Guild of Oregon Woodworkers

7634 SW 34th Avenue Portland, OR 97219

History ~2004-Present

by Bob Oswald, March 2018

Please: IF any of you 'ancients' have changes or contributions, write to


The Guild began as a means to help professional woodworkers find better ways to market their products and services.  They met during the week, during the day in one of the shops.

George DuBois moved to Oregon, found the Guild and got involved.  He said that to stay on as a member and take the lead, he was going to open the Guild more to the hobbyists.

The meeting was moved to an evening time slot to allow the average worker to attend.  It took root in the Franklin High School woodshop with support from Chuck Landers.  Membership grew.

Structure Changes

The Guild was governed by the usual offices and a handful of committee members.  Attendees of the time remember discussing a lot of details and not really getting anything done. In 2007, a newer member and business woman, Gail Haskett, volunteered to take the existing board to an offsite location for a few days and hammer out a new plan.  They returned and announced the new organization at a meeting at Woodcrafters in March.  That structure stands today, with a few positions added as the Guild has grown, four officers and a half-dozen committers with chair positions.  At the time the committees were Membership, Communications, Programs, Education, Shows. a General and a Professional member at large.  That covered the major functions of the Guild at the time. 

The committees were tasked with managing their departments.  The monthly board meetings would no longer stall on discussions.  They would hear reports and approve as necessary the activities of the departments.  It worked.  Over the years a few other departments were added, primarily with the acquisition of the shop in 2013.

Non-Profit Status

There were long running discussions about applying for this status.  The balance between unknown benefits and suspected extra efforts in bookkeeping made the decision take a while.  With the possibility of having a shop of our own, it was decided that the benefits would probably far outweigh bookkeeping efforts.

The Guild obtained 501(C)3 non-profit status in January 2012.  This really paved the way for obtaining a new shop where we could easily accept donations, cash and tools that would ultimately prove to be very beneficial.

The Website

The original website was hand written software, created and maintained by Dave Doughty.  It was fast and functional and in the early 2000's served well to acquire and manage membership.  A major shortcoming was no ability to allow members to register for education classes.  The events were posted but paper and pencil and the checkbook prevailed.

In late 2011, Bob Oswald, working with the web manager and editor of the Guild of New Hampshire Woodworkers, a coincidental and fortunate relationship, led him to try their platform, a website hosted by Wild Apricot.  A month of intense study later, Bob had a fully functional new look with new features.  An evening meeting at Roger Crooks' home with most of the board came to one conclusion, go for it.The new site was migrated flawlessly and went live February 5, 2012, coincidentally his wife's birthday.  Her gift was that Bob was finally back in the family again.

The website changes a bit at a time, but often, adapting to the growing needs of the Guild.  It attracts many of our members and numerous inquires from other Guilds and woodworking clubs around the country are a compliment to what we do, via the website.

The Shop

A shop of our own was always a dream, unattainable for obvious reasons of cost, and liability. In 2012 Gig Lewis could take it no longer.  His back ground in commercial real estate had him on the streets.  He formed a team and they visited a number of properties all over Portland.  Cost, location, size, growth opportunities.  Many daunting factors made this job difficult.  The membership itself was concerned.  "You'll bankrupt us." was one comment.  Of course a major factor in this search was how we would pay for it.  It's a long story.

In 2013, the discovery of a an existing commercial woodshop in Multnomah Village, fully equipped, reasonable price, renewable lease looked like the answer.  Simply stated, we took it.  Location seemed great, the facility was pretty perfect, though the parking was recognized as a limitation.  It took several months to move in.  Electrical relocation, tool layout, etc. were required to make it right.   Other issues included how to manage members using and paying for the space, how much to charge, how to handle safety.  The list was often overwhelming.  But we persevered.

There was an open house in September to introduce members to the new shop and we moved in n October., 2013.  And it started to work.  Funding definitely was a challenge.  Our new 501-c-3 status helped and a lot as donations we had never before experienced began to occur including cash and tools.

Safety was a big concern.  A lot of meetings by a lot of dedicated folks originated the Safety & Orientation meeting, out of which you were issued a Green Card, your ticket to use the shop.  In a matter of weeks that proved to be quite a problem.  People were passing the written test but still had no real hands on skill on the machines.

A quick halt to use and a lot of meetings and discussion produced the Hands On Safety Test (HOST).  Accuracy not a factor, you had to pass this 2-3 hour demonstration of your ability to be safe.  We've been working well ever since.

A year later at lease renewal time, the Guild opted out of some of the machines to purchase alternative tools more relevant to what we do. Today in 2018 we have a pretty high class commercial grade wood shop.  It is used for member open time, classes, community projects, special interest groups and more.

Estate Assistance

Estate assistance evolved.  Around 2000, Bob Oswald, website manager, would get questions from individuals and families about how to deal with wood shop tools and lumber left behind.  He made trips to the locations and provided a little advice about pricing and methods of disposition.

The frequency of these requests grew slowly and around 2015 he raised the question to the Board of Directors.  Did we want to be more involved in helping the community with this kind of thing. The Guild took up the challenge.

A small team formed, Pack Phillips, Gig Lewis, Roger Crooks and Joe Nolte undertook the next request.  It took the form of the Guild conducting an on-site sale for a small fee.  They assessed the items, conducted the sale and cleaned up afterwards, leaving the location spotless.

We were off and running.  A process evolved that defines what the Guild can do to help, steps for implementing it happen.  Today in 2018, with the help of many volunteers, the Guild averages nearly one sale a month.  Remaining items are brought back to the shop and when enough things accumulate, a 'garage sale' for the members is conducted.

It has become a great service to families in time of need and a nice source of additional revenue to operation the Guild.

Community Projects

Toy Building

It was 2008, Franklin Highs School, Bob Oswald was president.   One of the members came up to him and said "I wish we were building something together."  Some ensuing conversation with Gig Lewis sparked a thought from him. "We could build toys for the Marine Corps.  They have a Toys For Tots program." And the project was born.

About twenty members met at the high school shop one evening a week for a couple of months.  A few members took on projects in their own shops.  On a sunny day, December 11, Bob and Gig drove two trucks to the Marine base on Sauvies Island, filled with toys.

A week prior, a Marine in full dress met them at David Douglas high school and at St. Paul high school to pick up toys that the students had built, a shop project undertaken to study mass production and help the cause.

The program recurred every year since then with different organizations receiving the toys.  The Portland Police in 2009 and KOIN in following years provide eager recipients for toys.

The program continues full time today in 2018 with Gig leading a toy building effort at the Guild shop Friday afternoons.


Early years offered a handful of classes. Usually summer was sparse for the nice weather.  In 2008, Gig Lewis became Education Chair and decided we needed to focus more intently than we do, teach our members about woodworking.  From an Education committee of one, he built a team that, over the couple of years added a couple dozen classes.  Classes were taught in member's home shops and at Franklin High School.

The Basis of Fine Woodworking, dream child of Dennis Dolph, a ten-class series in the basics, was born around 2007, precision lost in the mists of time.  "Basics” has taught hundreds of students and every class has been full even when it expanded in size from five to twelve.

Chip Webster took on the Education Chair in 2012 and attacked it with a vengeance.  Enlarging the team, identifying specific roles and adding more classes include notable speakers at least once a year really started to fill out our offerings.  

Today in 2018 The Guild offers around 150 classes per year in a wide variety of woodworking subjects. Classes today are taught primarily at the Guild shop.

The Newsletter

The Guild has always had a newsletter.  Simpler in earlier days and copies lost to the mists of time, it took on a facelift in 2004.  Kristin ?? and John Dubay drafted a new look, the one that persists today.

In 2007, at the offsite meeting that also changed the structure of the Guild, a phone call one evening came from Vice President Dean Mattson to member Bob Oswald.  Bob had written a few articles and evidently impressed the board.  The phone call went like this. "Our new structure is going to include a Communications Committee.  We need someone to take the lead on the newsletter.  George has just been diagnosed with cancer and it would be a great service to him if you took the Chair role.  You don't have to write articles, just coordinate them."  What could he say?  And Bob HAS been writing most of the articles since that time.

The newsletter was limited to ten pages, the amount that could fit double sided with one first-class postage stamp.  In 2017, astute member Larry Wade, in discussing the publishing of the new feature, Show-and-Tell work of our members, pointed out that with 95% of our distribution being electronic, we don't need to limit it to ten pages.  While it always seemed a struggle to fill ten pages, the next month it blossomed to 23 pages.  

Off and running.  Today in 2018 it is acclaimed to be the best woodworking club newsletter in the country, thanks to Bob.

Art Shows

In the early days of George Dubois, one facet of the Guild was support for Professional members.  That took the form of attending Art Shows.  These shows included Best of the Northwest, Salem Art Festival, World Forestry Center, Oregon State Fair and a few others. 

A professional appearance was important and a number of projects were undertaken.  Shoji screens made an elegant backdrop.  A unique woodworking bench was designed.  A small team of members at the time took on these projects.  We still use those items today in 2018.  Several builders loved the workbench enough to build one of their own during this phase.  The concept of building community projects was born around this time.

A bit of a rift in March 2007 occurred.  George wanted to enter the newly discovered Ceramics Showcase run by the Potters Guild.  Some board members did not want to rush into this next month and the opportunity stalled.  George rebelled and formed the Oregon Fine Woodworkers and entered the show.

The following year the Guild and the Fine Woodworkers both had a presence in the show, and this arrangement continued for several years.  George passed away in 2008 and the Fine Woodworkers survived another year.  Most of those members had come from the Guild and subsequently returned to the Guild.

In 2012 the show was renamed the Gathering of the Guilds.  It is one of the largest artisan shows in the U.S. Very popular and very well attended. The Guild has had a strong presence every year since 2008.

The Intra-Guild show, an internal competition by the members held in May at Franklin High School, moved to the show.  Bigger audience and longer exposure for all that fine work.  Student competition was added about 2011.  It was well attended by several schools, with Gaston High School leading the effort.  Every student in Wood III entered.  Sister, David Douglas, North Salem and Astoria were some of the participants.  That involvement ended in 2015 for lack of floor space, effort to coordinate and dwindling participation.

The Intra-Guild Show

In 2005 the Guild conducted the first Intra-Guild show.  This event grew out of member Len Walko’s discovery on the Arizona Association of Fine Woodworkers website. They do a show like this and Len brought the idea to the Guild.  The first show was in 2005 and was held on a regular meeting night at Franklin High School.  It was a show of projects by active Guild members.  Beginners, intermediate and advanced woodworkers brought their projects to display and compete.  It was held in May every year.  Ribbons were awarded.  Typically 40 or so entries.

The George E. DuBois award was created in recognition to George for all the work he had done as a five-year president in building the Guild to what was at the time and still is today. Sadly, George passed away in April, 2008.  The award has continued annually in his honor.

It was a show to encourage our members to build things, compete with each other in a friendly way and let our members enjoy the fine work done in the Guild.  We met at Franklin High School and other venues like Hardwood Industries and the Architectural Heritage Center, a favorite of Lee Johnson.

In 2011 a decision was made to share all this grand work with more people, for a longer period of time than just a two-hour Guild meeting.  The show was moved downtown to the Gathering of the Guilds.  It was grand.  But the logistics of hauling projects downtown, load-in, set up and returning on Sunday to retrieve the work took its toll.  Large projects dwindled because of the transportation difficulty. The last official show was a small offering in 2014 at the Gathering of the Guilds.

Today in 2018 we're hoping to bring it back to life.  See some beautiful work in the May issues of previous newsletters, 2005 to 2014.  

Woodworker of the Year

Former president and very active Guild member, Lee Johnson, passed away in 2000 (?).  A generous patron recognized Lee’s timeless energy spent helping the Guild and made a donation to us to be used for some memorial to Lee.  The Board of Directors, recognizing his non-stop volunteer efforts as well as his superb skill in woodworking, created  the Woodworker of the Year award.  It is presented annually at the end of the year to some Guild member who exemplifies the spirit of tireless effort, above and beyond the call of duty that Lee Johnson set as a standard for us.


Since the early 2000's, the Guild has had a reasonable library of books and magazines.  When home base was Franklin High School, the books were hauled in each month in milk crates.  Members browsed through the 'stacks' and checked out books, to be returned the following month.  It was popular.

The move to Multnomah Village provided a permanent home and a chance to do it right.  Book racks were built around 2015 and today, with ambitions librarians, over 750 items including books by famous authors, magazines and DVDs are available for member checkout.

It's a grand place to drop by the shop on a rainy afternoon with a cup of coffee from next door Starbucks, and spend time, for free, lounging and learning.

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