Making instruments, as you know, can be a
rather solitary experience, and I thought
some of your readers might like to hear
about how we started a local luthiers group.
We are known as NCAL, the Northern
California Association of Luthiers, and for
the past 12 years we have been getting
together in the SF bay area to schmooze,
trade stuff, show our work, and exchange
information. It has been a truly wonderful
experience for a lot of us, with many
friendships and good times developing from
it. So here is what we have learned:

Rule #1-Keep it simple. You need a place to
meet, a postcard to announce the time and
place, and someone to lead the meeting.
Beyond that, it's nice to have a presentation
of some kind. Since we rotate the meeting
place around to different people's shops, this
is often just a shop tour. We keep business
to a minimum. No by-laws, no Robert's rules
of order, no minutes of the last meeting.
Election of officers consists of asking for
volunteers. The person running the meeting
does get a title however. Ervin Somogyi was
"Dictator for Life", Pat Smith was "The
Grand Pooh-bah", Joel Hawley was
"President Until Further Notice", and I am
"The Guy Who Sends Out the Postcard".
You get the idea.

Rule #2-Meet every two months. This
makes a special occasion out of it, and your
meetings will be better attended. Don't worry
if you only have a few people show up at
first.  We only had 8 to 10 people at our first
meetings, and they were lots of fun. We now
get between 40 and 60, and they are still lots
of fun.

Rule #3-Send an announcement postcard for
every meeting to anyone who wants to be on
the mailing list, regardless of whether they
have paid dues. We tried mailing only to
dues paid members and attendance dropped
a lot. The cards go out 2 weeks in advance.
Rule #4-Have a swap-meet for the first hour
of every meeting. This has been really
popular, and helps bring people out.

Rule #5-Maintain perspective. Our invocation:
"God help us." Our mission statement: "To
support recovering luthiers with a twelve-step
program especially tailored to their needs."
Our patron saint: "Martin Luthier King" etc.
Every couple of years Ervin presents the
coveted "Luthies", at an awards ceremony,
and one lucky member receives the "Swiss
army banjo".   

Nuts and bolts:

~We meet on the first Sunday of even
numbered months

.~Swap meet is from 1:00~2:00, and the
meeting is from 2:00~5:00 or so.

~People bring refreshments, and sometimes  
we go out for a cheap dinner afterwards.

~Name tags are nice, and permanent ones can
be tossed in a box for the next meeting.

~Dues are $20 a year, mostly to pay for the
mailings and occasionally a party, or
sponsorship of a show or workshop. Lately
we have been paying a $50 honorarium to
people who do an hours' prepared

~The meeting agenda:
-New people introduce themselves     
-Presentation, or shop tour     
-Intermission for 15 minutes or so    
-Show and tell time

A general atmosphere of camaraderie and
good fellowship prevails, and common sense
takes the place of organizational structure.
The amount of effort required to start and
maintain the group has been suprisingly small,
and the rewards great. Try it, it's easy.
Forming your own local luthiers group
first published in American Lutherie, then in Guitarmaker