My yearly membership to the St. Louis Woodworker’s Guild is $25. For that small investment, I receive an amazing and immediate return by way of contacts, mentors, resources, lectures, lessons, assistance, knowledge, instruction and opportunities.
Contacts: I now have a friend just 10 minutes away who owns his own sawmill (one of those 1950’s hydraulic mills) 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 Woodcraft or Rockler, 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 by using lye.)
Mentors: An even shorter distance away from me is another member of the guild who has kind of taken me under his 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. We are also working on 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 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 February’s lecture on boat building), I can usually 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. Most recently, I’ve 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.
Instruction: My membership allows me opportunities such as the one we had last March, when Mark Adams hosted a three-day workshop for guild members. I was really excited to have the opportunity to learn from such instruction I might not normally get to experience due to financial limitations. This next March, we have Frank Klausz coming in for a two-day seminar. Again, I have an opportunity to learn from one of the great living woodworkers of our time that I would not otherwise be able to do.
Opportunities: Since I’ve become a member of the St. Louis Woodworker’s Guild, I’ve been presented with many opportunities to enrich my own life and the lives’ of the other members. I’m trying to combine my fondness for woodworking with the skills I use on a daily basis (writing and editing) to take an active part in the guild’s newsletter. Through a process I like to call “involuntary volunteering”, which happens when the president of the guild announces in a meeting that you are heading a committee, I’m developing my project management skills. By providing connections to the local children’s hospitals, I have the opportunity to make a difference in the life of a sick boy or girl by giving them a toy to build and paint and take their minds off of their illness for a short while.
While my $25 might not buy me a tool or product to drastically simplify my woodworking, with a little extra effort on my part, that yearly fee affects so many people, including myself, 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.
-- Ethan, http://thekiltedwoodworker.com