Creating Works of Art, Fostering Friendships 6

Local Woodworkers’ Guild Provides a Venue to Learn From and Support One Another

It’s a lost skill, taking a piece of wood and shaping it with one’s hands. The time and talent involved lead to absolute works of art, but it’s a challenge few take on. Yet in Lee’s Summit such craftsmanship flourishes, thanks to the Lee’s Summit Woodworkers’ Guild. The organization first met 23 years ago, and many of the original members still attend monthly meetings to learn from and encourage one another’s craft.

With a membership of 145 wood artists, the group gathers the second Tuesday of every month at the Summit Christian Academy. Every month, about two-thirds of the members meet to share ideas, techniques and stories about cabinetry, lathe turning, tools, carving, and many other topics pertaining to wood arts.

“The Guild’s mission is to ‘promote the exchange of woodworking information and to further the craft,’” explains Jay Helland, a Guild member for 11 years, former president and current member of the organization’s Board of Directors. “We’re lucky to have so many talented woodworkers willing to share their knowledge and skills, much of which has been acquired over a lifetime of working wood. The Guild has something to offer both the novice and master craftsman. A large portion of our monthly meetings is dedicated to ‘Show-and-Tell,’ where anyone can bring in a project and explain how it was made and what they’ve learned.”

It’s an incredible opportunity for both professionals and novices alike to educate and support one another. Michael Straughn has wanted to be a woodworker most of his life but hadn’t had the opportunity until recently. Now, a Guild member of six years, he’s learning to use the lathe. Last year, he made 50 spinning-top ornaments for his family. Two years ago, it was 50 acorn Christmas ornaments.

“This has become somewhat of a family tradition, not only for me, but for many of the club members,” he says. “These gifts become instant family heirlooms.”

Roy Wall became a member around 2005, attending the monthly meetings sporadically for a couple years as his work schedule allowed, but now serves as Guild President.

“Our Guild is such a great storehouse for learning about woodworking!” he says. “We have great diversity in woodworking with our membership. Box making and segmented turning are perhaps our most popular projects. But we also have scroll saw projects, beautiful Luthier work, furniture of all kinds, pen makers, toolmakers…you just never know what talents will show up every month. It really doesn’t matter what skill level a person has, it’s the willingness to create and improve that unites us together. When you leave a meeting you’ve learned something, and it’s motivation for taking that information and doing something with it. And through it all we help each other.”

While the Guild’s annual membership dues are very reasonable ($20), free membership is offered to high school and college students in an effort to get young people involved in the craft. And the organization has an annual charity: “Tools for Teens.”

“We support the Lee’s Summit School District’s industrial technology programs so teachers can enhance their programs through the purchase of a needed tool or instructional aid that the normal school budgets can’t afford,” says Helland.

Good works aside, Wall says that the friendships formed within the Guild act as the “glue” that holds the organization together. “We’re a thankful and considerate group; gracious in what we have, what we learn, and in the fellowship we all share. I’m very proud of our Guild and the wonderful membership. Beyond the skillfulness, precision, and creativity we maintain as a group, we are kindhearted and good friends—which is the most important aspect of all.”

The Guild members encourage anyone with interest in woodworking to check out the organization’s website——and attend a meeting on the second Tuesday of the month from 7 – 9 p.m. at the Summit Christian Elementary (1500 SW Jefferson Street).