East County members of The Florida West Coast Woodworkers club run from beginners to experts.
Whisper Bend's Barbara Brown decided it finally was time to cut into her husband's hobby.
So she grabbed a saw.
Although a novice at woodworking, Barbara Brown decided to join the Florida West Coast Woodworkers club two years ago. Her husband, Alan, is the club president.
Alan Brown has made everything from tables to bowls to bookcases to dumbbells — the latter, which weighed only a few ounces, were more decoration than exercise equipment — but he wouldn't call himself a master of the craft.
He first started woodworking after he got out of the Navy at the end of the Vietnam War. Jobs were tough to come by, so he set up an electronics shop. His landlord said if Alan Brown wanted a bathroom, he would have to build it himself. So he did. That went well, so he built a showcase for his TVs.
Alan Brown eventually decided to take his woodworking skills to another level and he joined the Florida West Coast Woodworkers in 2015. As president, he has been tasked with helping the club navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the members have not met in person. He said he is well-suited for the task of running a club through Zoom meetings, considering his experience with electronics.
“In the beginning, I had no idea what I was getting into or what the club was all about,” Alan Brown said. “A friend invited me down, and within the first meeting or two, I was hooked with all the information and the camaraderie that was being built. … I think if I do one thing best, it’s smile a lot and try to make a lot of friends.”
Over the years, Alan Brown taught his wife the basics in terms of the tools he was using, but she let him do the work. He said it was time for her to put those tools to use, and she joined the club.
“I learned how to use a saw stop, a chop saw, the router table, the drill press,” Barbara Brown said.
Barbara Brown said she isn't as good an artist as most of the members, but she has done a nice job copying ideas she sees on Pinterest or Etsy. Her first project was a bath board that can hold glasses, books, tablets, candles and more while you’re in the tub.
The Florida West Coast Woodworkers club welcomes those of all skill levels, from beginners to masters. In addition to varying skill levels, the club's members have a wide variety of specialties and interests. Mote Ranch resident and 15-year club member Bob Eslinger, for example, considers himself a “really fine specialist” in the field of furniture, though he wouldn’t go as far as considering himself an expert.
Barbara Brown now would like to recruit more women to the club. The club has a membership of approximately 100 members, but only 15 are women.
“There's so many women out there who have never even heard of woodworking and are afraid because of tools or sawdust or paint or whatever,” Barbara Brown said. “But there's so many protections these days to help you. And there's so much knowledge in the club. So many fellas have helped me. ... It’s a real group effort, you learn a lot and you have fun doing it.”