Occasionally, I see a forums posting here on LumberJocks that asks about local woodworking clubs. Responses are always supportive of the idea of joining such a group, though often lack specific information that relates to the locale of the original poster. Magazine articles, interviews and books about woodworking – especially for beginners – are similarly enthusiastic about Woodworking Clubs.
Coming Out of the Cave
But I get the impression that most of us learn and practice our craft in virtual solitude. I know that I do. I sometimes get an urge to get out there and meet other woodworkers, but I almost never actually DO anything about it. Yes, I’ve gone to the Woodworking Show, and met a few club members there. And I’ve attended a few other events (e.g., Lie-Nielsen) and the presentations of visiting experts; usually at Woodcraft, but occasionally hosted by a local club. While these events are always interesting, I haven’t developed any woodworking friendships as a result.
I freely admit that I’m NOT a very social critter, so it probably is mostly just me. But when I attend these gatherings, I see almost everyone else behaving exactly as I do. Watching; maybe very reluctantly asking a question; and almost never actually speaking to the guys who we’re (literally) rubbing shoulders with.
I don’t feel quite so reluctant to interact with other woodworkers here on LumberJocks. I’ll actually ask and answer questions on the Forums. I’ve even started a Blog series or two. I get great feedback, information and input from this minimal interaction.
My Daddy done told me (long, long ago): ”You get out of it what you put into it.” How much more could I get out woodworking if I actually got involved in woodworking clubs?
What’s Out There?
So, last month I decided to look in to clubs. Google is your friend, usually. With a bit of searching, I found quite a few references to woodworking clubs in Illinois. Often with at least basic websites. Sometimes with contact information. I sent off a few e-mails, and didn’t receive a single response within a week.
My first inclination was to give up, but a couple of these groups were ones very local that I’ve met before. So I got a little more serious about the effort. I made a list of all the Illinois clubs I’d found, and set out to actually make contact with each.
Sometimes, a little research at the club website yielded more contact info; either another e-mail address or a phone number, or both. So, I reached out again, with e-mails or phone calls. And I got a few answers. But I also got disconnected phone numbers and search results that indicated that quite a few of the clubs I was trying to reach were no longer active.
By this time, I’d also searched LumberJocks and encountered several member requests for a place to post Woodworking Clubs information here on our site. I’d also encountered several other websites that listed whole nationwide collections of Woodworking Clubs information. Unfortunately, these lists were some of the sources I’d researched to develop the Illinois list; and I was finding that information unreliable.
It occurred to me that what’s really needed is a validated list of Woodworking Clubs. That is, someone has to responsibly maintain the list.
That’s when I decided to propose that a LumberJocks member volunteer to maintain such a list – just for his/her own state.
I’ll take Illinois, develop the list, and maintain it annually. I’ll just post a Blog series about Illinois Woodworking Clubs. I’ll revalidate each November/December and provide an updated list each January. Maybe I’ll even post Blog entries about each club I get familiar with.
If we get 50 LJs to volunteer, we could cover the USA. International members could figure out what works for their locations.
I’m NOT suggesting that the LumberJocks website undertake this responsibility; that’s not practical. And responsibility is the keyword here. Outdated and incorrect information won’t do anybody any good. Bad info almost turned me off to pursuing woodworking clubs, but I believe that would have been a mistake.
Unconfirmed information is misleading data; what we need is reliable information.
Another of my character traits (beside shyness), is stubbornness. That’s turned out to be a GOOD thing in this pursuit. I’ve had to be a bit of pest to collect information on Illinois Woodworking Clubs. Apparently, not all woodworkers regularly check their e-mail.
And I’ve encountered a glitch.
When I did finally make contact, and propose to the club that I post their contact information on LumberJocks, several of them balked. Mind you, I don’t want to post any personal information. In fact, I’ll usually just repeat minimal info that’s already available on the club website. However, it did seem polite to ask.
That may have been a mistake. Perhaps it would have been better to ask forgiveness – after the fact, than ask permission before. Several of the clubs I contacted wish to achieve a group consensus before having their club contact information posted. Since I asked the question, I’ll abide by their decision (or lack thereof).
A few of the largest and most active Illinois Woodworking Clubs have NOT explicitly agreed to be listed. I actually suspect that some just haven’t gotten around to sending me a note or giving me a call. That’s really too bad, but I’ll leave it up to them. Maybe next year.
What to Do
I’ve posted my Illinois Woodworking Clubs Blog series, and we’ll see how that develops. I encourage LJs in other states to do the same and maintain such a blog for their local clubs.
But I’d also like some feedback on the general idea of posting this information here on LumberJocks. And comments about Woodworking Clubs in general: experiences (good and bad); usefulness of membership; how to best take advantage of the resource; alternatives; whatever else.
I’ll be anxious to hear what LJs have to say.
-- Jim Maher, Illinois