Windermere resident Tom Stroup shares construction tips and woodworking how-to’s on his YouTube channel and Instagram page.
Tom Stroup always is engaged in a construction project — whether it’s welcoming children into his Windermere workshop to build birdhouses or working on a two-decade renovation plan at the family cabin in upstate New York.
When he and his wife, Dawn, moved to Windermere in 2000, they bought a condemned house, gutted it and rebuilt it from the ground up. Stroup also salvaged the woodshop out back, which was in danger of collapsing.
Stroup has a knack for creating with his hammers and saws — but he feels he’s building so much more than cold plunge tubs, window frames and Adirondack chairs. He’s building relationships and a sense of community.
“I have a woodshop in my house and half the reason I’m down there is for people to come and hang out,” he said. “The reason I build stuff is really to get people to stop by. … We do community projects, and we do birdhouse projects with kids.”
Stroup’s love of woodworking began in shop classes in eighth grade and in high school.
“The first thing I built was a hat rack,” he said. “My mom had it till the day she died, and now I have it.”
He also worked on an NBC reality show in 2010 — “School Pride,” in which teams renovated aging public schools.
“I started posting (YouTube videos) to keep people posted on what the show was doing,” he said.
Those updates evolved into informational videos, such as enclosing a porch, the difference between plumb and level, and what’s a Sawzall.
“I’m building a porch, but at the same time I’m stopping and talking about caulking, when to use caulk and when to use putty,” he said.
His construction tips can be found on Instagram at TomsToolTips or on YouTube at TheTomStroup.
“I try to do human interest stuff, but people are interested in the tips,” he said. “’Just tell us how to do stuff.’
“If you watch a lot of these building shows now, they have a couple of hosts who come in and take a sledgehammer to kitchen cabinets, a few quick snippets of dust flying … and there’s the final product,” Stroup said.
He compared “This Old House” to what he envisions his social media pages and perhaps another television show might look like.
“I like to post videos of the progress, but with tips on how to (go forward),” he said.
Stroup said he didn’t have a father who showed him the ropes in the workshop.
“I guess I was drawn to it instinctively,” he said. “(It’s rewarding) to take a piece of wood that was formerly a tree and now it’s a dining room table or a nightstand.”
Stroup loves taking old wood and breathing new life into it, and he frequently works with reclaimed lumber and fixtures. The windows in his house once were in the old Windermere Police Department building that also formerly housed an elementary school.
“I took the floor joist, which was heart pine, and built a bunch of furniture from it,” he said. “People are calling me all the time when they demo houses — and I reclaim the wood. My shop is full of old brackets and doors and windows and pieces and parts. All of my house is, the furniture is built from reclaimed architectural pieces or reclaimed lumber that was (recut) and reshaped into new lumber to make something.
“There’s nothing like the grain of 150-year heart pine,” he said.
He stores the reclaimed wood, doors, staircase railings and other wooden pieces in his workshop, which is frequently open and lively with conversation.
“It’s hard to build relationships on Zoom, or in a conference call or a gaming chair,” Stroup said. “But it’s easy to create relationships in the woodshop.”
He said his woodshop gives him purpose.
“I go to bed every night thinking what am I going to build tomorrow,” he said. “I feel like my purpose is fulfilled when I’m doing for other people. … For me, being in the shop is not about what I build and don’t build. It’s about building relationships. You can’t learn another’s needs without conversation. I don’t think the woodshop is the answer to everything, but I think connecting and relations are.”
His neighborhood started the Gratitude Walk, and folks meet at 5 p.m. Mondays at Town Hall to walk and talk. Many neighbors met for the first time on this walk, and friendships have blossomed.
His next project is to build a Tiny House, and he envisions people coming together weekly to complete the home. He has people ready to work, but he’s trying to find someone to live in it.
“I want to be able to find a cause first,” Stroup said. “I can’t really go and ask someone for donations if I don’t have a cause. I’m looking for someone who needs it.”
Anyone with suggestions is asked to email him at [email protected].
“I’m a retired SWAT commander, so I’ve always been involved in the community,” he said. “I believed in community. … My woodshop and my videos are not just for followers or sponsors, but to create community.”
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