Getting hooked on wood for life

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IWCS members tour an experimental forest of conifers near Canberra, Austraiia in 2019

IWCS members tour an experimental forest of conifers near Canberra, Austraiia in 2019

The International Wood Collectors Society (IWCS) may be a lesser-known organization in the public eye, but its loyal members are enthusiastic about what they do and work relentlessly to further their mission.

Gary Green, current president and an urban forester/sawyer in Syracuse, Ind., says one of his favorite parts of being involved is the reaction people have when they learn about the vast number of wood species there are in the world.

“Ask many people to name as many trees as they can and you will find that the number will be 10, maybe 20. Ask woodworking professionals how many different woods they can name, and some could name 50. Most people are shocked to learn that there are an estimated 100,000 different woody species in the world. When they see a sampling of the colors, weights and grain patterns they are amazed. Some of these woods are commercially available while most are obscure. This is where the IWCS comes in, making many of these obscure woods available,” says Green.

A collection of wood for auction at a recent meeting

A collection of wood for auction at a recent meeting

A tour of an Amish wheel maker’s shop

A tour of an Amish wheel maker’s shop

The organization started in 1947 at the vacation cabin of founder Harold Nogle in Big Cow Creek, Texas following a series of discussions among botanists, dendrologists, foresters and other wood professionals on the necessity of obtaining samples of the many wood species for research and reference material. That first meeting consisted of 24 professionals. Previously, this type of collection had been confined to universities and other institutions.

There are about 700 members, down from a high of 1,450 in 2000. A basic membership costs $40 and includes the bimonthly IWCS magazine, World of Wood.

“What we’ve found is that the IWCS appeals most to retirees and we have lots of senior members. Some new members are hooked for life. Some don’t take advantage of all we have to offer and lose interest. Our meets, held all over the world, are wonderful and those who don’t attend really miss out. We put on a big show for a small organization,” says Green.

“My take is that people now demand bang for their buck. In years past your enjoyment in an organization was based on participation and what you put into it. A large percentage of the population today wishes to remain anonymous. This said, we gain about 75 new members per year. It’s interesting that during the covid-19 outbreak we saw an increase in membership as well as sales in our Wood Specimen Kit Program.

Member Willem Hurkmans in front of his impressive wood collection.

Member Willem Hurkmans in front of his impressive wood collection.

“We’ve had egg turners, a bell turner, pen turners, etc. who love to make their craft using these unusual and exotic woods. More recently the wood crafters have outnumbered the serious collectors. There was even discussion about changing our name to the International Wood Collectors and Crafters Society. The die-hard collectors like myself have resisted this. Our membership is like one big family. We love to get together at our meets. Even if an individual has a casual interest in wood, they will love our organization.”

For more, visit www.woodcollectors.org.

This article originally appeared in the August 2020 issue.

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