Get to the guild!

Now that we are in Get Woodworking Week, I guess the first question many new woodworkers may have is, “Where could I begin?”  Sure, there are plenty of websites to check out. Your library has tons of books. You can always go out to a local home improvement center or – if your town has one – a specialty woodworking store for more information.

But, there’s nothing like getting some face time with other woodworkers. Someplace where you can find a few other experienced woodworkers and ask them how they got started, where they can get wood for cheap or which tools are the best for the beginning woodworker.

When it comes to finding those folks, there’s just one bit of advice – get thee to a guild. Or a club.. there’s nothing wrong with those either.

In most civilized areas of the world, you will find folks with similar interests who have banded together to share the experience with others. Mom’s clubs. Biking clubs. Tennis clubs. Golf clubs – YES, pun intended! Just try asking around at your local library, hardwood store, woodworking store or community center. You’d be surprised how many woodworking clubs or guilds there are.

For instance, I was recently invited to attend a meeting of the St. Petersburg Woodcrafters’ Guild. For several years now, the folks at SPWG have been reading and commenting on my blog posts, and I was asked if perhaps it might be time to meet up. Not sure what to expect, I loaded my contemplation bench into the car, brought some business cards and headed on down to a local Lutheran church for the meeting.

When I got there, I was totally impressed. There must have been about 60 woodworkers gathered in the meeting hall. The age of the attendees was a very good mix – some as young as their mid-20’s through veterans who had a few years under their belts. There was excitement in the air – the excitement of friends who were meeting again to brag about some of their successes and ask lots of questions about how to do certain tasks.

President Joe Pettit called the meeting to order, and there was some business to attend to. The SPWG is a registered non-profit organization that has by-laws, and – as with any other similar body, there were financial reports, membership reports, updates on previous activities and future business that had to be conducted.  The discussion then turned to introduction of guests and – my favorite part – show and tell. Since this was the first meeting of the year, holiday projects for children and grandchildren many states away were shown proudly. Questions about building and finishing techniques were asked, and each member showing his or her experiences.

Within maybe 20 minutes, all of the business had been handled, and there was going to be a rather longish break. I was wishing the meeting would keep going on, but it was then that I discovered the real purpose of the guild meetings. Everyone got out of their chairs and started talking with other members about tools, wood and their shops. I could overhear several members asking others about the challenges they were facing, and getting several good suggestions on how to overcome them. I spoke at length with several woodworkers about their woodworking. Some were turners. Others worked extensively with veneer. Still more were scrollers. Marquetry. Band saw experts. Cabinetmakers. Chair builders. If there was a specialty, someone covered it.

The last part of the meeting was a discussion about the work the guild was doing at the Folk Festival, and old hand tools in general. We had a chance to go hands on with a beetle and froe, spokeshave and hosts of old hand planes that had been lovingly restored.

By the time the meeting broke up, I was energized – ready to get out to the shop and try some new techniques.

So, if you are interested in getting into woodworking, ask around and find a local club or guild. You’d be surprised how much that can help you on your path to woodworking success.

Oh, and here are some articles about Get Woodworking Week you may want to check out:


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