Well, instead of founding a collective, I think I found one in the form of Ballard Woodworks. It’s a big shop space where a few professionals and several non-professionals do their work, and where they also offer classes. I just took the Japanese Tansu workshop and thought it was a really excellent primer to get back into the hobby.
It’s not a tightly run joint so I wouldn’t call it a co-op or collective. And I don’t want to suggest that it’s “open for membership” because I don’t think it runs that way. But from what I gather, if you put in the time to get to know folks, you build up trust and have access to more machines, then eventually work out a deal with the management for the kind of shop use you need. So, that’s my plan.
Here’s an interesting program. The Phinney Neighborhood Center has a tool-lending program. They don’t have some of the dream tools (band saw, jointer, etc), but it looks like you can get a router (with table), miter saw, table saw, or drill press on loan. Not sure if something like a table saw is carried out or if you have to carry in your…uh…plywood. But it’s an interesting idea anyway. Cool to see it available in Seattle.
I’m excited to learn that other people have been considering this. I recently started thinking about getting back into woodworking after a years-long lapse. I’d only done it regularly for about a year, and never graduated from basic outdoor projects (patio benches, mailboxes, folding chairs and the like). I decided that a good project to reintroduce myself to the hobby would be a simple nightstand: something I’d use heavily enough to adopt more exacting standards, but personal enough that I could tolerate the side effects of my rudimentary skills. I searched around the web and finally found a design I liked, with PDF plans available for purchase. It was only after buying and downloading the plans that I realized they assumed a much more elaborate woodshop than my own. Not only am I missing the equipment required to follow the instructions verbatim, but I couldn’t fit all the equipment into my small basement woodshop even if I bought or borrowed it.
It’s an expensive hobby any way you look at it. Adding insult to injury is the fact that the raw materials for most projects cost more than one might spend on comparable finished projects purchased via retail. Just pooling tool resources and the financial power to buy stock in bulk would be enough to make a collective very worthwhile, but with a critical mass of participants we might be able to share a dream shop as well, be it rented space in a public building or in a giving participant’s home. In that shared space we’d all have a band saw, a router table, a jointer, and so on…not to mention the educational benefits of a broad knowledge pool. This will rock if we get enough people on board!