By Myra Saturen
July 12, 2012
Daniel Berrios, a computer design major at Northampton Community College, will represent the United States in cabinetmaking at the WorldSkills biennial competition, in Leipzig, Germany from July 2-7, 2013. The three-day contest includes hundreds of young people from 53 countries. It will be preceded in November 2012 by a practice run in Brazil.
The WorldSkills competition is the pinnacle of a progressive series. Beginning with bouts between vocational-technical schools, the championships move up to the district, state, national, and international levels. Competitors in successive contests must place first to go on to the next level.
Berrios won a gold medal in cabinetmaking at the 2010 SkillsUSA championship, held in Las Vegas in 2010, for a cherrywood nightstand. In order to win, he had to produce a piece judged on handcut dovetails, sanding, veneer and measurements precise to one-sixteenth of an inch. Berrios's achievement qualified him to vie in the international contest.
Berrios approaches his work with originality and great care. In contrast to a lot of cabinetmaking, that is often automated and consists of putting ready-cut parts together, his work is entirely handmade. Using table saws, routers, chop saws, planers, and joiners, Berrios creates custom furniture. "Anyone can have a machine-made piece," he says. "Custom-made, hand-made pieces are one-of-a-kind. No one has the same one."
Although his technique is time-honored, Berrios's taste does not run toward the old-fashioned. He likes contemporary styles, with simple, continuous, uncluttered flow.
Most of all, he enjoys seeing the finished product. "I like people saying 'Wow! You did that!' " he says.
In addition to the ability to read blueprints, cabinetmaking takes tremendous patience and meticulousness. Berrios measures everything five times before cutting. "I like to get as close to perfect as possible," he says.
Berrios's earliest inspiration came from watching his grandfather and his father do woodworking and construction. He started his own projects at the age of seven, making model airplanes from kits, with 2-by- 4s. At the Bethlehem Area Vocational-Technical School, he worked with teacher Scott Ribchik, producing his first furniture--a small table the size of a telephone table. Since then, he has made coffee tables, desks, drawers, and larger tables. He teaches cabinetmaking in evening classes at the Vo-Tech.
After graduation from NCC, Berrios plans to attend a 4-year college and major in engineering or education. Meanwhile, he is looking forward to his trips abroad for the WorldSkills competition.
"Cabinetmaking has opened the world to me," he says.
To review Northampton Community College's guidelines for public comments, click here