By Ed Vilade
No one quite remembers how long the Association of Woodcrafters has been in operation at Riderwood. Bob Doyle, the incoming Chairman, says that when he arrived in 2010, some long-time residents told him the group dated from the time Riderwood opened for business.
The group has operated steadily ever since. It now has 85 members — some more active than others, said Doyle. The Woodcrafters work out of a well-appointed shop on the terrace level of Charles Terrace. That facility also dates from the early days of Riderwood. The shop contains a full range of hand and power tools and has separate rooms for painting and wood storage.
The group’s purpose is stated as follows on its entry on the Riderwoodlife.org clubs and organizations page: “Interest in wood – the satisfaction of shaping its natural beauty into artistic or useful objects – brings woodcrafters together. A few woodcrafters bring a lifetime of working with wood professionally, but most come as hobbyists or homeowners who built or repaired things when necessary. So the wood shop is a place to stay active, to be creative, to make friends, to learn new skills and to share your own experience.”
Doyle, for instance, holds a degree in woodworking and was a shop teacher before going to work for the U.S. government as a radar operator.
The woodcrafters worked until recently with Habitat for Humanity, building kitchen cabinets for Habitat homes.
“The trouble was,” says Doyle, “we were using real wood, and that became too expensive for them. Now they buy chipboard cabinets from a supplier.”
Another big project is still going strong, however. The group supplies the wooden framework for Personal Energy Transportation (PET) vehicles. The PET is a three-wheeled, off-road wheelchair operated by a hand crank. PETs are delivered at no cost by a charitable organization to people in developing countries who have lost the use of their legs.
Six Woodcrafter members work on the PET project, building 100 carts a year for delivery to a facility in Pennsylvania, where the wheels, steering mechanism and other non-wood parts are added. The group operates on an assembly-line basis, cutting batches of the wood elements and then putting them together. They work six hours a week, and deliver 25 carts every three months. The Woodcrafters accept donations to defray the cost of materials.
Any Riderwood resident can join the Woodcrafters. Applicants must fill out a detailed application, detailing woodworking background, skills and areas of interest. Prospective members must complete a safety briefing and pay an annual fee to help cover shop expenses.
Woodcrafter members work on their own projects, but also repair wooden objects for other Riderwood residents. Contact Herb Blumenthal for details, at 240-560-7743, or firstname.lastname@example.org.