Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Women's Woodworking Club

The club, which was started a year and a half ago, has grown to over 20 members. 8 to 10 usually show up for our monthly meetings, where we do as many hands-on projects as possible.

Most of these women are brand new to woodworking—some are retired, with grown children—and all are enthusiastic to learn. The enthusiasm can be gauged in the sheer volume of exhuberant chatter that goes on during our meetings.

Regarding woodworking (and probably most things), all that women seem to need is a little encouragement & patience, and they will dive right in. Tonight, we worked on part 2 of our current project—cutting boards—in the Woodcraft Store shop where we meet. During the course of the 3-part project, they are learning how to use the jointer, planer, and miter saw. Next time, we'll have a router workshop, when we'll round over all the cutting boards and test drive different types of routers and bits.

We decide at each meeting, as a group, what the next topic will be. There are no dues, no officers, no business to attend to. We sit at a table, facing one another. All of the women have ownership. It's very different from what I call the "boys' club"—the other woodworking club to which I belong. Up until last year, I was the only female member.

In the boys' club, the guys seem to prefer hierarchy and structured meetings. We have officers, dues, and an annual business meeting. There are too many guys in that club (and too small a space) to do much hands-on stuff, so we mainly have a demo or lecture. Members sit in rows of chairs and face the presenter. The volume of these meetings is also different. Pretty quiet, except for the speaker, and the occasional wisecrack. The guys chat with one another prior to and after the meeting, but not so much during.

The other very important difference in the two clubs: the women's club usually has snacks. This past year in the boys' club, when the Christmas party was discussed, the guys opted to not have one. Conversely, the women all but leapt out of their seats with a resounding "YES!" when I asked if we wanted to have a club Christmas dinner.

And you wouldn't believe what they brought. Crab cakes, homemade lasagna, homemade meatballs (made by one woman's husband, which cracked us up), salads, and desserts like you'd find at Wegman's.

It's great fun to be an observer in both clubs. Despite their differences, there is one common thread between the two clubs: they both consist of people who want to create something—something useful, something artistic, something challenging. Something that will leave a lasting mark.


Anonymous said...


The contrasts you describe are truly remarkable.

I belong to what used to be a men-only Guild. Then, about three years ago, my wife joined the local Guild with me, and at the same time three other ladies joined.

Changes took place: I became the President the following year, and my wife the Secretary. Last year we elected two of the women: One became President (to replace me), and another the Treasurer (to replace one of the guys). It is wonderful to see these changes, and the participation!

Of course, it is still soda and store-bought cookies or such for snacks during the break; no home-made goodies. And the meetings are still quite structured.

But change is a-happenin'. And it is wonderful!

Unknown said...


Woodfired! said...

Great account VC. Things are much the same in Canberra. The woodcraft guild is a men's club of the type you describe. Still, I've heard a few great presentations there and met a few fine people. (I won't mention the food.)
The art school where I studied under a woodworking master (the late George Ingham) were very supportive of women woodworkers. There were many in the degree course and George and his talented partner Pru Shaw always ran night courses for women as well as mixed classes. As we always worked late we were well aware that they had lots of fun and made plenty of noise.
Regardless of gender (perhaps helped by the number of women) any get-togethers in that workshop were seriously catered!
My work has a strong association with food as wood and food (and my dogs of course) are my greatest passions. So it's great to see you are doing a food-related project.
The end-of-project feast will I assume be presented on the cutting boards!

Anonymous said...

I am going to have to call a somber and foodless meeting to discuss this column!

Kari Hultman said...

The funny thing is, I've talked with men from other "boys" clubs and they all seem to want to have female members in their clubs (maybe they just want baked goods--ha!).

Women in the "girls" club think that men wouldn't want them in their boys' club. They are way too intimidated and think the men will give them a hard time or make them feel stupid, when in fact, it would be the exact opposite. Most of the male woodworkers I've met are very supportive.

Al, feel free to give my email address to your female president; I'd love to compare notes.

Markew, I wish you were in my club: YOU like to cook and I like to eat—what a team! : )

Anonymous said...


Will do. Thanks!

Ethan said...


I have a slightly different situation at my local WW club. Most of the guys in our club are 50+ years old, making me their younger by 15 years or so.

They're very much stuck in the way they've done things for the past 10 or 15 years.

I'm a rabble rouser who likes to stir the pot and call people out on things.

I have two partners-in-crime who are just a bit older than me and just as interested in bringing "new blood" to the group.

It's interesting to see the mental struggle with some of the current officers. They're tired of being in charge. They want to pass on their position to someone else, but most of the older guys don't want to be on the board - they just want to show up and buy raffle tickets for the 50/50 drawing. They know the young guys are the future of the club, but they're not sure about letting us have any kind of control or power.

(With good reason - we've lined up one of the younger guys to be the new president. Just as soon as he takes office, we're going to stage a coup on the newsletter (printed out on paper, it is pretty much a three-page dictation of the previous meeting) and the website and revamp them both, bringing them up to 2008 standards. It'll be XML and PDF from then on out!)

(... hey, I need to stop writing here. This is good blog content.)


Kari Hultman said...

Thanks for the visual, Ethan. I'm picturing you guys in Mutiny on the Bounty garb with torches and pistols. hee hee

Those poor guys won't know what hit 'em. Just keep reminding them that change is good!

Gye Greene said...

Hm -- despite being a male (last time I checked), it sounds like I'd rather join the fe. WW club. :)