Working with wood is a passion for many

Cheese boards in handsome multi-striped woods; salt and pepper shakers so smooth they feel like silk; fruit bowls of shiny surpassing beauty. Although most of the products that are produced at the Sun City Hilton Head Woodworkers and Model Makers Guild have a practical purpose, many also possess style and elegance. On Oct. 6, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., residents will be able to see first-hand what some of the 590 members of the guild have been working on, at their annual Open House. Besides creating artful household items, guild members repair such items as mailboxes ($40 and up) and furniture, including chairs, beds and tables. They will make what's known as a bin buddy for trash cans, plus luggage racks, domino boards, card holders, mah-jongg pushers and blue bird nesting boxes.

One of their success stories is the artisan Jim Renauer, whose refined wood creations are displayed in the guild's lobby and are available at the Pluff Mudd Art gallery in Old Town Bluffton. Previous to joining the guild, Renauer had not worked in wood. Bob Greenly, guild president, said that 80 percent of the members have not worked in wood previously. On the other hand, those with experience have been working with wood for upwards of 40 years; some are former shop teachers or cabinet makers. Of the 590 members, about 50 are women, including club instructor Carol Gerns.The guild was organized in October 1998 and the woodshop was opened in 2001

The guild would like to add 1,500 square feet to the existing 7,500 square foot building. On a recent morning, Greenly; John Garver, guild vice president, and Dennis Wright, board member responsible for implementing the Practicum, gathered to talk about the Open House and the unusual new program that the guild introduced this year, called Practicum.

The word means "the part of a course consisting of practical work in a particular field'' ( Former guild board president Aubrey Edwards "invented the idea at the end of 2011,'' Wright said "and he made it happen.'' Under the program, new students at the woodshop must take cluster training which covers all the major power tools in the shop; students are acquainted with how the tools function, with the emphasis on safe operation, through hands-on experience. At the end of the eight cluster courses, students may use the shop and receive membership in the guild. Cluster tools include table saws, band and scroll saws; joiner and planer; sanders; drill press; mortiser and grinder; routers, power hand tools, panel saw, mitre saw and radial arm saw. Each cluster course is $6. At cluster nine, students apply what they have learned.

The project chosen was to make a cheese board, using maple, cherry and walnut woods, purchased from a lumberyard in Savannah, Ga. An enthusiastic supporter of the Practicum, Garver said that he was inexperienced when he joined the guild. "Before the Practicum, you learned what a tool was for, how to turn it on and how to operate it , and that was it,'' Garver said. Of those who participated in the Practicum and made a cheeseboard, 50 percent of them returned to make at least six more of the boards. Producing a tangible, useable object out of the cluster courses gave woodworkers confidence in their abilities, Wright said. At the Oct. 6 Open House, the British Open Pub will provide food and non-alcoholic beverages, for about $4 per person, Greenly said.

Guild member-made items will be for sale.The woodshop has a library, assembly and machining area, planer and router room and model railroad.