The Guild has a large number of members within the core activity of woodcraft and their interests are many and varied. In order to cater for these specialist skills, the Guild has developed a number of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) for those who wish to delve more deeply into a particular aspect of woodcraft.
Members can join SIGs at any time – we don’t work within a term/semester structure. If you require more details about a SIG, contact the SIG coordinator using their contact details below. Introduce yourself when you attend a SIG for the first time.
Introduction to Woodworking
The activities of the Group are designed to accommodate beginners and those returning to woodwork after an absence. Each meeting addresses an issue that will arise when approaching a project or task and then works towards completing that project.
Initially, members joining the group will be encouraged to develop their skills with hand tools and further instruction and guidance with power tools will be incorporated into activities. When members are comfortable they can progress to the Woodworking 201 SIG.
The guild has plenty of tools and equipment to get you started on your woodwork journey. When you decide it is time to buy your own tools make sure you read the article by our Shed Boss, Terry O’Loughlin – The Basic Toolkit
Woodworking 201 – Projects
This Group is intended for members who have a reasonable level of skill and who wish to improve those skills. In a sense it is a bridging Group between the Introduction to Woodworking Group and the topic specific Special Interest Groups.
Depending on members interest the Group occasionally invites experienced woodworkers or craft persons to meetings to present and explore their expertise in their area of speciality.
The sort of projects undertaken will depend on each member’s interest – it could be something for the home or workshop and members are encouraged to pursue their projects with a view to achieving competition level work, making items for sale or undertaking commissions.
Remember that you may attend the Shed at anytime that it is open (check the calendar) to work on your project. Accreditation is required to work with Guild machinery but there will always be an accredited member there to assist you if you are not.
Whether you want to make an intricate jewellery box or simple box for storing tools, the box making SIG is for you.
We are planning regular demonstrations and talks about all aspects of box making – dovetail boxes, finger joint boxes, bandsaw boxes, scroll saw boxes, turned boxes – end grain or not, big boxes, small boxes, blanket boxes, jewellery boxes, document boxes – you name it we can help with it from plans to finished product and if you want to add detail such as marquetry, inlay, carving, pyrography, epoxy resin, quartz, gold, silver, pewter – all can be done right here in this SIG.
Come along and have a chat, or a listen and if you do not have a current project on the go we can find you one.
A detailed list of suppliers for all your box components can be found under Resources. There are also the videos from our two online workshops conducted during the lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.
The aim of the Furniture SIG is to provide a mix of learning techniques and practical application of those skills and knowledge in an environment where those less experienced can be offered help and guidance.
Some of the SIG projects over the past few years include a commission for the Department of Defence for lecterns, a blackwood dining table and walnut coffee tables (both of which were successfully sold by the Guild at various shows), the meranti workbench now used in the Shed and individual projects including a bookstand, bandsawn boxes and rocking chairs.
The SIG is trialling a new arrangement at meetings, whereby we start with a demonstration lasting approximately one hour, followed by traditional project work. To date these demonstrations have included biscuit jointing, mortise and tenon joints by hand and by machine, resawing, and router bit basics. Afternoon tea during the SIG afternoons has been a useful time to share knowledge, discuss various woodworking issues and plan for future meetings.
The demonstrations have promoted some interest in the SIG, with new members attending, and we want to encourage greater attendance by other Guild members – all should feel free to join in, or just observe the 1 hour demonstration if you wish.
Musical Instrument Making
Joy comes to those who bring joy to others, and this is certainly the case with music and musical instruments. Whether you bow, pluck, strike or blow we welcome anyone interested in making musical instruments. Whether a xylophone for the kids or a Stradivarius violin we welcome you. We build from plans or kits or perhaps you want to repair an instrument – there are knowledgeable people ready and willing to help or provide guidance.
At its most basic level, a violin (or acoustic guitar or ukulele) is a box with a handle and some strings. Let’s get the mystique out of instrument-making because we believe that anyone with basic woodworking skills can make a musical instrument. And the skills span every area, including box-making, joinery, turning, carving, bending and inlay. The Guild has a range of tools and templates to help you complete your project — including some specialised jigs and templates for particular kinds of instrument. The Guild also has a substantial supply of both common and exotic timbers including timbers suitable for musical instrument making for sale, or we can advise where to obtain good tonewoods at reasonable prices.
Our library includes books on violin making, guitar making and the woodworking skills required to achieve your goal.
With care and attention to detail, you too can make playable instruments that will bring joy for generations. Our makers have built guitars, ukuleles, violins, hurdy-gurdys, dulcimers, strum-sticks and more.
Toy making is one of the oldest and simplest of woodcrafts. It has brought satisfaction to craftsmen and joy to countless generations of children. Although it is commonly referred to within the Guild just as the Toy SIG, this group also covers the making of Games and Models.
Be they large and complex, or small and simple, toys are relatively easy and straightforward to make. Some require only hand tools; others are best made using powered tools such as a drill press, band saw, belt sander and lathe. All of these are available to members at The Shed. Games can be much more demanding on the craftsman, often requiring extreme precision in fabrication and assembly. Models, especially true scale models, can also be very demanding and time-consuming, requiring accurate work with very small pieces of wood.
The Toy SIG holds a large number of plans for a wide variety of toys, as well as a range of jigs made over the years for speed and quality of toy and model making. These are available for the exclusive use of Toy SIG members. The Guild also has a substantial supply of both common and exotic timbers suitable for toy, game and model making for sale at nominal cost.
Andy has recently joined the Guild and commenced the Restoration SIG at the Guild and will be providing an insight and background into restoring any unique piece, whether it be furniture, trinkets, boxes, frames, etc.
He has a depth of experience in his field which is coupled with years of teaching in various fields.
Come along with your special piece that needs attention, or just attend to seek that answer to what you have wanted to know about for years, or just gain a little more understanding and expand your current knowledge.
Scroll saw, Marquetry & Intarsia
Scroll saw work is a relatively modern technique, using electrically-powered, bench-mounted, reciprocating saws with very thin blades, but it is derived from traditional techniques such as the hand-cut fretwork that can be seen and admired on many old buildings and in antique furniture, particularly in Europe and the UK. The main purpose for using a scroll saw is its ability to cut intricate curves and joints, very quickly, and with great accuracy. It can also be used to cut dovetail joints, intarsia and inlays for veneer projects. Using a very fine blade, the saw kerf is all but invisible.
The ability to cut veneers in “stacks”, producing identical pieces, allows the creation of detailed, complicated and beautiful pictures – by stacking different variations of veneer, cutting results in perfectly fitting pieces, in woods of different colors and grain pattern, which can be assembled to form aesthetically pleasing designs.
Although it is commonly referred to within the Guild as the Scroll saw SIG, this group also covers the use of marquetry in all of its applications. Marquetry is the craft of covering a structural carcass with precisely-cut pieces of veneer to form decorative patterns, designs or pictures. The technique may be applied to furniture or decorative small objects with smooth, veneerable surfaces or to free-standing pictorial panels.
The Scroll saw SIG holds a large number of patterns for a wide variety of scroll saw work, these are available for the exclusive use of Scroll saw SIG members. The Guild has a substantial supply of both common and exotic timbers suitable for scroll saw work, also a range of veneers for marquetry, all available at exceptionally low cost.
A couple of scroll saw and marquetry articles can be found under Resources.
Perhaps more related to art than normal woodcraft, pyrography – “writing with fire” – requires a steady hand, good hand/eye coordination, and above all the ability to ‘see’ how decoration could enhance a common everyday object. In the Guild, it is frequently used collaboratively to ornament woodcraft produced by turning, box-making or cabinetry.
Burning can be done by means of a modern solid-point tool (similar to a soldering iron), or a hot-wire tool, or by more basic methods using metal implements heated in a fire, or even by sunlight concentrated by a magnifying lens. This allows a wide range of natural tones and shades to be achieved – beautifully subtle effects can create a picture in sepia tones, or strong dark strokes can make a bold, dramatic design. Varying the type of tip used, the temperature, or the way the iron is applied to the material, all create different effects. Solid-point machines offer a variety of tip shapes, and can also be used for “branding” the wood or leather. Wire-point machines allow the artist to shape the wire into a variety of configurations, to achieve broad marks or fine lines. This work is time-consuming, and done entirely by hand, with each line of a complex design drawn individually. After the design is burned in, wooden objects are often coloured, sometimes boldly, or more delicately tinted.
The Guild owns a number of pyrography pen kits that are available to all members. It also has a substantial supply of both common and exotic timbers suitable for pyrography and ornamentation.
A number of excellent pyrography articles can be found under Resources.
Carving & Sculpture
Woodcarving includes techniques such as in-the-round, high and low relief carving, incised carving, chip carving, whittling, lettering, woodcut and wood engraving, pattern making, chain-saw carving, and sculpture. The carving may stand alone or be an embellishment on other wood products, such as furniture or bowls.
There are a huge range of applications that you can try. The variety in the tools is greater than other woodworking disciplines and properly sharpened tools are essential. The choice of timber, and thus the understanding of the properties of timber, is also critical.
The SIG has a good range of carving tools available and books on carving may be borrowed from the Guild’s library and from the SIG’s own library of books, magazines and selected articles. Carving and sharpening workshops are held at the Guild. If you would like to try any aspect of woodcarving, other members are there to help get you started.
A number of excellent carving articles can be found under Resources.
Blacksmithing & Tool Making
The Blacksmithing and Toolmaking Special Interest Group (BAT SIG) was originally formed by Guild members with a common interest in the collection, restoration and proper use of traditional hand tools, such as planes, saws and chisels. SIG activities include de-rusting, sharpening and fettling of tools, and the fabrication of replacement wooden parts. Some time at each meeting is also set aside for “Show and Tell”, to allow members to display and discuss recent acquisitions from “trash & treasure” sales and swap meets.
The interests of this group have expanded to include blacksmithing and the fabrication of specialised hand tools, which in turn has led to the construction next to the Shed of a “smithy” equipped with a forge, a metal-working lathe, and a range of metal-working tools, available for the exclusive use of members. The Smithy is a popular venue during Canberra winters!
Projects like the restoration of an antique treadle-powered lathe have been undertaken by the whole SIG.
A group of members wanting to work together to promote Bush crafts encompassing traditional modes of making chairs and stools with hand tools, green wood carving of spoons and other utensils, coopering (including bucket making), and the use of traditional tools such as travishers and draw knives.
At this stage the Bush Craft SIG meeting on the 2nd Friday afternoon of the month (1-4pm) will be personal Bush Craft projects. No ‘leader’ will be demonstrating. There are likely group members happy to assist you with your project planning.
The Bush Craft SIG on the 4th Saturday 10-1pm will be a Spoon Carving Circle which Nat Oliver will try to facilitate (but is unable to guarantee attendance).
There remains a number of Bush Craft resources and plans at the shed which members are welcome to access. Bushies can also let new members know what YouTube videos might be helpful and what Facebook groups to become a member of (such as Green Woodworking Australia).
Introduction to Woodturning
The Guild introduced the Introduction to Woodturning SIG to streamline the woodturning accreditation process.
This SIG is intended for beginners with little or no previous experience of woodturning. If you are an experienced turner but are new to the Guild, please contact the SIG Coordinator.
The purpose of the SIG is to teach basic turning skills and the safe use of tools, the wood lathe and turning equipment. Participants will also need to complete a short written test on safety to obtain accreditation. Once accredited, members will leave this SIG and join the regular turning SIGs to further develop their skills. See the Guild calendar for information on these SIGs.
The format of this SIG is to provide an explanation of a tool or turning technique, a short demonstration by an instructor and the opportunity for students to apply the new skill and make a simple item such as a spindle project like a mallet, a small cross grain bowl and an end grain hollowing piece like a pencil pot. This will be made under the guidance of an experienced instructor.
On joining the SIG, students are provided with a Progress Checklist of turning skills. Each skill will be signed off by the instructor who has mentored you during the session.
We allow 2 full days over a nominated weekend to complete the project checklist, pass the written test and obtain accreditation on the wood lathe. The sessions aim to be relaxed and enjoyable. We try to be as flexible as possible in catering for individual learning differences.
The Guild will provide tools, wood and instruction at no extra cost to you. You can use your own turning tools if you wish.
Please wear relatively close-woven, high-necked tops (for example, a football jersey, tracksuit top or turning smock) to avoid the discomfort of wood shavings getting under your clothes.
Closed footwear is essential. Protective work shoes or boots are recommended.
Protective high-impact face shields will be provided by the Guild, but you are welcome to bring your own. If you wear glasses, they should have standard shatterproof lenses.
Starter packs of abrasive can be purchased from the Guild for minimal cost.
Woodturning Demonstrators to Watch online
Members interested in woodturning have asked who to watch on YouTube. Senior WCG turners recommend these turners as providers of good and interesting instruction that will lead to safe turning:
Sam Angelo aka Wyoming Woodturner
Articles on specific areas of interest be found under Resources.
Although both the Saturday and Monday Night SIGs cover all turning techniques, from beginner to advanced levels, their specialty is faceplate turning. Faceplate turning refers to wood that is mounted on the lathe with the grain running across the lathe bed. This method of turning is used for bowls, platters, vases and hollow forms.
The SIG is particularly aimed at members who are unable to attend sessions during the working week.
SIG sessions typically include a demonstration of a turning technique by an experienced member or by a visiting turner. The lathes and other facilities of the Guild are then available for members to practise this technique themselves, under the guidance of the demonstrator and/or other more experienced members.
Session topics can range from basic techniques, such as how to prepare and mount turning blanks, or the use of a specific turning tool, to more advanced methods, such as deep hollowing, segmented, or multi-axis turning. Topics can also include the ornamentation of turned work by burning, dyeing, staining and carving.
Monday Evening Turning
Although both the Monday Evening and Saturday Turning SIGs cover all turning techniques, from beginner to advanced levels, their special interests are faceplate turning and end-grain hollowing.
Faceplate turning refers to wood that is mounted on the lathe with the grain running across the face of the lathe. This method of turning is used for bowls, platters, vases and hollow forms. End-grain hollowing is a technique for hollowing out the inside of a piece mounted on the lathe in spindle orientation – with the grain running parallel to the lathe axis. This technique produces turned boxes, either open-topped or lidded.
Monday evening sessions may include a demonstration of a turning technique by an experienced member, or by a visiting turner. The lathes and other facilities of the Guild are then available for members to practise this technique themselves, under the guidance of the demonstrator and/or other more experienced members.
Session topics can range from basic techniques, such as how to prepare and mount turning blanks, or the use of a specific turning tool, to more advanced methods, such as deep hollowing, segmented, or multi-axis turning. Sessions can also cover the ornamentation of turned work by burning, dyeing, staining and carving.
Mandrel & Miniature Turning
Mandrel & Miniature (Pen) Turning SIG specialises in turning pens and other craft items on a mandrel, as well as turning miniature items such as lace bobbins, Christmas decorations, toys and other small items.
Meetings are conducted in two sessions:
1. Practical Session – 10.00 am to 1.00 pm. Members are encouraged to turn the Pen of the Month, or another project of their choice. Tuition is available for new members and assistance is provided for members turning unfamiliar pen styles.
2. Demonstration Session – 1.30 pm to 4.30 pm in alternate months. The Project of the Month is demonstrated, and any available videos are shown. If time permits, members are encouraged to turn the Project of the Month.
Mandrel and miniature turnings are specialised forms of between-centres turning, using small billets of wood. Mandrel turning is used to produce pens, including fountain pens and propelling pencils. This technique involves drilling small holes through the centres of billets (blanks), which are then threaded onto a metal rod (the mandrel) which supports the wood while the bodies of the pens are turned down to the required shape. The pen mechanisms and fittings are then added from purchased kits. Special mandrels are also used to produce other small craft items such as letter-openers, bottle-stoppers, kaleidoscopes, perfume dispensers and whistles.
With miniature turning, there is no internal metal support, but the wood is still turned to extremely thin dimensions. This method of turning is used for tops, dollhouse furniture, lace bobbins, fishing lures and ‘trembleurs’.
Machinery & Tool Maintenance
The Machinery and Tool Maintenance SIG meets weekly to clean, service, repair and maintain the Guild’s extensive collection of machinery and tools. In addition, the team also cleans and maintains the various rooms that make up the Shed.
The list of tasks the Maintenance Team is responsible for is expanding so we are looking for additional members to join the core maintenance team. If you are available, please consider joining the team. The work is not hard or difficult and you don’t need accreditation to use our equipment (vacuum cleaner or broom). The work of the team is important and we do make a difference that benefits all members.
We encourage every member to come along and help the core maintenance team in maintaining the machinery and hand tools that you use when you are at the Shed. If you have an interest in learning how to service, repair, and maintain your own equipment and tools the team can assist you.
If you identify an issue with any of the Guild’s equipment, please let the Shed Boss or SIG leader know. If possible, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org providing a brief description of the problem.
The Guild offers members opportunities to sell their woodcraft to the public at selected events during the year. Members wishing to sell their woodcraft need to complete a Sales List with a short description of the item for sale, the price and the type of wood used (optional).
The Sales Coordinator uses this Sales List to print out barcodes (showing the short description and the price) which are then attached to the individual items prior to the sale.
Sellers are responsible for delivering their woodcraft to the Shed prior to the Sales Event and collecting their unsold items from the Shed.
The Guild receives a 15% commission on all sales at Guild organised Sales Events. On some occasions, where there is a significant cost to the guild to participate in an event sellers to pay a Sales Fee in addition to the usual Guild Commission in order to cover these added costs – on these occasions you will be informed in advance of any additional costs.
Members selling items are expected to volunteer to assist at the Sales Events, either on the days of sale or bumping-in and bumping-out.
Schools & Community
The Woodcraft Guild is entering its 13th year with a highly successful Student and Community Woodworking Program. Each year we have finetuned our Student Program to enable students from the commencement of high school to undertake woodworking projects that identify projects of strong interest to the students.
Where possible each student is allocated a Guild Mentor with specific woodworking experience related to the relevant project. We cover a wide range of projects, commencing with Woodwork 101; where we introduce students to the basic function of woodworking tools, through to more advanced projects. The critical aspect is to ensure the student takes ownership from an early stage. It is the journey, not the end result, which gives the student the most satisfaction and final reward. Importantly, each student is able to progress at their own speed and level of difficulty.
We do however target each project with the student involvement, versus the Guild Mentor Input and where the student achieves 50% or greater project input, that gives us a very good indication the project difficulty level is on the money. Less than 50% indicates there is a need to re-assess.
Throughout the course students are exposed to a wide range of project ideas, involving bird feeders, using recycled fence palings, small box making, cheese and cutting boards, wood turning, carving, pyrography, coloured epoxy resins, and of course end of year Christmas decorations. It is simply limited to one’s imagination.
The Community Program was formally introduced in 2020, working closely with communities@work – an ACT Government body. Our first major project was the renovation of Chapman Village outdoor furniture; involving both students and Guild mentors. Over the Covid period we worked with ‘Communities at Work’ in the construction of an outdoor planter unit, subsequently located in the new suburb of Wright. A highly successful project completed in difficult times when the Guild was under severe operating conditions.
WCG Projects 901
Over the last 20 years the Guild members forged ahead with expansion projects sponsored and undertaken by Guild members themselves. In the most recent expansion the build itself was managed by Ian Fitzpatrick together with a lot of help from other guild members, relatives and friends. The Guild is proud to have so many members who have contributed so much in the way of expertise, muscle and creativity to make the space so usable and welcoming.
Whilst the job of getting walls and roofs up, defining spaces for benches and machinery and more recently getting dust extraction fitted, have been pivotal in getting us to where we are… we now need to turn our efforts to making the internal spaces efficient, clean and more usable.
The WCG Projects 901 SIG has been formed with the intent of fitting out the internal spaces better and organising the various workspaces to keep stocktaking, maintenance, safety, cleaning, and education easier for everyone. WCG Projects 901 SIG is for WCG project work only and is intended to allow members to contribute as well as learn woodcraft as we go. We use our membership expertise in woodcraft to include anyone who wishes to learn cabinet making and help out and at the same time. No prior expertise is needed – just enthusiasm, patience and creativity.
Come along and put your mark on Guild projects, learn from our in house experts, put saw to wood, create raised panels, fancy doors, floating drawers and more. Every Thursday evening until all the jobs are done!