Local group transforms wood into treasures for the underprivileged - The Explorer: News

Local group transforms wood into treasures for the underprivileged

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Posted: Wednesday, August 14, 2013 4:00 am

Mastering their craft and selflessly giving to others, club members of Southern Arizona Woodturners and Desert Woodcrafters (SAZWA) spend countless hours designing, cutting and refining wooden bowls, pens, and toys for different organizations in Tucson.

The second Saturday of every month SAZWA club members from all over Tucson meet at Flowing Wells High School to discuss upcoming projects, display their work and give a wood-turning demonstration. Numerous meetings were held before eight of the club members decided to officially create the club in 2005. At that time, 65 people signed up to join and the number has since increased to more than 80 members. 

Sam Scalzo is the current president of SAZWA, leading every meeting.

SAZWA is a chapter of the American Association of Woodturners, which includes beginning and advanced wood turners. The club is a non-profit organization and works to improve their members’ wood turning skills as well as serve the community.

Wally Dickerman, one of the founding members of SAZWA, is a veteran wood turner with more than 70 years of experience. He started at age 15 and is one of the oldest and most experienced members of the group at age 92.

“I first did a wood bowl, which must have lighted the spark,” said Dickerman. “Soon enough my father let us build a shop in the corner of our farm at home. I started to make my own tools and have done it ever since.”

Both clubs do two major projects each year. For the past three years, the Freedom Pen Project members have made wooden pens and sent them to our troops overseas. Last year, they sent out 2,085 pens. 

The other project, Toys for Children, allows members to make wooden toys for underprivileged children in Tucson. In 2011, SAZWA made 1,841 toys and increased that to 1,875 in 2012. 

To make the toy making possible, SAZWA relies on donations. A large portion of those donations comes from Architectural Traditions.

A member for only a year now, Bob Campbell said he found out about the club by seeing a Southern Arizona Woodturners card on a door.

“I love it here. Everything is very interesting and it keeps me on the move,” said Campbell. “Also, there’s just a lot of camaraderie here. We all learn from each other.”

Moving forward, SAZWA is looking into making wooden canes for hospital patients and making bowls for a local charity organization called Beads of Courage, which is a support system for families whose child or children are dealing with a serious illness.  SAZWA will make bowls that the children can put their colorful beads in. The beads represent different milestones they have achieved in battling their illness.

“The goal of the wood turners is to get more people into wood turning,” said Paul Swane, a member of the club and overseer of the project with Beads of Courage. “We want to teach people how to do it, learn from each other and share that knowledge.”

For more information on SAZWA, visit the website at www.sazwa.org.

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