Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Best $25 I Spend On Woodworking Every Year...

My yearly membership to the St. Louis Woodworker’s Guild is $25. For that small investment, I receive a fruitful and amazing return by way of contacts, mentors, resources, lectures, lessons, assistance, knowledge, opportunities and instruction.

Contacts: I now have a friend just 15 minutes away who owns his own sawmill and kiln. He sells wood for a fraction of the cost of one of those big box stores and sometimes offers woods for sale that I’d never find in a lumber store, like the board of quilted box elder I’ve squirreled away in the back of my shop. He also happens to be a full-time cabinet- and furniture-maker, so I have an excellent resource for information, as well. (Incidentally, his favorite technique for aging cherry is through the use of lye.)

Mentors: An even shorter distance away from me is another member of the guild who has taken me under his woodworking wing. I have access to most of his tools (which is nice when it comes to things like the wide-belt sander and the lathe, two things I have neither the money nor the room for in my small shop), but more importantly, I have access to his years of knowledge and experience. I learn new tips and techniques every time I’m in his shop. Together, we are exploring new areas of woodworking in which neither of us has any experience, such as veneering!

Resources: With my membership, I get full access to our guild’s extensive library. I can check out any number of books or magazines for a month at a time. We have several hundred from which to choose and a few new books get added every month.

Lectures: Our 11 monthly meetings (every month but December) always include a lecture or demonstration by a professional woodworker or guild member. While they might not always involve something I will ever actually do (like how to build a boat), I can often find several pieces of useful information to take away with me.

Lessons: Although I hate to see my fellow woodworker get injured, I try to put their pain to good use by learning from their mistakes, rather than making them myself. Two lessons that stand out are when I learned how not to cut an opening into a zero-clearance insert and an improper use of a tapering jig.

Assistance and Knowledge: I now have a whole pool of professional and hobbyist woodworkers available to me at least once a month to ask for advice or assistance on a woodworking problem or dilemma I might have.

Opportunities: I recently took over the position of editor for the guild’s newsletter. This gives me the opportunity to combine two passions of mine – woodworking and writing. All that’s missing from the formula for a perfect job is a salary!

Instruction: My membership allows me opportunities for advanced learning, such as we had several years ago when Mark Adams hosted a three-day workshop for guild members. I was really excited to learn through such instruction I might not normally get to experience because of financial limitations. The following March, we had Frank Klausz come in for a two-day seminar. Again, I had the opportunity to learn from one of the great living woodworkers of our time. Coming up this next March is a seminar on finishes hosted by Jeff Jewitt – the learning never stops!

My $25 does not buy me a tool or product to drastically simplify my woodworking. But with a little extra effort on my part, I can make that yearly fee affect so many people, including myself, that I will gladly and willingly pay for the privilege to be a part of such a community for as long as I live in St. Louis. If you are not yet a member of a woodworking guild, I highly recommend tracking one down in your area and checking them out.

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