The Boys in the Guild

A woodworking club offers countless rewards to the aspiring craftsman. It provides a platform for displaying your work. It offers the chance to learn new techniques. It affords you the opportunity to find tutelage and mentoring, like Croesus consulting the Oracle, Luke studying with Yoda, or Chachi hanging with The Fonz. Above all, a good woodworking guild provides the life experience of learning to deal with a bunch of wackos.

If you’re thinking of joining a local woodworking group, be prepared to encounter, embrace and make lifelong friends with the following folks who are present in every woodworking society in the world.

Although the average woodworker is likely the power-tool expert of his family, neighborhood and workplace, “Power Tool Jimmy” goes at least 17 steps beyond the norm (no pun intended, Mr. Abram). While most woodworkers can spot the difference between power tool brands from 300 feet away or know which routers have a D-handle option available, Power Tool Jimmy uses up valuable club time to discuss the subtle differences of in-rush current between the U.S. version of a 3-1⁄2 hp router and the European version that operates at 230V/50Hz.

Try not to flinch when you first shake the appendage that “Stumpy Wheeler” extends in greeting. Yes, advances in surgery have made it possible for his big toe to now function as a replacement thumb. Also, do not be shocked when about halfway through the meeting he says, with the accompanying large expressive hand/toe waving gesture of a TV meteorologist, “I’ve never personally seen the need for those guards they put on all the equipment. As soon as I wipe off the Cosmoline, that guard is the next thing to go.”

“Video Bob” owns every woodworking video ever made, but he’s never actually put steel to wood. Bob can tell how you how to do anything, but he hasn’t ever done it himself. He knows the subtle differences between Tage Frid’s and Frank Klausz’s dovetail videos. If you have a band saw question, he will quote Mark Duginske’s video — chapter and verse. Bob has watched it all again and again but has never encountered a speck of sawdust. With more than 500 hours spent in front of the television, he has never had a splinter.

No one has ever seen his work, but “One Up Tom” has described an amazing portfolio of work. Every month as guild members display their new heirlooms, Tom describes pieces he has created that are always far superior.

“These machine-cut dovetails are nice, if you like that kind of thing; the one I made for my daughter has hand-cut dovetails.” Or: “The plainness of the maple you used on this blanket chest looks good, Charlie. The bird’s-eye maple I used on mine last year is so eye catching that no one ever notices the perfect joinery I used … they only see the beauty of the figured wood.” Or: “My 5 hp saw cuts through 8/4 cocobolo all day long, Phil. Does that 3 hp saw of yours bog down a lot?” Tom’s customary summary to any discussion is, “Well, yours is nice, too.”

Each month “Pallet Wood Larry” provides another tale of his exploits of frugality. Two months ago he described a highboy made entirely of OSB cutoffs he got from the subdivision going in across town. Last month, he told the details of a tall clock made from pallets gleaned from the shipping dock behind TJ Maxx. Larry has spent his life creating unique furniture, and the only piece of lumber he ever actually paid for came from the Good Humor Man and had ice cream attached.

Search out and join a woodworking club. You are bound to fit right in. The only place you will find personalities more eccentric is at your family reunion. I could describe additional wackos, but my own guild meeting is tonight and people will be disappointed if “Cynical, Know-It-All Magazine Writer Guy” is late. PW