A few months ago I had an internet conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. In Googling the woodworking activities in the area, I came across a club, the North Carolina Woodworker, which is mostly an online woodworking organization. I flew in a day early and got together with three club members to learn more. Read Douglas Robinson’s explanation below to learn more about their unique club. It’s probably an excellent model for clubs of the future where monthly meetings aren’t the focal point.
North Carolina Woodworker, Inc. was originally started by Steve Coles as a way to provide woodworking-related information that was regionally specific, after failing to find anything useful like it on the national boards. In addition, Coles wanted to provide a photo-hosting site for other local woodworkers. The site was restricted to North Carolinians (and others in surrounding States) in order to keep the storage requirements to a minimum.
Almost immediately, under prompting from others, a set of advice forums was added and became the primary draw of the website. As a forum, some new rules were added that probably made the site very attractive to a lot of people.
First, to combat the elitism of many other WWing sites, North Carolina Woodworker considered any discipline that worked with wood to be “WOODWORKING”
Second and probably most important, was the intent to create an atmosphere that encouraged and only allowed civility in the public interactions between users. Since the earliest days of public computer networking, there persisted the idea that anyone was allowed to say anything about anybody. On some woodworking sites, one could see beginner’s being mocked, nasty verbal jousting about politics and religion, and a disregard of the diversity of the people that make up the woodworking community. To counter this at NCWW, a posting and moderation policy was created and enforced. This policy has grown with the needs of the site. A lot of what NCWW is today is attributable to Steve Coles and to a handful of others that set the tone of friendliness and helped behind the scenes creating key features of the website.
In October 2005 North Carolina Woodworker got involved in the Klingspor show. In the Winter of 2006, Steve told a few of the members that he knew personally that he was going to host a picnic in the Spring at his house. The number of people to be invited became so large that the picnic location was moved to a public picnic ground and an announcement was made inviting all users of the site to the picnic. This became the 1st Annual Spring Picnic which has been continued annually since.
At that picnic, Steve was presented with a mini-lathe and tools as a gift from the membership (now the Good Will Lathe). As a result of this gift Steve realized that North Carolina Woodworker was something more than a website, and had become a real community. Like the proverbial light bulb flashing on, Steve began to think of North Carolina Woodworker as a club, a club which had dues. Not monetary dues, but dues that are paid by your visits to the site.
By autumn of 2006, North Carolina Woodworker had the first calendar contest, and Klingspor invited North Carolina Woodworker to participate providing us a room where NCWW held a pen turning marathon for our troops. Next members organized wood hauls. The pony express service sprang up with no prompting as members helped each other bring tools, wood, etc., to each other.
In 2008 NCWW started having shop crawls, where the members got together and traveled to pre-designated host shops to see each other’s work and how they set up shop, literally. In 2008 NCWW drafted by-laws and inaugurated a Board of Directors. At the 2009 picnic Steve Coles stepped down from the running of North Carolina Woodworker, but remains and active participant. The Board of Directors is presently pursuing non-profit status and developing educational activities, such as a group clamp building project.
So North Carolina Woodworker is no longer just a website, North Carolina Woodworker is in fact and in spirit a very vibrant and active community. We invite you to visit our site.
Douglas Robinson [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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