Woodworkers tinker around

Published 9:15 am Thursday, October 15, 2009

At the Alabama Woodworkers Guild recent annual juried show at the Hoover Library Gallery, I met board member and guild librarian Eddie Heerten and learned that this 150-member organization established in 1983 is based at the Old Maylene Schoolhouse –– itself more than 100 years old.

“We spent last September through May restoring the structure,” Brian Stauss said. “It was a huge effort over many weekends.”

The once-blackened floor is refinished to reveal the original heart pine boards. The original beadboard ceiling now gleams naturally, having been rescued and scraped by Steve Horn.

The guild upgraded the electrical and added a security system. The facility boasts a kitchen area with an eye-catching island, custom–built by members. Equipment has been gradually purchased from estate sales and at auction.

Their latest addition is a 36–inch bandsaw that dates from 1872.

Made by Townley Manufacturing Co., the saw was restored in president Charlie Ard’s shop before being moved–all 1,200 pounds of it–to the shop.

Originally the saw wheel would have operated with steam power; a leather line shaft running into the building across the ceiling where a wooden pulley system would have turned the leather tire/wheel.

“This was one dangerous machine in its day,” Strauss said.

The restoration converted it to electric power and added guards or door panels to encase the wheel.

Members are required to be trained to properly use each piece of equipment and a supervisor is present during open work hours.

“Our members have the advantage of all the tools you might need and all the experience and teaching expertise you could ask for,” said A.R. Bray, an engineer retired from Uni-tech.

The AWWG welcomes interested new members. Dues are $50 annually and monthly meetings are held each third Saturday. Guild members will participate in their first craft show at Avondale Park on Oct. 31.

At the November meeting, the wooden toy inventory will be donated to representatives from Children’s Hospital.

Buzz Kelly, 2009 toy chairman, has coordinated year–long construction of bird houses, small boxes –– rectangular as well as fish and butterfly shaped –– and rabbit-eared hanging pegs, doll chairs and more than 10 assorted styles of cars.

“In 2007, we had in excess of 7,000 toys. In 2008, we worked on quality versus quantity and made about 3,000 with Buddy Finch as our toy chairman,” Kelly said.

“This year the emphasis is on quality and creating toys specifically requested by the physical therapy group working with the one to three year olds at Children’s Hospital.”

For more infomation, visit alabamawoodworkersguild.org.

Laura Brookhart can be reached by e–mail at labro16@yahoo.com.