"Does anyone know where I can get a good deal on a biscuit cutter?"
This is a typical question directed to John Maitland and Donald Bard, co-founders of the county's first non-profit organization for amateur woodworkers.
The Howard County Woodworkers Guild, which meets the first Saturday morning of each month at the Florence Bain Senior Center, boasts amembership that ranges from beginners to master craftsmen and has grown to 55 members from the 15 it had at its outset in May.
Bard and Maitland, both Columbia residents and lifelong woodworking enthusiasts, had toyed with the possibility of starting a guild for several years. Woodworking guilds existed in Baltimore and Washington, but there was nothing local.
In late 1988, Bard's wife, Judy, who works for the county's Office of Aging, noticed that the wood shop at the senior center was not being used. It had closed years earlier after a senior was hurt there. With free time on their hands, Bard and Maitland volunteered to open the shop a few days a week and help the senior citizens with their projects.
Over the next year, the men met others interested in forming a woodworking guild. Notices in local newspapers brought them enough potential members to organize.
The membership covers a wide spectrum of woodworkers, from do-it-yourselfers and hobbyists who make furniture, musical instruments, toys and knickknacks to carvers, fixer-uppers and homebuilders.
"Working with woodis great therapy," Bard said. "You get a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when you finish a project. Something to be proud of."
One project he is especially proud of is an ark he built for the Columbia Jewish Congregation at the Meeting House in Oakland Mills. The 10-by-10-foot fixture holds the congregation's Torah.
"The guild's basic purpose is to bring people together who share a common interest, sort of like a fraternity," Maitland, 62, said. "A lot of what we discuss involves sharing our experiences and knowledge with others. For instance, one of our members built a beautiful jewelry box that was probably worth around $400, but he didn't know how much to charge for it. Being somewhat modest, he asked a few of us to give him suggestions."
Although the group meets at the senior center, the guild is open to men and women 18 and older. The average age is in the mid-30s.
"We're still looking for our first female member to join," Maitland said. "A few women have called on the phone to inquire, but none have actually attended a meeting."
The wood shop is equipped with atable saw, lathe, joiner, band saw, scroll saws, hand tools and a drill press.
"The center has a well-equipped shop," said Bard, a 47-year-old program analyst for the Department of Transportation in Washington. "It's a good place to demonstrate certain machines."
His own workshop is located in the garage of his Clemons Crossing home.
"It's not the biggest shop around, but I have quite a collection of tools," he said. "Most of the stuff I inherited from my father. I'm not the most organized person, so sometimes it takes me a while to find what I'm looking for."
Maitland is retired from the state Department of Education's Division of Instructional Television. He and his wife, Marilyn, were driving forces behind the creation of Maryland Public Television in 1967. He has two extensive workrooms in the basement of his Long Reach home. Each hammer, protractor, saw, clamp, screwdriver and nail is in its place.
"I've built a lot of the stuff you see in my house," he said. "Some of the cabinets, shelves, flooring, tables, chairs, knickknacks. Had a hand in almost everything."
Maitland calls his latest project the Streisand Room. His brother, Dennis, is a Hollywood sound engineer. After wrapping up work on Barbra Streisand's latest movie, "Prince of Tides," in South Carolina, Dennis told John about a particular part of the set he might be interestedin: a glass-encased, porchlike sun room.
Maitland bought the sun room for about $1,000, had it trucked to his house and is finishing its floor and electrical wiring.
Not all guild members live in Howard County. Member John McMahon lives in Towson, Baltimore County, buthe works as an industrial arts teacher at Harper's Choice Middle School, conveniently located across the street from the Florence Bain Center. MacMahon is training some members how to operate the center's shop so that seniors there will have more opportunities to use it.
The guild's mailing list includes people in Hanover, Laurel and Burtonsville.
On March 23, the group will sponsor a woodworking and craft show at the center. Some of the proceeds will be given to the center. Show Chairman Richard Huber of Columbia has become quite involvedwith the guild since he attended the initial meeting more than sevenmonths ago.
Maitland says that on the first night he met Huber, Huber gruffly told him: "I'm not a joiner. The last thing I joined wasthe Navy, back in World War II."
Huber has stuck with the guild, though, and recently finished a dulcimer made of walnut and butternut.
In addition to sharing wood shop tips, members receive other benefits. Among them are discounts on woodworking supplies, hardware andfurniture at retail stores; group discounts on volume purchases; demonstrations of special tools, machines and craftwork; and informational newsletters and a bulletin board.
For more information about the guild, contact John Maitland at 995-0086.