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The Importance of a Woodworking Community

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In many avenues of life, camaraderie bolsters the soul, hones skill, and enlivens new passion.  To that end, lets talk (well I guess I'll write and you read) about the new appreciation I've found for woodworking guilds.

I've been woodworking since 2003 where I really got my start by apprenticing with a luthier.  During this time, I learned the ins and outs of instrument making, which started with learning how to sharpen tools by hand.  We used water stones and did this work on the floor.  I'm not kidding...  Anyways, to the point.  This was a very exciting time for me as a young woodworker.  The most important thing I learned was that no man is an island.  We can read magazines and follow plans or watch YouTube videos, but nothing replaces the gain of one-on-one learning.

Fast forward to a time after my collegiate career and before moving into a house where I could set up shop.  I was lusting for a place to work.  If I had joined a guild or community woodworking program, that yearning could have been realized.  It wasn't until my wife and I moved into our current home that woodworking would make an appearance once again.  I began setting up shop ASAP and got back to making dust.  Along the way, I restored an old Tannewitz Model FDS table saw.  For some unknown reason, I also started building my wood lathe, Big Blue, at the same time.



Once I had finished both of these projects, it was back to woodworking!  Turning has always been enjoyable for me.  It's a fast, relaxing, and beautiful craft.  I really got into turning in college.  I was still building guitars, but I also spent as much time at the lathe as possible.  After the cursory instruction given on the wood lathe, I was mostly self taught.  Once I had my shop at home all set up, it was back to the lathe to enjoy an art form I'd love to make a living from.  I was a regular visitor to the AAW forum, and thoroughly enjoyed reading threads about different woodturning subjects.

I began to wonder if joining the AAW and local guild would be a smart or worthwhile thing to do.  I really pondered this.  I think most of us can agree that money doesn't just grow on trees, and these memberships cost money.  I mean, the stuff I can trade for more woodworking toys!  I wondered also if it wouldn't just be a waste of time to go to demos...  I eventually decided to join both the AAW and my local guild, Woodturners Guild of NC.  I couldn't have made a better decision!  Aside from acess to an ocean of literature which includes book and DVD rentals, this membership also brings with it a subscription to the AAW magazine!  A quick aside, my wife even enjoys watching the DVDs, but I think it's because we call it date night and normally fix dessert or homemade popcorn.

Back to business...   Each guild meeting consits of a demo, raffle, and gallery critique. Occasionaly world renowned turners demo at the club too!  You develop a sense of belonging and community with your fellow guild members.

  1. big reason I blog is to give back to the woodworking community, which has given me so much.  If I empower or assist just one person through all of this, it has been worth it.  I got evidence of such a time at the last meeting.  A fellow guild member came up to me and produced a bowl that had great sentimental meaning to him.  He had asked a few months prior what could be done to save a bowl that was splitting.  He explained that the tree from which this bowl was made had been cut down by he and his late father.  When he showed the finished bowl to me with elation, a flood of emotion overcame me like a thousand angels rejoicing.  He told me "I didn't really care about anyone else seeing this tonight, I just wanted to show it to you since you helped me figure out how to finish the piece."  I don't know if a higher complement could have been served.  This would have never happened had it not been for the guild.

Another amazing occurance happened while demoing this past weekend at Klingspor in Raleigh.  I meet many wonderful individuals, but one in particular was a young man of 15 who was so inthralled with woodturning that he build his first lathe out of an old fan motor.  The raw excitement in his voice was unmistakeable as we talked shop.  Mentioning that he had taken a class with a fellow guild member, he beckoned what else he could do to learn.  I mentioned joinging the local guild and AAW.  His mother was concerned if there was an age restriction for joinging, which prompted me to make a call and find out.  Per the AAW, which each local chapter is an extension of, the minimum age to participation the woodturning lessons at the symposiums is 10.  However, there isn't an age requirement for being a member and those under 25 pay a student rate.

So, do I recommend joing a woodworking club or guild?  Heck yeah!  These entities are in place to bolster the woodworking community and if you aren't learning something, it's because you're not paying attention.

Wondering if there is an AAW chapter near you?  Of course you are...check out the list of AAW chapters.

Oh, one neat little asside.  The American Association of Woodturners was established the same year I was!  So the AAW is just as old as I am, or is it the other way around?  Regardless, it's neat.  C-ya next time!

Thanks for reading y'all and happy woodworking!

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