The Establishment of an Annual Fund for the Charlotte Woodworkers Association


The CWA board believes that the major reasons the CWA has experienced significant growth in our membership during the past few years are that we have been able to offer an adequate place to meet and space for woodworking equipment.

The shop and equipment have allowed opportunities for:

  • Our members to use the equipment
  • Hands-on training
  • One-on-one mentoring
  • Sessions with Boy Scouts
  • Our members to be involved in service projects for other organizations

The CWA is currently meeting, as guests, in space that is leased by the Charlotte Airport to JPM. The airport is expected to redevelop the property that we occupy, but no one knows the time-table for that to occur. So the location for the CWA in the future is in jeopardy, and we are currently searching for options for a shop and meeting place.

Additionally, there is a lot of interest in increasing what is made available to our membership by providing a more complete shop and more times the shop is open.

For the above reasons and because we feel there is interest in persons making tax-exempt donations which are beyond membership fees, the CWA board is recommending that we create a special fund.

The purposes of the fund will include financial assistance to assist in providing:

  • A location for us to have our meetings and space for woodworking equipment
  • Possible rent, and utilities
  • Purchase and maintenance of woodworking equipment
  • Other needs identified by the CWA Board and/or its membership

Donations can be:

  • Cash donations
  • Stocks and bonds, etc.
  • Donations can be recognized in honor or memory of someone
  • Donations can be made through wills, etc.

Specific efforts will be made second and fourth quarter of each year to make members aware of the fund and opportunities for giving.

Boy Scout Merit Badge Workshop

We have scheduled the woodworking merit badge days for Nov. 4 and Nov. 11. We will assist the boy scouts by teaching various skills and helping them complete the requirements to earn their merit badges. I am looking for volunteers to help out both days, from approximately 8am until 2pm. This is a fun activity and a great way to teach young people about woodworking or to learn something yourself. There are no requirements for skill level to get involved. On Nov. 11, the scouts will be completing a few small projects, one of which is turning a pen, so we definitely need turners also. If you are able to assist one or both days or have any questions, please let me know. Hope to see you there!


Board Nominations & Elections

At the October club meeting, we will be taking nominations for board members.  If you have an interest in serving the club, talk with someone about getting a nomination.  All terms for office are for one year beginning with the fiscal year.  There are seven board positions including Four officers, past president, two At Large Members.  Nominations will occur at the October meeting and we will be voting at the November meeting.


September Presentation: Making Furniture from Live Edge Wood

Demonstrating a Live Edge Slab

Presenter: Damon Barron

Damon Barron from Carolina Urban Lumber / Treecycle America presented at our September meeting.  Live edge slabs are very popular and Damon has delivered 4 tables just in the last month and has completed more than 290 to date.

We learned that in our region, bark will come off of the piece about 99% of the time. The only exception to this is when a tree is felled in February and when not working with wood more than 12 feet above the trunk.  This the period when the tree is dormant and the live part of the true essentially forms a glue that helps the bark stay on a dead tree.  For this reason, Damon removes most of the bark from his tables.

Preparing a piece involves cleaning the edges where the bark was located.  The easiest and best solution is to use a stiff bristle brush after removing the bark with a putty knife and mallette.

In flattening a slab, one of the most difficult things to work are knots.  They are always present and will usually result in some form of movement in the wood while it is drying. Sometimes it will crack.  Other times, it will crack the entire slab if it is in the right spot.  These can also cause the wood to curl. When working with a curl, it is generally a good idea to take the same amount of wood off both sides of the slab.  Otherwise, a cup will form due to the change in the wood stresses.  Leaving a slab in the sun will also result in a cup.

Demonstrating the finishing process of a live edge slab.

Damon shared a story with us of a large slab he put in the sun which resulted in a huge cup and it took a number of days of flipping the slap to resolve the issue, but he was eventually able to get the cup reduced enough to finish the piece.  The sun can do a lot of damage and can create a lot of extra work in dealing with large slabs of lumber. The choice of wood does make a difference. Cedar almost never warps and rarely moves.  It also has a very low moisture content so it is an ideal wood for these projects. Large slabs require a lot of drying and therefore patience.  Keep it out of the sun, wind, and rain. Once the moisture content is down to 20% put it in the kiln. Never put different sizes in the kiln at the same time because they will dry at different rates.

Live edge slaps are very heavy and will require a hefty base.  Damon uses metal frames for most of his tables, but trestle bases are also popular.  When fastening the legs, it is important not to over-tighten the screws and washers.  The weight of the slab will generally keep it from moving and the screws are simply there to insure it stays in the right place over the legs.

The picture to the right shows the various levels of sanding that Damon performs on his pieces.  This demonstrates a rough CNC surface, 25 minutes Rough Sanded, 25 minutes of 80 grit sanding, 25 minutes  of 120 grit sanding and finally 35 minutes of 150 grit sanding before wrapping up the finish.

Damon finishes his work with a two-part conversion varnish, but will sometimes use a water-based varnish instead.


Festival In the Park with Bob Fields

This past month our association participated in the annual Festival in the Park.  I signed up late as I had a prior commitment to host some close family friends who cancelled a few days before.  The late cancellation gave me an opportunity to fill in an early Saturday morning slot with Bob Fields.

Bob Fields and I had corresponded a bit before the show getting some of the logistics setup for the club.  He, Dan and the other club members did a great job getting everything setup and communicating the details of the venue at our last meeting.

With the parking pass, I was able to park and ride the shuttle in.  Early in the morning when I arrived there was plenty of parking and the booths were just starting to open up. 

When I got to the tent I learned there had been an accident nearby that cut power to half the park and we were in the half without electricity to run the fans.  Our booth was located near the first aid tent.  This made it easier to find, but I had to wonder if the organizers considered us a high risk.  I know I personally have had a few close calls with power tools and safety in the shop is always top of mind.

In perfect character, safety was top of mind at the event too.  Bob came prepared with gloves and a heavy apron that we dressed passersby’s in when they sat down to shape a wedge on the shaving horse.  The drawknives were just sharp enough to made shaving a joy.  Throughout the morning, we had as many women try their hand at the shaving horse as kids.  It made me wonder where Bob gets his charm. I probably should not wonder because he is a man of many talents. 

Bob made his shaving horse over 20 years ago.  In perfect character for a well-made tool it performed as well at this event as it has at many other events and in the making of many of his shop projects.  There were lots of comments and questions about it as people stopped by to talk and try it out.

The table on display generated plenty of interest in the Learn and Build Class.  Plenty of people looked it over wondering if they could create a fine furniture piece.

As the morning turned into afternoon, Bob and I were looking for relief from the heat and opened the tent up to allow a little more of a breeze.  There had been a steady stream of people all morning.  So many people came by that we ran out of cards to hand out and had filled a page of email sign-ups from people interested in our club and in receiving the club newsletter.

Chris Broughton who help the second day and said, “Day 2 of Festival in the Park went very well and there was non-stop interest in the in the group. The shaving horse was a huge hit with kids. I think it’ll be on a lot of Christmas lists this year.”

Speaking of Christmas, spending time in the booth gave us the perfect venue to promote One Special Christmas and we handed out a ton of their brochures and talked up the auction.

Overall, the Festival in the Park was a huge success and on behalf of the board and the rest of the club, hat’s off to all the volunteers and organizers who worked so hard to make it a success!


John McAlister – Member of the Charlotte Woodworkers, Wins Award

Member of the Charlotte Woodworkers, Wins Award

From the SAPFM website at

“Cartouche” Award: A highlight of our meeting is the recognition of an exceptional period furniture maker with the awarding of the Cartouche, the SAP FM’s annual award for lifetime achievement. The Cartouche is a bronze casting off a carving by SAPFM member Gene Landon of an 18th century Philadelphia cartouche of a Joseph Ellicott clock. This year the Executive Council is excited to announce that John McAlister of Charlotte, North Carolina will receive the award. John has been working wood as an amateur for almost 35 years, most of it satisfying his passion for building 18th century American period furniture. He is a self-taught, consummate craftsperson whose introduction to furniture making was Marlow’s Fine Furniture for the Amateur Cabinetmaker. John made all the pieces in the book. In fact, no period piece has ever intimidated John, but that is to be expected from this former fighter pilot who flew P-51’s during WW II. His home is filled with his work including his masterpiece Goddard-Townsend secretary. This piece was featured on the back cover of the April 1998 Fine Woodworking. Like many period furniture makers who started before woodworking magazines appeared, John has visited countless museums inspecting and measuring pieces of furniture that he later recreated in his basement workshop.

John embodies a special dedication to our craft and has always been willing to share his plans, research, and knowledge with fellow woodworkers. Jeffrey Greene thanked John on the title page of his book American Furniture of the 18th Century for his suggestions and encouragement. Numerous testimonials were received during the Cartouche selection process on John’s behalf thanking him for his help.

The Society of American Period Furniture Makers is honored to award gentleman and cabinetmaker, John McAlister with this year’s Cartouche Award.