We recently met with Rue Ann Flanders, President of the Women's Woodworking Guild of Indiana (WWGI), to talk about the emerging role of women in woodworking. WWGI consists of a group of women in the central Indiana area who share an interest in working with wood in various capacities. They share skills within their group and seek to learn new skills from sources outside of the group. The guild has been involved in many community programs including Habitat for Humanity, art displays at the Indiana Art Center, participation in the Indiana Woodworking Show and more. WWGI can certainly serve as a model in other communities where women seek to find peers with whom to share their passion for woodworking.
Here are a few questions and answers from our time with Rue Ann.
Festool: Rue Ann, as the President of the Women’s Woodworking Guild of Indiana, can you tell me a little about how women look at woodworking, and what types of projects they tend to gravitate towards?
Rue Ann: The softer side of woodworking is emerging as more and more women have donned their jeans, temporarily discarded their jewels (and I do mean temporarily), and have headed toward their workshops. The "call of the wood" is no longer echoing in the man caves sprinkled throughout the world but in the habitats of women as well. In actuality, the wants and needs of women in woodworking are very similar to those of men. The projects are the same, sometimes more colorful and artistic, but the craft remains constant. The genre of their work will vary ranging from chainsaw carving to fine works of art but the basic desires remain consistent.
Festool: What are some of the things that women consider when making a tool purchase?
Rue Ann: We don’t need pink, rhinestones, or flowers on our tools, we just want to create in a medium that has spanned centuries, has the beauty of nature, and the feel of a life long-lived. Quality is important of course, but tool ergonomics and weight are just as important to women given their smaller hands and frames. One could probably say the same thing for some of the older men who enjoy woodworking. As an example, I don’t believe anyone (man or woman) thinks it is easy to push a full sheet of ¾” plywood across a table saw.
Festool: The TS 55 plunge cut saw and guide rail definitely make the task of cutting down sheet goods both safer and easier. I'm not sure if you knew this, but one of Festool’s basic value statements is "Taking the tool to the material, instead of the material to the tool." And when it comes to tool design, Festool engineers are as concerned about making tools that are ergonomically balanced with minimal vibration, as they are about making tools that are performance driven. Speaking of tools, what are some of the tools from Festool that your members would find useful?
Rue Ann: I think everyone could use a sliding compound miter saw, like your Kapex, and your sanders can be used in a variety of ways from rough shaping to finishing. The Rotex, DTS 400, and LS 130 are just a few. Oh yeah, and let’s not forget your drills with the Centrotec chucks, and FastFix eccentric and right angle chucks.
A special thanks to Rue Ann and the WWGI for taking the time to meet with us and provide insight in the mission behind her group. We would also like to encourage you to visit the Women's Woodworking Guild of Indiana website to learn more and to view examples of projects completed by its members.