The best $25 I've ever spent on woodworking...

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Blog entry by Ethan Sincox posted 12-22-2006 07:25 PM 1123 reads 0 times favorited 7 comments Add to Favorites Watch

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,

7 comments so far

View WayneC's profile


13754 posts in 4096 days

#1 posted 04-14-2007 10:40 PM

Make me think I should follow-up on the thoughts I have had about joining my local guild. Since I’ve joined I seen a number of your posts where the benefits of membership have been clear.

-- We must guard our enthusiasm as we would our life - James Krenov

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4159 days

#2 posted 04-14-2007 10:45 PM

you’ve sold me!

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Karson's profile


35121 posts in 4399 days

#3 posted 04-14-2007 10:54 PM

I wish there was something around here.

-- I've been blessed with a father who liked to tinker in wood, and a wife who lets me tinker in wood. Southern Delaware soon moving to Virginia †

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4326 days

#4 posted 04-14-2007 11:42 PM

This got me to look up and join my local (statewide) guild. Just $30 for the year, I wonder how much more help, education and insiration that extra $5 will get me ;) Perhaps I’ll have a sawyer within walking distance, and access to some of the NH Furniture Masters Shops – one does live up the road from me, though It’s been published that he retired from teaching :(

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Ethan Sincox's profile

Ethan Sincox

767 posts in 4172 days

#5 posted 04-15-2007 05:30 PM

Start one.

Excellent news about joining your statewide guild! The nice thing about your state is it is a little smaller than Missouri, so maybe you can make it to the meetings, even if they aren’t in your city. In MO, to get from St. Louis to the other side of the state could take more than four hours of 70mph highway driving. (It is possible to drive from Saint Louis to Kansas City (KS) after work, go to a Phish concert, and then drive back home all in one evening – but I wouldn’t recommend doing that very often.) On the other hand, we do have guild members who drive one and a half hours or so to attend the monthly meeting. It all just depends on if you think it is worth it and what your other options are. For those who drive 90 minutes, it must be worth it!

I will admit that sometimes I attend a meeting and leave feeling as if I’ve wasted two hours of my time, usually because the presenter was covering some topic in which I have no interest. But the times I learn something new or make another contact or meet a member who can help me in some other way (I now have a contact for a local pediatrician, when Dana and I get more into the familial way…) far out-weigh those instances where I feel I didn’t get anything out of the meeting.

I guess I need to update this blog to include my Frank Klausz workshop now, don’t I? Because I was a guild member (and signed up and paid before the first deadline of December 31st, 2006), I was able to attend the weekend seminar for $125. Anyone who wasn’t a member (or who was and signed up after that first deadline) ended up paying $160. So even if I’d found out about it through other means (unlikely), it still would have cost me another $35 extra.

-- Ethan,

View scottb's profile


3648 posts in 4326 days

#6 posted 04-15-2007 05:44 PM

Yeah, NH is pretty good that way. The Woodworking hub of the state seems to congregate just north of Concord, in the “center” of state. Which puts it an hour or so from everywhere (as the crow flies). There are some, however that would join a neighboring states (or localities) guild, The central Mass woodturners for example, as they are more geographically convenient.

I’ve taken the few classes I have down in Mass, because timewise (based on where I was working at the time) it made the most sense, being an hour from work and home. A few other options may have been just as close to me at 5PM, but much further from home come the end of class.

-- I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. - Van Gogh -- --

View Sawdust2's profile


1466 posts in 4086 days

#7 posted 04-15-2007 06:48 PM

I resoundnigly (is that a word) support Ethan’s post.I’ve been a member of the Woodworkers Guild of Georgia since 1982. I wrote its first bylaws and have served on the board of directors once or twice.

As a result I have been able, like Ethan and others, to participate in seminars hosted by renowned woodworkers. We have a spring symposium each year and the cost for that education is miniscule compared to what it would take if I had to do it on my own. David Marks, Frank Klaus, Ernie Conover, Peter Gedrys.

When The Wood Show comes to town the promoters give us a large display area where the members can exhibit their projects.They are judged and ribbons are awarded. All of the vendors tell us that they like Atlanta the best because our guild projects let them show best how their products can be used. A symbiotic relationship.

There are a few smaller groups that meet. Usually about 50 miles away from where the Guild usually meets. The format basically follows what Ethan relates. We do have a website that posts what the monthly meeting will cover so if you’re not interested you don’t waste your time.

We woodworkers often end up working in solitude. And often that is what is wanted. But I have gotten together a few other woodworkers and we meet at my shop on Wed nites. One day a week I (we) can share and learn. I suggest that you try and find others that live close to you Two sets of ideas and four hands add up to more than the parts. Similarly, if there is a project you want to do but the cost is too great for one person we can usually find 3 or 4 others who are willing to try it and spread the cost. On Wed nites we may have 2 or three projects going at one time.

The most enjoyable thing about our guild, and evidently Ethan’s, is that it doesn’t matter who you are, everyone is more than willing to share their knowledge and expertise. Isn’t that what the original guilds did?

-- No piece is cut too short. It was meant for a smaller project.

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