The roar of electric saws and sanders filled the wood shop at Florence Bain Senior Center in Columbia on Tuesday, but Jim Koury and Jim Bowen were deep in conversation.
Bowen, of Columbia, was offering suggestions on Koury's wooden bowl, made by spinning a block of wood on a lathe and trimming it with a long metal tool.
"It's the first woodworking I've ever done," said Koury, of Ellicott City, who recently retired from teaching philosophy at the Community College of Baltimore County and signed up for Bowen's bowl-turning class. "I think this could be a really enjoyable hobby."
There is often as much talking as there is sawing at the wood shop, where members of the Howard County Woodworkers Guild gather on weekday mornings. Participants say the interaction keeps the organization going strong and attracts new members like Koury.
"If you run into a problem in your woodworking, there always seems to be someone there who has experienced it before," said Charles "Bud" Nuessle, a 13-year club member from Ellicott City.
The 100-member guild, which was established in 1990, draws members from Howard and surrounding counties and meets on the first Saturday of every month.
The group offers speakers and demonstrations, has videos for people who want to learn specific skills, and offers occasional classes.
Members range in age and experience. They include hobbyists, carvers, do-it-yourself fans and homebuilders. The group has about 10 female members.
Every year, guild members make items for Toys for Tots, donate works to the annual craft show at the senior center and oversee the woodworking competition at the county fair.
Much informal teaching takes place at the wood shop, which is open to the public and and supervised by guild members.
Power saws, drills and other basic tools are available, which members say is convenient for people who don't want to invest in a lot of equipment or who don't have anywhere to keep it. People also bring specialty tools and materials.
"What we don't do is build the project for you," said Nuessle, a retired computer technician. "But we'll guide you through it, give you hints."
Bob Iseman has a wood shop at his home near Scaggsville and years of woodworking experience. But the retired computer technician still goes to the senior center's shop regularly. "I enjoy working with the other people," he said. "I help some of the younger ones."
Club president Celia Cathcart, an unemployed computer programmer, was using a lathe to trim small blocks of wood into smooth round tubes to hold pens and pencils. She said she learned the skill from Iseman.
"He taught me just about everything," the Ellicott City woman said.
Nearby, Dave Lew, a retired NASA program manager from Columbia, was cutting a piece of wood to use in repairing the bottom of a chair.
Lew was volunteering at the senior center's Meals on Wheels program 12 years ago when he spotted the wood shop and decided to join.
He said his first project was a headboard for a bed. He built it himself, but when it came time to finish it, he turned to his fellow woodworkers for help.
"The guys here are great," said Lew, who has built furniture and made toys for his granddaughter. "The main thing is you get free advice," he said. Then he added, laughing, "whether you want it or not."
Because of construction at the Bain center, the guild's next meeting will be at 9 a.m. March 6 at Ellicott City Senior Center, 9401 Frederick Road. Information: Celia Cathcart, 410-262-9268.