History of SDFWA


In 1981, Lynn Rybarczyk saw some beautiful custom furniture in the San Francisco Bay Area. At that time it was rare for furniture that could be considered fine woodworking to be on public display in San Diego. Local woodworkers had few opportunities to collaborate and had no way to show their work to the public. Lynn was motivated to present the idea of creating a fine woodworking exhibit to the Southern California Exposition. The Exposition staff agreed to develop an exhibit as long as there was an active community woodworking organization to sponsor it. 


By coincidence, the very next month San Diego’s first retail store dedicated to serving woodworkers, The Cutting Edge, held its grand opening. With the approval of the manager, Chuck Masters, Lynn set up a card table at the store and began to sign up the original members of what was to become the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association.


By November 1981 regular meetings were being held at local public schools.  Attendance at the first meeting was 68. Jim Cherry was the first president, followed in office by Lynn Rybarczyk. Richard Griebe, the first newsletter editor, held the first board meeting at his home. In June 1982, Lynn and Chuck became the co-supervisors of the first annual show, initially called The Southern California Expo Fine Woodworking Exhibit. It displayed 45 pieces selected from 95 entries, all submitted by SDFWA members. The show was such a success that Fine Woodworking Magazine gave it a multi-page spread.      


Additional Activities

Field trips to the Gamble House and the Getty Museum, swap meets, a newsletter, a presentation by a nationally recognized master woodworker, Art Carpenter, and other activities now familiar to the membership were all initiated in the first year of our existence. In 1982 the Association brought Art Carpenter to San Diego to present a lecture "The Art Carpenter Style". This one-day program was followed in 1986 by a weekend presentation by Tage Frid, the first in a series that was to become the annual Fall Seminar. Additional activities such as a video loan program, mentor classes, community service projects, a website, and a host of new committees followed. Membership steadily increased and peaked at 1690 members in 1999.  


Design in Wood Exhibition

After four years, Chuck Masters was followed as director of Design in Wood by Patrick Edwards. Under Pat's leadership the show continued to increase in size and quality. Bob Stevenson followed Pat as coordinator in 1993, and Ed Gladney succeeded Bob in 2015. The show has now grown to display more than 300 entries. It has achieved national and international recognition and includes demonstrations by wood turners, scrollers, carvers, and model ship builders – all members of local organizations. A traditional woodworking shop at the exhibit produces red oak children's chairs for donation to local social service organizations. More than 1,700 chairs have been donated over the past 34 years. In 2015, 1.5 million people visited the Fair, and many of them consider the Design in Wood Exhibition a must-see part of the Fair.



Community Service

Over the past 35 years the Association has focused on supporting its membership and the community through education, community service projects, and fostering the appreciation and creation of fine woodworking. Thanks to the participation of its members and the work of its officers and committees, the San Diego Fine Woodworkers Association continues to evolve, providing service to the community while promoting and supporting the art and craft of woodworking.


Member Shop

In 2017, SDFWA realized a long sought dream - to open a community workshop. After years of planning, and a successful fundraising campaign, we signed a lease on an industrial facility, furiously put up walls and installed electrical and painted, then moved in truckloads of woodworking equipment, and opened the doors to our Member Shop in June. A full complement of power and hand tools allows any Shop member to complete almost any woodworking task in this facility. Plus a contingent of Digital Tools - CNC router, CNC laser, and 3D printer allow people to experiment with high-tech ways of making things. In addition, there is a large classroom with workbenches and audio and video which has allowed a great expansion of woodworking classes offered to both SDFWA members and to the general public. The facility now also houses the SDFWA woodworking library - including DVDs, VHS tapes, hundreds of books, and scores of magazine totles - including full sets of Fine Woodworking and others. We have also formed Special Interest Groups which meet in the shop - Carving, Digital Tools, Women Who Woodwork, and Luthiers.Finally, the front part of the building is subleased to Woodshop Wizards - with programs for teaching woodworking to kids from grade school through high school. This facility truly offers an avenue to woodworking for everyone.