(14:00) Being asked to never tune a piano again

(16:00) Losing your vision doesn’t’ mean you’ve lost your knowledge, expertise, and wisdom

(16:40) Teaching artisanship vs. teaching “how to be blind”

(17:15) Using industrial arts as a tool to teach confidence

(18:30) Rebuilding confidence

(19:00) Only accept advice from people who are invested in the advice they are giving

(19:45) Courteous audience members trying to get George’s attention

(20:20) Highland Hardware, a scorp, a recommendation, and an unexpected encounter

(22:15) “Meet the Masters” video series – honored to be a featured guest

(22:45) Prediction from the 1970’s comes true – featured in Fine Woodworking magazine

(23:30) The resilience of young people

(23:55) Blind students and experiments on the school ship – totally capable

(25:00)  Fish species identification

(26:45)  Plankton identification, shell identification and a blind experts on shells

(27:30)  Sometimes we think something is difficult and that turns out not to be true

(28:30)  Using one’s senses to identify wood, including a lesser known method or two

(31:20)  Maple vs. birch, with a nod to black walnut

(33:30)  Safety issues when operating machinery – learning is the key

(35:00)  The table saw blade is not the issue, it’s your hand movements

(36:30)  How to avoid a sudden reaction to “wood failure” – again, learning and experience are key

(39:30)  Moms have great “blindness skills” – being aware of your environment

(40:45)  Great teachers assess learner skills and talents and adjust teaching methods to match student learning

(43:35)  Musicians’ talents translating to woodworking skills

(45:15)  Building Stevie Wonder’s coffee table

(46:15)  Cabinet building school wouldn’t let blind students enroll

(46:30)  Never said “I don’t know how.” Instead, “I can do that.” And then go learn.

(47:30)  Former students - Emilie Gossiaux – a serious artist who stretched George’s teaching skills.

(49:15)  Making the shift from drawing to sculpture (to express ideas)

(51:10)  If you are active in the world, you learn every day

(51:30)  If I know how to do something and you want to learn how, I will teach you

(51:45)  Every person I’ve ever taught to carve wood has ended up a better carver than I am

(52:25) Two ways of looking at how things are put together in the world – reductive vs. cumulative

(54:00)  From skiing for fun to the Paralympic Games to world travel

(55:30)  Sticking with it – finishing in the last spots in a race, but many others dropped out

(58:30)  Persistence, longevity, effort, and adapting to change.

(59:15)  If you are static in your thought processes you will not go very far

(1:01:00)  Cutting a pencil line in half on a bandsaw

(1:02:00)  Mr. Rosnowski – Georges’ idol and role model – a great teacher

(1:03:00)  Find a mentor and spend time with them

(1:03:30) One thousand and one hundred attempts at composite skis that outperform wooden skis

(1:04:30)  Final thoughts: write a book? I’ve done a lot of cool things in my life

(1:05:00)  My picture of success

(1:05:45)  If you want help with woodworking, let me know and I will help you



George Wurtzels’ website - www.gmwurtzel.com

Helen Keller Foundation - https://helenkellerfoundation.org

Subaru TV ad (30 second version) - https://www.ispot.tv/ad/dwTL/subaru-outback-see-the-world

Highland Woodworking, episode #44, “Meet the Masters series”- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TTZdzPqjHUM

Former student – blind entrepreneur Jason "JJ" Meddaugh - runs a technology access company (for the blind) atguys.com

Former student - artist Emilie Gossiaux <http://www.emiliegossiaux.com/> - struck by a truck while cycling and lost her vision as a result of that collision

Former student - Dr. Josh Miele – read his story here - https://www.rd.com/article/joshua-miele-inspiration-from-an-unthinkable-crime/, and here https://forward.com/news/476159/joshua-miele-went-blind-at-4-now-hes-a-macarthur-genius/

Can You See How I See? Documentary PREVIEW - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PeqgeRJnOO8

George’s friend Jeff Thompson – blind podcaster – www.blindabilities.com

Woodworking for the blind – www.ww4b.org and https://www.facebook.com/ww4b.org

Be My Eyes - https://www.bemyeyes.com

Greenville Woodworkers Guild - https://www.greenvillewoodworkers.com


Recurring Links

Music for Lead. Learn. Change. is Sweet Adrenaline by Delicate Beats

Podcast cover art is a view from Brunnkogel (mountaintop) over the mountains of the Salzkammergut in Austria, courtesy of photographer Simon Berger, published on www.unsplash.com.

Professional Association of Georgia Educators:  www.pageinc.org

David’s LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/david-w-reynolds-5a5b0a36/

Instagram -  lead.learn.change